Pointing at shadows

For no, if the therapist really wanted the truth, the actual “gut”-level truth underneath all her childishly defensive anger and shame, the depressed person had shared from a hunched and near-fetal position beneath the sunburst clock, sobbing but making a conscious choice not to bother wiping her eyes or even her nose, the depressed person really felt that what was really unfair was that she felt able — even here in therapy with the trusted and compassionate therapist — that she felt able to share only painful circumstances and historical insights about her depression and its etiology and texture and numerous symptoms instead of feeling truly able to communicate and articulate and express the depression’s terrible unceasing agony itself, an agony that was the overriding and unendurable reality of her every black minute on earth — i.e., not being able to share the way it truly felt, what the depression made her feel like inside on a daily basis, she had wailed hysterically, striking repeatedly at her recliner’s suede armrests — or to reach out and communicate and express it to someone who could not only listen and understand and care but could or would actually feel it with her (i.e., feel what the depressed person felt). The depressed person confessed to the therapist that what she felt truly starved for and really truly fantasized about was having the ability to somehow really truly literally “share” it (i.e., the chronic depression’s ceaseless torment). She said that the depression felt as if it was so central and inescapable to her identity and who she was as a person that not being able to share the depression’s inner feeling or even really describe what it felt like felt to her for example like feeling a desperate, life-or-death need to describe the sun in the sky and yet being able or permitted only to point to shadows on the ground. She was so very tired of pointing at shadows, she had sobbed. She (i.e., the depressed person) had then immediately broken off and laughed hollowly at herself and apologized to the therapist for employing such a floridly melodramatic and self-pitying analogy.

— David Foster Wallace, “The Depressed Person”

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