Introspections & Retrospections

On Depression & Contentment

We all (or at least, most of us) have our moments when a darkness settles in and sits beside us: quietly, like an awkward lover trying to make themselves felt, to let their presence matter.

And we try, desperately try, to push this unwanted attention away— even when at times, it is what we secretly crave for… if only it was from someone else, from something else. For it always start with a longing: whether it be triggered by some faint nostalgia; a distant, almost forgotten reminder to one’s self; or even half-remembered fantasies from dreams that the night stole away from us.

Hello, Depression, some of us who have known it well through the years would greet. Sometimes, it would not say anything. Most of the time, we simply don’t like listening to it, or try to understand. Because most of the time, it simply wants to tell us something we don’t like to hear.

Those who live with and suffer in depression know full well its conflicts and contradictions: how we can be overflowing with joy yet sink in so much sadness at the same time; how we can feel so much violent rage, yet feel extravagant love and forgiveness; how we are often equally torn between pity and apathy. Forces so universal yet very personal that implode within us, causing a black hole sucking in all other emotions and thoughts, creating this event horizon of indescribable illusion of joyful sadness: spectra and dyes converging maddeningly in a battle of white and black— only to end up as this lifeless tinge of wordless gray.

There’s this conflict that continually flirts around and with us: our needs and wants clamouring to be realized, our reality and values insisting to be recognized. And we wish for both to be appeased, satiated; or at worst, negated. Be, or begone. We’ve come to believe that contentment is like a simple checklist: accomplish this, have this— then you’ll be content. But we know it’s not so; as long as we live, the checklist grows longer and more difficult to cross-out the items each time and day.

I guess contentment, in its truest sense, involves not the mere acceptance of our limitations— that, which we have come to define as the denial of our fondest wishes and deepest desires. For to be content is to acknowledge what we do not have, what we cannot have, without denying that wistful longing of having, owning, being.

For what does it mean, this sense of contentment?

Maybe it’s when you see a tasty-looking dish, salivating, wondering how delicious it would be; but with a smile, let it be— maybe because you’re on a diet, and you have a physical goal that goes beyond this passing delightful meal; maybe you can’t afford it yet, or you can but you have to set your budget aside for something else; maybe it’s something you’re not allowed to eat, probably because of allergies or hypertension or diabetes or any other illness that deprives us of this God-given right to enjoy His creation gastronomically.

Maybe it’s when you hold someone else’s puppy, wondering if you can steal it away and take it home with you; but with gentleness, let it go, let it waddle, run back to its true owner, warm yet bittersweet emotions wallowing that half-frozen heart of yours.

Maybe it’s when you meet happy couples: friends, family, strangers. Lovers that look so good together, laughing and crying with such shared sincerity. And part of you aches to be like them, to be with someone whom you could have authentic simple memories rather than fabrications of unfulfilled adventures. But with a sigh, you painfully wait on, live on— maybe because the one you love is chasing after someone else, has already loved someone else; maybe you’re not ready to promise her the stars when you barely can see your own dreams; maybe the time is not right, destiny is nudging you elsewhere, and the dying constellations inside yesterday’s tears still shine too brightly for you — and no matter how much space there is between the shattered pieces of your heart, you can still spell out her name, trace the outline of her face… but there’s always a dot missing, and you can’t complete that picture where you’re supposed to be together, forever.

Maybe it’s when you look back at your years— all those misspent days and wasted opportunities, all those regrets and frustrations, all those forgetful moments that could have been unforgettable memories; but with hope, with faith, with love that could only grow and mature through life, we accept the lessons and appreciate it. Maybe because we have learnt to see more than what this world can offer, more than what we can enjoy with our limited time. Maybe because we have learnt to be grateful, that in spite of all the joyful could-have-beens, we were spared the mournful should-not-have-beens. Maybe because we have learnt to love, to have faith, to hope: truly, fully, completely— not just lip-words or thought-concepts or philosophical theories; our sophistries exposed in light of the truth, freeing us from the shackles, the demands of today, tomorrow, or even the past. The truth of now and the eternity of it, that permeates through the self and into everything else, and we only find ourselves laughing, crying with heart-light laughter at the absurdity of all our aspirations and whims. And in doing so, find a seed of contentment growing, bearing fruit that would last beyond our last breath.

Does this mean that depression is the anathema of contentment? I believe not. It does, however, reflect the things we try to bury beneath our smiles, this fragile facade of satisfaction that we hope others would see in us and through us. Maybe for now, we only call it, refer to it as depression. Maybe someday, we’ll see it for what it truly is— no longer as an unwanted dark passenger in this lonely journey, but a trustworthy (even if annoying) company, a shadow watching our backs as we try to follow the light.


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