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September 5, 2014
Posted at 3:41 pm

What a Depressing Subject


I'm not going to discuss my personal mental state which is sometimes high and sometimes low and usually not in the extremes of a manic-depressive. Usually. But it seems that I come back to dealing with this in my stories. I've known too many people and experienced it too much to ignore depression. Sometimes I feel like I'm excessively cruel to my characters in getting them to rise above adversity. That's really the theme: Rising above adversity.

If you remember (assuming you read it), Tony starts off depressed in Model Student. Continually through the series, even when he becomes successful and surrounded by love, he battles depression. The world is too much for him. He's a terrible person. He can't control his emotions. At one point a reader wrote to me and said, "What a whiny baby." And then when Kate leaves him in "The Prodigal" the depression manifests itself in anger and frustration.

In each instance, however, hero overcomes his depression and deals with life--just like most of us do. Tony stands in front of an easel painting for hours at a time. Some of us spend that time sitting in front of a computer, making telephone sales calls, digging ditches, driving trucks, raising a family, teaching, whatever. It's called earning a living and becoming a responsible adult.

But every time I deal with depression in a story I write, I become aware of another aspect of it. I'm working on a part of LNDtH in which a character and those surrounding deal with depression. And yes, I'm trying not to make it to depressing. The question that keeps coming up is "Why?" "Why are you depressed?" Everything is going well for you at last. You have everything you ever wanted. Why are you still depressed.

The answer, of course, is STOP ASKING 'WHY?' Think of it in terms of hearing a friend say through a stuffed up nose, "I have a co'd." You immediately say, "Why do you have a cold? It's a beautiful day and the weather is warm." So?

Let's get closer to an equivalent. You could assume that if you drink a lot of liquids and get some rest, the cold will go away in a day or two. Instead, you ask friend, "How are you doing?" She answers, "I've just found out I have an inoperable brain tumor." Of course, your immediate response must be "Why? You're so smart!"

Yeah. These things just don't have anything to do with it. Depression is like that. STOP ASKING "WHY?'

Of course, that's only going to depress us, right? What can we do? We don't understand why Robin Williams committed suicide. He had a lovely family. He had a successful career. He had plenty of money. Why was he depressed? It makes no difference. The right person . . . the right people . . . weren't there to help him through it.

LNDtH has the right people. They are present. But they are all struggling to figure out what to do. How can they help the hopeless? When the world is too much to bear. When getting up in the morning is more than just a sleepy challenge. When going to bed at night is something to be feared. When even being loved is too much responsibility. In LNDtH it is not just one person's illness to be overcome, but a challenge for the entire clan to meet.

By the way, don't get depressed over this. It doesn't come up for another fifty chapters. And I did promise a happy ending, you know. By that time, I should know what it is. :)