I have always found Toronto particularly conducive to depression. I've spent much of my sentence lying down waiting for it to pass, or, like Wile E. Coyote, plotting to catch that Road Runner and scheming up escape plans.
Of course, the causes of depression are as varied as those who suffer from it. Some level of depression is a thoroughly reasonable reaction to our current situation. The destruction of the entire world and the enforced poverty of billions of people to serve a few crazed profiteers and their militaries should get you down.
These days depression is called a mood disorder. The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario recently sponsored a lecture entitled Depression: Wakeful Anguish Of The Soul, From Ode To Melancholy By Keats, given by Sarah Romans, a psychiatrist. Romans receives grants to study gender differences in depression. While research on physical health has traditionally concentrated on males, women's minds have always received special attention from the psychiatric brotherhood.
The talk is being held upstairs from the Northern District Library, where, on the "feminism" shelf, I found an unbelievably misogynistic tract on How To Keep Women From Ruining Your Life, all about men's big brains and penises. The room continues to fill up with a few dozen people of all ages and colours.
An extract from Keats's Ode To Melancholy is flashed on the screen before the doctor plunges into a mind-numbing dissertation filled with current psych lingo. I'm not sure if "mental illness" exists any more or it's all "mood disorders." That North America's "schizophrenic syndrome" is called "depressive disorder" in England indicates just how illusory all these handles are.
Melancholia and hysteria went out of fashion ages ago. "Bipolar" has been hot for a while, but this is the first time I've heard of "unipolar." "Mania" seems to be coming into vogue, and "anxiety disorder" remains popular. The deflation of a room full of depressed people perhaps hoping for a little solace in poetry is palpable.
A woman asks the doctor what role repressive governments play in creating depression. "That's a good question." Toronto is full of immigrants who have suffered terrible traumas in their homelands and are trying to survive in an environment where compassion is extremely rare.
"Absolute answers come from experiments with animals - rats. Obviously, we can't do that on humans," states the doctor. "Alas" is implied. Fetal research is ongoing. The doctor is very excited about something called "kindling" and "brain pacemakers," inserting wires deep into the brain.
A pamphlet on offer tells us that the Mood Disorders Association "is grateful to Eli Lilly of Canada Inc. for providing an unrestricted educational grant for the production and distribution of this brochure." Another drug company sponsors the MDA's "community-based support network for women."
Depression is a growing global phenomenon. So is repression. All I can suggest to my suffering friends is nature, music, organic food, critical thinking and self-love - big hugs even. And remember the blackout.