Language is a room. Mental health is a room. They are,
in many instances, the same room: styled with furniture
and picture frames, hand-me-down heirlooms and shelves
lined with bric-a-brac. Some days the room is tidy, clean.
Other days, dust glistens from tabletops like splinters
of crystal. Piles of laundry line the walls, splatters of junk
litter the carpet. These rooms are lawless. Language is lawless.
Mental health, maybe more so, coming to self in a Petri dish
of id and ego, reeking of mechanics and burning
and circumstantial evidence.
And language gave it that name: depression. And language helped me
understand the diagnosis, the symptoms, how it affects more
than just the mind. Language spoke to me about depression,
confirmed that, yes, depression is indeed a symptom of itself.
As in: If you are experiencing feelings of depression,
talk to your doctor about depression. As in:
sculpted with neurons
and other stuffings,
has been fastened
a serious clinical disorder
and an all too common
state of mood,
one on top of the other.
Depression is a language in and of itself,
so we make it verb: Depress. To be depressed.
To press down. To press and press and press.
Depression is a feeling, a disease.
A feeling and a disease. Depression
is other things as well: action,
a reaction, a word which has lost
so much of its power in its clinical form.
I could clarify the condition if I had to—
major depression, chronic depression—
but even these sound more like descriptors
to a string of bad days than a disease I feed
with medicine like a mama bird
feeding a hole in the ground.
Depression has depression.
It is worn and fatigued,
often feeling guilty (of what?)
irritable (at what?)
and unnecessary. But in a fit
of productivity, when depression takes off
its itchy sweater and shakes its hands
to get the blood moving again, it sits down
at its laptop and writes a screenplay,
one in which depression takes the form
of the everyman and does everyday things.
Nothing happens and yet
it is still an accomplishment.
One recurring conversation
I find myself having,
in its simplest form, goes like this.
—I am depressed.
—Because I have depression.
It’s almost funny in its self-evidence,
in its simplicity, but I can’t think
of another clinical condition
that is as inexpertly named. And mustn’t
some of depression’s stigma
stem from this nomenclature?
Please show your work for the following questions:
a) If a train carrying rainwater is traveling from your childhood to present day and a train carrying all the other types of precipitation the sky has been known to produce leaves its station during the same pinprick of space-time known as your childhood, where O where do these trains meet?
b) Where O where does all that liquid go when cargos derail, when they spill sideways?
Depression, by definition, is not a palindrome,
yet it repeats itself more often than a clock.
Which brings me back to time,
Which brings me back to language,
which brings me back to trains derailing
and the everyman simply trying to get his shit together.
322 million people in the world live with depression.
Meaning, if we took our collective sadnesses and molded them
into a coherent frame of government, we could occupy
the fourth largest country in the world.
Our official language could be a string of sonnets,
our national anthem a song of therapy notes.
We could reinvent The Beatles and sing “Back in the SSRI.”
I think of other conditions:
asthma, bronchus, heart disease,
how they are different somehow.
How when I think of depression,
I think of shapes and stigma and the word
perpetual. Gears inside gears.
A grandfather clock that chimes
each time serotonin levels dip.
And when I think how many
other conditions there are, those that affect
our bodies first, I think of folded ribbons,
support groups, get-well-soons.
I think about how my body aches, too.
How much my body has been affected.
Language is lawless, so we make it a disease
no one cares about. We call it depression,
call it a country in crisis. A dialect spoken
in drawn-out sighs. A dead language.
But there are no dead languages anymore,
only depressed ones: languages
which have been buried under hardened clay,
too tired to dig themselves out.
But soon, they will resurface. Soon,
they escape the ground. Soon,
the depressed will rise, and when they do,
they will rise in song.
Adam Gianforcaro lives in Wilmington, Delaware. His poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review (miCRo series), Poet Lore, Little Patuxent Review, the minnesota review, and others.