Marcel Proust wrote
Happiness is good for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.
When I was younger I fantasized that with a deep enough depression I might develop superpowers. Like Spiderman, or the Flash, or the Human Torch! Though the nerd within me still holds out hope that I will encounter the right genetically-modified spider, the practical inner voice focuses on how I can harness my illness as a power.
I was asked recently if I thought I’d battle depression forever. I answered yes, unequivocally. While that sounds needlessly fatalistic, it is realistic. Like Sisyphus, I may be condemned to roll the boulder of my illness up the slope for eternity; only to trundle back down and try again when it inevitably falls. Leave it to the Greeks to give us mythology of fascinating punishments!
I am drawn to the story of Tantalus. Condemned by the gods to spend eternity in a pool of water, a fruit tree above him. Every time he lowered his mouth to the water, the water receded. Every time he raised his head for a bite to eat, the branches pulled away from him. Thus, we have the old English word tantalise - to desire a thing forever out of one’s grasp.
Now comes the question - could Sisyphus and Tantalus ever come to grips with their infinite afflictions? Could they ever accept their punishment, turn inward, and apply their daily lessons for, if not a pleasant eternity, at least a more bearable one?
My depression and anxiety keeps me sharp, for the price of occasionally getting cut. I could rage against that fact. Indeed, I have. I have shouted into the abyss of my mind, cursed every name of God I could recall, and hurt myself in the worst ways. That response gave me nothing but added misery.
I learned discipline from my depression.
I learned preparation from my anxiety.
I learned to identify the signs in my body that I was close to a panic attack, and then breathe that fear response away. The body tends to know things before the conscious mind does, be grateful for this because otherwise it would take way too long to pull your hand off a hot stove. I experience tendrils of energy, like worms slithering down my forearms before a panic attack. When I feel them I excuse myself and go through some breathing exercises.
I am Lex Luthor, Doc Ock, and The Joker. And I am also Superman, Spiderman, and Batman.
Unlike Sisyphus and Tantalus, I may be condemned but that does not stop me from learning how to improve my circumstances. That is a superpower, and what I believe Marcel Proust was getting at.