In praise of: Depression

One of our professors at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Electrical Engineering Dept., has this habit of reading people (student) and keeping some sort of views about them. Perhaps we all do this sort of things. I actually do that. It is impossible for me not judging people I meet – trying to be skeptical and not cynical most of the time. Last time, I talked with him after getting admission back in IIT for Ph.D. program, He asked me ‘not to smile’ when alone. His reason is simple, in this world filled with normal people, you are not allowed to talk to yourself. It is not that you dont give a damn about them but these people can create trouble if you behave in a way which they do not like. Apparently, he also do this sort of things, suddenly some jokes popout in his head and he start chuckling and then if someone sees him he has to pretend as nothing has happened or he starts looking at some trees as a clown is sitting on them. So, do not talk to yourself, and do not smile. Look angry, thats OK! Mostly, I keep listening to music so even I commit the crime of talking to myself or smiling, I can pretend that I am talking with someone on mobile through earphones. Technology for rescue. This old chap is not fortunate enough.

This all is ok with me. Next thing he asked me if I feel DEPRESSED. I refused plainly and he got me thinking. He simply said if you are sleeping more or less than 7-8 hours, you are depressed. Hmmm.

Its remarkable how much you get confused when you go on to understand something more and more. I tried to read about what exactly is depression and got nowhere. All I got is that its really hard to figure out when someone is depressed or not. A philosopher says something about it, a neurologist sees it differently, a poet have some romantic views about depression an so on.

To understand something, one need to have access to some theory or concept. When one does not have access but wants to use one, she much build her own. Like in case of India, every Indian carry their own idea of India in their heart for its really a hard ‘word’ to define. Its quite a reasonable arrangement this way. Till things settle down for sure, everyone is entitled to their own theory. So I try to come up with my own tools to explore.

For every living creature, there could only be two collection of states. First is the collection of states of body. Second is the collection of state of mind. Depression is surely is a set of of this ‘mind’ thing. So I defined depression as a collection of states of ‘mind’. This mind, a state machine, may not have a single state at a particular time as we have them in ‘digital system’. This state machine – hereafter will be called ‘mind’ – can have a complex sets of states, overlapping, intertwined, and mostly triggered with ‘thoughts’  of conscious or subconscious (whatever that mean) part of our being. We have not defined ‘thoughts’. But their presence we can be sure of. I can have this certain feeling of having a thought anytime. I might get circular, so I leave it undefined. Now, mind reach to another set of states from her current set of states  after  processing ‘thoughts’. These thoughts can be a aftereffect of our experiences with people, with ideas, with books, with illusions etc.

Now, we need to define one more things, and that is FEELINGS. I like to see feelings a ‘thought’ which can NOT be understood. Once a thought is understood, it forms a part of logic. You ‘know’ it so it is not a feeling anymore. If you cherish some feelings, I beg you not to get curious about it. For example, at some age, what we like to call ‘love’ may turn out to be a simple ‘attraction’ for beauty, physical desire or hobnobbing with rich and powerful. It’s not to say that we can ‘understood’ it completely anytime. But a more complex feeling of ‘love’ at some time can be broken down to be less complex feeling after some spending sometime understanding it. That why I say, you love some feelings, do not try to understand it. Ignorance is bliss!

In this definition of feelings, I have classified all the feelings as one. Can I distinguish, which feeling is good (like love, happiness, sympathy etc) and which is bad (anger, envy etc..)?

We now brings in the concept of energy. Almost all of the feelings when active in a alive person needs energy. If one feel anger, one has to loose control over one’s brain because one’s body now demands as much energy as possible and refuse to grant a share for brain. Mind make it sure that brain does not get its share. (Mind and brain are different things). Anger, is body-friendly feeling. It makes your body active. On the other hand, feelings of love or happiness, kick start your brain and brain demands more energy. Now your body has to make way for your brain. You want to sit down or lay down and contemplate (popularly known as ‘feel the moment’). There are other feelings which could be both brain and body extensive, like feeling of motivation. You get up early, work hard and still feel very jolly. Now I can define, which feeling is  good or bad.

If you have to work which is very labour extensive like waging a war, yours chance of survival will be much more if you get ‘angry’. If you are a philosopher, you need to get rid of these kinds of feelings. Embrace other ‘brain-loving’ feelings like compassion, seclusion, happiness, depression etc.

Depression is a sort of feeling which have a lot of enemies. Its enemies call themselves ‘expert’. Depression is a ‘brain-loving’ feeling. Higher the depression makes your brain getting over-clocked. Your body start withering, because now your brain is so occupied with itself it does not care whether you need a healthy body. This should be alarming and need attention of yours and then of a trained person. I personally like depression, it gets me thinking and wondering. A little depression is the best thing and must happen to everyone but it should not make you oblivious to your body. Too much of thinking is good for those people who lives tormenting their own soul (known as philosopher – they are respected even if no one wants to live like them). In certain time of history and location, things change their meanings, if for Greeks, hope was the worst of the evil coming out of the pandora box it is now the best of the things. If for old Hindus, satisfaction in small is one of the best trait, now they love making most our of it.

I dont know what kind of definition they have when they portray ‘depression’ as an enemy of humankind. I see it, under our established definition, as a best thing to have. But one great Indian mystic poet (ironically he was illiterate) Kabir saidtoo much of anything is bad”. Our body as well as our brain have their limits, you can not push them to these limits without hurting yourself. But you must not leave them idle also. A little bit of anger all the time is good your body and a little bit of depression all the time is great for your brain.



Author: Dilawar

Graduate Student at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.

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