Tuesday, August 24, 2010

That Certain Physical Manifestation of Feeling

Harry Swan Jr. in his entertaining samzidat,
Alter Ego, recounts a day in which

"Nothing I could think of was wrong.
Everything seemed fine.  Everything had
been fine the day before.  Nothing preyed
on my mind - well nothing but the usual
things over which I used to eat my heart
out but which had lost most of their
anxious urgency over the years - and yet
I could not deny that my heart, not my
symbolic, poetic heart, but my my actual
physical heart was encased in a heaviness
which I can only label as depression.

I think of depression as mental, but I
know these physical sensations well,
the hyper-awareness of my inner chest
heart area, the way this heaviness
ebbs and flows down the left inside
of my torso, sometimes at its furthest
extension, bending to the right into
my small intenstines, never moving
straight down into my leg or up into
my shoulder. And they are not simple
pain.  They are not even in themselves
painful.  For a few moments, you'd
think nothing of these sensations, but
when they extend themselves over time,
they become depression itself, not
the physical manifestation of something
else, but the rude, unholy enchiladada itself."

Swan Jr's description ran very true for me,
but when I get my physical equivalent of
this form of seemingly purely physical depression,
I often find it's an early warning system of anxiety,
or perhaps it would be more accurate to say it's the
first stage of anxiety about something coming up
which had not entered into my consciousness yet.

Still, I doubt this facile explanation covers all cases.
When I was younger I often woke up horribly depressed,
though I had gone to sleep happy.  I knew I was depressed
because of how my chest felt, but the intense physical feeling
tended to dissipate rather quickly over an hour or two. 
Now such episodes are much, much rarer, but they last longer. 
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