Dante described his encounter of the suicudes in the seventh circle of Hell by saying:
“Now lamentations from each side resounded, / But none who utter’d them could I descry; / whereat I stay’d my footsteps, all confounded” (Inferno XIII. 22-24).
The anonymity of the encounter strikes me more than the lamentation.
Depression, conceived in solipsism, resigns the soul to anonymity – the misbegotten feeling that one is alone. In the darkness of this solipsism rests a profundity on the verge of any abyss.
Solipsism engenders a certain self-reflection or meditation when taken with a measure of patience.
Patience is a difficult virtue made even harder by the unrelenting burden of mental anguish.
How is this patience acquired? If I knew, I would probably not be writing this article.
The reader must have guessed by now that my description of depression comes from personal experience.
Perhaps there are forms of depression other than the solipsism of which I write. Solipsism is the only form I know. Is it solipsistic to make that the only form I describe?
I’m not a psychologist but only a student, so I can only speak from my own experience. In that regard, my solipsism is justified.
The antidote to these thoughts, of course, is realizing that I am in fact not alone – that solipsism has no justification.
Sympathy cures solipsism. Knowing that the experience of depression is not reserved to myself alone, but that others suffer with me is sympathy in its deepest sense.
Perhaps you’ve seen the many notecards lining Haggar for a week and a half now; written on those notecards are testimonies to the fact that I am not alone – we suffer together.
Those notecards are part of the Mental Health Awareness Project.
At first glance, it is an inane term; to be merely ‘aware’ of the fact of mental health, or its opposite, would seem to solve nothing.
But awareness is precisely the first step toward the cure that is sympathy.
The simple fact of being noticed, of another knowing of my pain, lifts the burden a bit. From that awareness, compassion grows and sympathy is begotten.
At this point I should note an etymological similarity that speaks to a real truth. Consider ‘patience’ and ‘sympathy.’
The former comes from Latin pati (to suffer,) the latter from Greek pathos (suffering).
The terms are not twins, nor are the concepts they signify, but there is a real movement and similarity between them.
Sympathy can inspire the very patience which depression lacks.
Contrast these notions of suffering with the Greek descendent psychopath – suffering in the mind.
In its most sinister sense, psychopathy designates something far beyond the common experience of mental anguish. In its most general sense, ‘psychopathy’ designates this mental anguish itself – a mental suffering. In both senses, psychopathy is distinguished from sympathy in its internalization – in its solipsism.
The suffering is the same; the suffering is a fact.
Suffering is changed, though, by the presence of camaraderie. Camaraderie provides the strength for patience – self-enduring suffering that is in no way solipsistic.
Patience, by sympathy, gains strength from a friend. A light shines in the darkness.