I also think a turn to the personal realm, to cultivating deep friendships and family relations and the aesthetic and spiritual domains of life, can be a critically important way to stay sane, despite the apparent madness of the external world. This is a strategy intellectuals and other free-thinkers have adopted when living under oppressive regimes throughout history, sometimes creating masterpieces that emerged later on.
We should by all means all continue to work in whatever ways we can to nudge the external world in more positive directions, despite these now massive headwinds, so I’m not at all advocating withdrawal from collective affairs, but I think moving one’s center of gravity a little bit more inwards, in a quest for whatever long-lived, time-tested beauty, meaning and truths one can find, can bring some solace in hard times, and can actually help us in the very challenging struggles we are bound to be facing in the next few years.
Still, this framing of depression as a space for reflection is empowering, and lends a degree of agency to the person being pressed down. Like anxiety, depression might be trying to tell you something. The language of therapeutic traditions is useful: a Jungian analyst would describe depression as katabasis, an Ancient Greek word for descent. Like Orpheus heading to Hades or Luke Skywalker in the swamps of Dagobah, it’s a journey into the underworld, where the adventurer is to “go through the door … immerse himself in the wound, and exit from his old life through it,” like Robert Bly writes in Iron John. Since it is subjective, the problems and solutions will be personal — of the person and their particular psychological history — and thus demand the individualized understanding of the sufferer of depression, perhaps with the assistance of a skilled therapist. That’s another theme: While disengagement from emotionality characterizes depression and other disorders, engagement with one’s inner world looks to to be the way out. Put more poetically: You exit through the wound.