Literature intersects life at all points. This semester, my literature class talks about death. A lot. I don’t know that it’s necessarily my teacher’s intention…it just happens. For example, studying Keats is almost impossible to accomplish without discussing death. Today, we read and discussed “Ode to Autumn.” Autumn is a predecessor of winter, which is symbolic of death. Keats talks about sunsets too, classic symbols of death. Is that morbid? Not really. The entire point of the poem is that we don’t have to be scared of death. Also, death doesn’t have to overshadow beauty.
Why does all this talk of death matter to me? It matters because it doesn’t. At one point, dealing with death would have resonated deeply within me. It would have touched the cord my whole being was wrapped around. Now it matters because I understand all of Keats’ concerns about dying young, but because I am distant from them. I almost always associate death with depression. Regardless of the dying person and situation, someone is depressed (in most cases). And depression is something I understand. For a significant portion of my high school years, I struggled with depression. Not always at the same level – sometimes not so bad, other times much, much worse – but always present, weighing my every thought and action. Eventually it went away. I don’t have a spectacular story about a person or event or miraculously snapping out of it. Just slowly but surely, the depression disappeared. I still remember though. The overwhelming sense of drowning. The intense desire just to lay down and never, ever wake up. The complete lack of hope. The feeling of perpetual exhaustion…
If anything is a problem in college, it’s exhaustion. I try to use my time wisely and get enough rest. I try not to stay up all night studying. But it still happens. Some days, I remember what depression feels like. I taste the hopelessness, the complete apathy, the impossibility of mustering any energy. I am the lucky one. I know it will pass. I will sleep, pass that test, finish that project. I will wake up in the morning back to normal. But I know that so many around me will not. They are not just exhausted. They are drowning, lost in a world of grey apathy. Sleeping for hours won’t solve their problem. And that makes me so sad. It is a helpless thing, watching someone else in depression. Having no control whatsoever to pull them out…it makes my heart break.
Statistically, there are probably at least one or two people in my literature class suffering from depression. Likely several more of you read my blog. I don’t have an answer for you. I can’t tell you how to change that or how to cope. I will say this: there are people here for you. People understand. And please, please, no matter how attractive it seems, don’t make death the answer. Death has its place…but it is not the solution for depression. Read Keats. May your fall be full of beauty, even under the shadow of death.