“Depression is the Illness of the Intelligent”

These words said by someone recently have profoundly stayed in my mind. In one stroke it shatters that casual and awfully unfair perception of mental illness being ‘trivial’, while also emphasizing upon its individuality and even going as far as commending the person who suffers from it.

You may think, why commend a depressed person? You may wonder, why romanticize something as serious as mental illness? At the outset it may seem like that’s what I’m doing, but I can assure you that the truth is far from it. Depression isn’t romantic or fun or self-indulgent, but it is an indicator of self-awareness. It fundamentally stems out of a deep self-delving and analysis. Most depressed people are inherently over thinkers; people who have been disillusioned by surface level and have, consciously or unconsciously, gone deeper as a result of it. Friedrich Nietzsche, renowned philosopher, poet and profound influencer of modern intellectual history, was driven to the point of psychological breakdown. The school of philosophy most explored by him in his lifetime, ‘Existentialism’, questions the fundamental reason for human existence. Mark Rothko, famous American Expressionist Artist, was depressed whilst making his best known commissioned works, ‘The Seagram Murals’, which were literally enormous canvases depicting voids that spoke volumes.[1]

So this leads us to the eternally perilous debate: is ignorance bliss, or is knowledge power? Is it better to be oblivious to realities that may have the power to consume us? Or is it necessary to face those realities to come out stronger? Is over-thinking a bane or a boon? Initially it does seem easier to live a superficial life that allows for basic mental peace and happiness, but the question is – for how long can it be sustained?

The very reason why mental illness/weakness shouldn’t be shunned, why depression shouldn’t be judged, is that every single person at some point in their life, to some degree or the other, will suffer from it. The point I am trying to make pertains to the inevitability of it…and the beauty of that inevitability. It is inevitable because fundamental truths like love and death exist, and at some point in life we all suffer from trauma, the loss of a loved one, heartbreak, failure, self-doubt… even if you are a prince like Buddha, enclosed within the glass walls of your palace, you will one day come out to reality.

I have been there, in that dark place of depression, and coming out of it has made me more aware of the fragility of life, more aware of the value of it all…Yes, I am an over-thinker, I fret, I am overtly anxious and scared, but I am also curious and alive in my quest for answers. The exploration itself brings me fulfillment because I haven’t resorted to the stagnation of oblivion. Personally, I wouldn’t want to choose to be ignorant, because it is so limiting, so very binding and opposed to our natural selves.

I am not trivializing depression. I am instead giving it the importance it deserves in order to be accepted and seen as necessary for growth and evolution. Questioning is but the first step to acting and then subsequently, reacting! Even a child wails at birth: its the very first sign of life!

So next time you feel lost, low, anxious, or maybe even numb, know that it is normal…its part of the living of life, a life encompassing all of its truths. If somebody who you know is going through it, then support them when they need you because each person has a different resistance level, but don’t think them weak, don’t think them incapable. They are in fact aware, they are intelligent to the essentials that truly matter…and they are also prepared for inevitabilities.




[1] http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/exhibition/rothko/room-guide/room-3-seagram-murals