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The Denial of the "No"

for yvaughn

I forget who it was but he was a great artist or poet. If it is not Leonardo Da Vinci, it most certainly would have to be Lord Byron. His was a tortured genius as he was frequented by depression all his life. But in those rare periods when his creativity was unleashed from its deathly slumber, and when he was able to work--and did he work!--he said something that struck me: "Remember that it hasn't always been this way."

I guess that poignantly marks the retrospective gaze of depression. Retrospective because, gratefully, depression comes and depression goes. It is then in such a respite (ceasefire?) between its coming and going that you can gather your self, rebuild yourself, and sadly, prepare yourself for its return. That I expect depression to come over and over again is not pessimism on my part or merely some lack of faith. It is the law of my body, perhaps a bad gene, an unfortunate oversight or a simple mistake. Whose mistake? No matter. They are all the same.

But I guess that is not the point. Then what is? It's not just about accepting the fact that you're a depressive that makes things easier. Actually, that makes it harder because you tend to excuse yourself from other people, lessen your expectations from yourself, and in a word, pity yourself.

How can ugly pity come from such a beautiful thing called acceptance? We all know this: because most of the time acceptance morphs into a fatalistic attitude, which inevitably leads to giving up, and finally being tempted to settle all accounts. That is to say, since I learn to accept that I can do nothing anymore because it is my fate and my destiny, at the back of my mind I am still looking for someone to blame. Acceptance shall always require a reason. But the gods always remain silent. So I end up blaming, hating myself.

Everyone got it upside-down (again). Everything begins with acceptance because what else is there to do than to accept? Then depression comes in for the very reason that I could do nothing but accept my fate. Then bargaining because you try to find a way out of that corner. Then anger at your worthlessness and weakness. And finally--denial. Now we're talking.

To deny (L. denegare) means to do "away" with something by "negating" it. It also means to "refuse" or to simply say "no." In the opening lines of The Rebel, Albert Camus reflects upon what this 'no' means. He says there:
What is a rebel? A man who says no: but whose refusal does not imply renunciation. He is also a man who says yes as soon as he begins to think for himself. A slave who has taken orders all his life, suddenly decides that he cannot obey some new command. What does he mean by saying 'no'?

He means, for instance, that "this has been going on too long," "so far but no farther," "you are going too far," or again "There are certain limits beyond which you shall not go." In other words, his 'no' affirms the existence of a borderline.

To say 'no' then means to establish a perhaps hitherto absent borderline between what I shall tolerate and what I will not. It means to protect yourself. And how is this protection done?

By guarding that borderline like a coast guard who patrols the invisible borders of a country's territory beyond which any foreign vessel cannot transgress without permission. To guard that border is to hold the line in the way that warriors or soldiers or pawns do in order to protect the king. To say 'no' ultimately means to deny entry to what threatens the inner kingdom of the heart.

For to just accept is to welcome the guest and feed and celebrate what turns out to be the king's murderer. To be depressed is to weep as you see your kingdom being burned to the ground. To bargain is to send a herald to the other king who does not wish to talk. To just be angry is to double the torment you are already suffering. But to deny--this means to stand up, hold the line and fight.

There is profound reason why it was also Camus who said that it is "Better to die on one's feet than to die on one's knees."

Can the same rhetoric be applied, as it were, to the dark king that comes by the name depression? Maybe or maybe not. It's always a joke to taunt and speak about the enemy when he is absent. I'll find out when it has come again.

But for the meantime I say yes to everything. Saying no to one thing implies saying yes to everything else. And most of all, I keep in mind that it has not always been this way.


  1. Yeah, if there's one GOOD thing depression brings, it's RETROSPECTION, but I think we sometimes tend to look too much within ourselves during our depressive states. The aftermath of which-- all the more we get depressed...

    Thank you very much for sharing da Vinci's/Byron's experience. I think I also read that somewhere. Add that up to another GOOD thing depression brings. I can sometimes relate with depression squeezing the creative juices out of a person for I recall composing the most poignant of poems and musings during my depressed moments.


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