An Imbalanace of the Humours
A River of Black Bile Runs Through It
Depression had since the time of the Greeks more commonly been referred to as melancholia. Ancient medicine believed that the human body was made of of four humours, each corresponding with the four elements, seasons, assorted organs and possessing their own unique characteristics; The humours consisted of black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood. For those who are curious, see Wikipedia's entry on the subject under "Humours".
The balance of the humours (eucrasia) was key to good health and all diseases - physical or mental - occurred as a result of an imbalance of the humours. (dyscrasia) Bloodletting was thought to be a way of of bringing the humours back into balance, by the way. Of course, we know so much more these days than the peoples of the Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance times. (Humoralism wasn't officially quashed until the mid 19th Century) However, that doesn't mean that coping with depression has become any easier.
A friend of mine is going through an enormously difficult time right now. As we haven't been friends for all that long it is hard for me to reach out in the way that I could with my friends back in British Columbia, Montreal or anywhere els in Canada. His wife and I have been friends for a while now and it is easier for her to talk to me. The situation is hard for her, but she is generally such an "up" and legitimately happy person she is coping remarkably well. That every man should have a wife so devoted. But it is hard to watch such a good person go through such a shitty time. And for this friend it isn't simply a matter of pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, snapping out of it or any of the rah-rah crap that gets hurled your way when the chips are down.
I have been battling depression off and on seriously since 1996. I haven't been an "up" kind of person since at least 1976 or 1977, when I was in the Primary grades. After my parents divorced, I would say my personality changed to being somewhat melancholic. I never dealt with it and was good at hiding it. (I think) By the time I was 15 that melancholy was channeled out as sarcasm, arrogance, disdain and outright rage. In 1996, it all hit the wall courtesy of unrequited love and my lack of emotional maturity. Things just seemed to get worse. A lot was due to circumstances beyond my control and the rest due an inability to actually do what was best for me and help myself.
After a decade of failure on many levels and no hope of change in sight, things changed. Montreal was great for the most part but I had some really dark turns there. Two people helped quite a bit. One does not want to be named but she gave me a thorough berating and verbal ass-kicking at the point it was needed most. The other was Montreal's own Master of Crass, the Impresario of Immorality: Dom Castelli. Dom's constant cajoling and prodding forced me out into more good times than I can recall. Dom's mission was to make everyone smile and he usually succeeded. Dom, even if I looked dour or serious on the outside, you always had me smiling within. Theres a healthy dose of sap for ya.
Back in Vancouver it was a different story. Unemployment and changes in the social scene really got to me. Trent cajoled me into starting this blog. The blog's name is a reference to my depression, more or less. As haphazard and inconsistent as The Shining Path has been, it was something to channel my energies into and it kept me pretty steady. Steady employment really helped me pull out of depression as has having my focus back and something to work towards.
I have had some crap here in Saskatoon that I was tempted to let get me down and feeling sorry for myself, but my friend's ordeal has really forced me to refocus and push myself back up for everyones' sake. I have been listening to a lot of ska lately. Ska is one thing that helps me out when I am depressed. So lately I have just been trying to keep those up, up, up ska rhythms going in my head. One mental exercise is reworking downbeat, mellow songs like "the Crystal Ship" by The Doors or "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" by Charles Mingus into ska/rocksteady songs. But this time I am not doing so much for my own sake, much like Dom, but my friends'.
Picture: "Melancholia I" by Albrecht Dürer