On depression, and from there to Karl Marx

It snowed last week, yesterday it snowed again and it will snow once more later this week.As much as we try to hygge our forced stay-in days, it’s not easy.

This winter, until now, hasn’t been too bad, where weather is concerned, but nonetheless it has been a hard one for me. I usually get a good influx of energy and positivity in January, when I start planning for new projects and in general feel like a new blank slate has been afforded to me and like a reset button has been hit and there is a renewed chance for something good to finally happen in the new year. But this time it has been different. January felt heavier than ever.

I turned forty in 2016, and that unexpectedly made a big difference. I still struggle with it. It’s like from 2007 I suddenly took a leap into 2017 it’s like I have now to account for the past ten years, not just the last one. And I don’t have much to show for it.

I could point to many places where I went wrong, where I could have done better, and I do it often, when I am alone and cannot sleep at night, which has been happening more frequently than ever before in my life. I could have written more. Submitted more. Could have had some good publishing credits to my name by now. I could have focused more, worked more, be less self-indulgent. And I end up even more discouraged and unfocused and unable to work or sleep (or alternatively just wanting to sleep all-day-long).

What I know I need to do is figure out what I can do better now. How I can help myself be able to do better.

I generally avoid calling what I feel depression, because I don’t want to equate my run of the mill low spirits with serious clinical depression that really incapacitates people and can (and should) only be managed with medication.

But I found this New York Magazine article, Psychologists Think They Found the Purpose of Depression, interesting, because it talks about the sort of manageable depressive episodes like I’m experiencing and offers something positive to take away from it. Depression is viewed as a time of disengaging with the world in order to focus on the inner self for finding solutions to the very problems that caused the depressive episode. It’s not a bad way of looking at it (neither is it a novel perspective).

I also found interesting the critical comments to the article and in particular the mention of Marx’s theory of alienation. Maybe I should read some Karl Marx one of these days, but I am afraid that in spite of agreeing with many of his views, I really won’t be able to get over his way of expressing them, which may be just antiquated but it sounds very sexist and upsetting, even when he expresses support for equal treatment of women. Here are two such pretty horrifying examples:

A direct consequence of the alienation of man from the product of his labour, from his life activity and from his species-life, is that man is alienated from other men. … man is alienated from his species-life means that each man is alienated from others, and that each of the others is likewise alienated from human life. (Karl Marx, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts)

Joking aside, great progress was evident in the last Congress of the American “Labour Union” in that among other things, it treated working women with complete equality. While in this respect the English, and still more the gallant French, are burdened with a spirit of narrow-mindedness. Anybody who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without the feminine ferment. Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex (the ugly ones included). (Marx and Engels Correspondence, 1968)

2 thoughts on “On depression, and from there to Karl Marx

  1. I feel the same way about this past January and early February – it has been a difficult one. I am just like you: I typically get excited this time of the year when the days start to get longer and there is more light, but this year I find it very difficult to get into my regular let’s-get-back-to-business mode. Instead, I fall into the camp of just wanting to sleep all day. Overall, I just feel discouraged and I have a hard time finding any extra energy to plan new projects or to just get things (or myself) on the move. Ugh, I hate being in a rut. I guess we just have to believe that things will get better at some point.

    Thanks for the link to the NY Mag article – it certainly gave me something to think about! Also, I haven’t read Marx in sooooo long! Might be time to revisit some of it.

  2. Marx was but a man, we must forgive him that. Hannah Arendt may be good to read, too.

    Winter is so blumming dark, the only way I can get through it is to get busy and stay busy. If I’ve no concentration (happens a lot lately – age/hormones?) I do something physically tiring – those endorphins can turn a grim situation around!

    You’re good at so many things, Lori – you make clothes, you design websites, you’re a fantastic translator, you write exquisitely, you’re a doting and self-sacrificing mom – you make me sick, alright? But seriously, cut yourself some slack. January is not forever; just cause you feel dank right now doesn’t mean you always will – allow for the possibility of transformation, when you least expect it.

    Great post!

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