Depression is merely descriptive, not proscriptive, meaning the doctors really have no idea what they’re dealing with. They can give you lithium or ECT or advise you to pick up jogging, but it’s a blind golfer trying to make par. You just try different things.
Lisa knows it probably has something to do with an existential question of meaning. This isn’t biochemical. Sure, if you scanned her brain perhaps some receptors aren’t doing too hot, but Lisa would argue that’s a symptom of a deeper mindset, the way someone gets lung cancer because they thought they could beat lit tobacco.
Lisa thinks it’s a melancholia in the classic Greek sense. She suspects it’s some absence of spiritual fulfilment, a lack of God to give herself too. Lisa also realizes such statements would make her a laughingstock in her circle of hip twenty-somethings, but also concedes if one is going to choose their just-as-confused friends over some divine, infinite thing, the problem isn’t said divine, infinite thing but Lisa. Knowing this, however, doesn’t comfort her at all.
She knows the human dilemma has not changed with her generation. No technological advantage has morphed humanity’s inherent nature. She still wants to jaywalk and abuse her own body with some substance or brag about eating kale to her friends but appear to not be bragging at all. There’s no escape from herself. She can watch as many YouTube clips or text as many different guys she just met and still feel utterly stupid, utterly alone.
It’s a self esteem thing. Apparently. But again, is not self esteem boosting a mere aspirin to some far deeper spiritual headache in need of, like, soul magnesium? If one is caught in some inward dark night, doesn’t distraction or encouragement merely block any light from getting in because you never truly break, so you’re just stuck with feeling Okay? Lisa can’t talk about this stuff with her friends because they’d think she was crazy. This is how people become terrorists or start voting Republican. Next thing she knows, she’s watching alt-right radio hosts explain how Hillary Clinton smells of sulfur. Or she just becomes full-on basic and looks like her brother’s wife: smiling, tan, part of a church with a trendy and vague name like “Open” where they do communion with gluten-free wafers and the congregation loves to rate indie music on a decibel scale between 0 to 10. Or even more evangelical and boring, where inevitably you get married at 25 (Lisa is way past there) and think the Hunger Games really is some deep metaphor for society and you read the Bible but it’s basically moralistic therapeutic deism.
What Lisa wants, more than anything, is pure old transcendence. She wants to see the world the way a child sees everything: wide-eyed, willing, open, innocent.
But she knows the world is a bad place and if Dateline made an episode on every dark and gross incident they’d cancel the show just before the sun died and the stars collapsed. She’s aware her cynicism and jaded outlook are natural reactions to an uncaring universe and egotistical populace, herself included. She’s also aware these attributes lend themself nicely to the depression.
But does one pick a false dichotomy between a beautiful lie or terrible truth? Do you go for the opiate at hand- entertainment, love, religion, any meaning itself- or reach for the awful but realistic conclusion you are stuck in a cosmic joke?
But perhaps viewing things as a cosmic joke, Lisa reasons, absolves her of the responsibilities involved in living if life really means something. Because if life has meaning, then Lisa’s actions- her reckless driving, the way she talks to customer service, her heartfelt email to her currently married ex-boyfriend- all mean something. And she’s accountable. And that’s a frightening proposition. A wasteland isn’t ideal but at least you can pee wherever you want. If life has meaning than you are no longer in a desert alone but a library, and you must clean up after yourself and keep your voice to a whisper, even when you want to scream.
So Lisa mulls over all this in bed at 6AM, knowing work is in two hours and she is far from ready in any shape to face the day. But even thinking about this stuff, instead of eating, drinking, swallowing or viewing some method of release is strangely satisfying. She’s not just laughing it off or pushing it aside. It might not feel like progress but it doesn’t not feel like it either. And the rooms of her mind feels less stuffy, just. So she closes her eyes and breathes deep, seven seconds in with an eight second hold before releasing, and tip-toes into some soon-forgotten dream.