Guest Columnists

Battling the Savage Beast of Depression

by Father Frank Mann

RECENTLY, I headed to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to check out the extraordinary exhibition titled, “Savage Beauty.”  It turned out that I was one of the countless droves of enthusiastic folk found sweating their way through a two-hour line to enter the much anticipated event.
The enthralling exhibit, the museum’s most successful and well attended to date, highlighted and celebrated the late Alexander McQueen’s gargantuan contribution to high fashion and costume design. The show encompassed McQueen’s stunningly resplendent and colossal collection —including his final, astonishing runway presentation that took place after his death last year.
It is unquestionable that the scope and dramatic intensity of McQueen’s vastly impressive work is nothing less than breathtaking (albeit more than a tad bit controversial).
Noted critic, Amand Wenek states, “With his background in tailoring, every piece of McQueen’s clothing is a work of exquisite art. In this remarkable exhibition at the MET, all of his creations are beautifully made with care and intensity, and each has a rich story and intent behind them.”
It has likewise been pointed out, by an array of critics, that McQueen brilliantly promoted freedom of thought and expression and championed the authority of the imagination.  The designer once remarked, “What I am trying to bring to fashion is a sort of originality.” Without doubt, his humble words are a stark understatement!
McQueen’s iconic creations undeniably embody both technical ingenuity and genuinely unique, diverse, cutting-edge innovation and artistry. The couturier genius (albeit  shock-and-awe approach) of this designer will forever be emboldened with raw energy and emotional power.
McQueen’s death was  shattering, stunning and tragic. On Feb. 10, 2010 (nine days after his mother’s passing), the talented designer ended his brief, young life (he was only 40) by hanging himself in his wardrobe closet. He had battled the nebulous beast of depression throughout his life.
It is an unadorned irony that the millions who lauded his mind-boggling artistry perhaps never really took notice that McQueen was afflicted with a personal misery so severe that it could (and did) end in suicide.
Certainly, no one can argue the harsh fact that depression can often kill. This insidious disease is both brutal and debilitating. It can hurl its prey into a hellish cauldron of despair, an immobilizing and maddening nightmare. Depression is an existential tsunami that takes its tumultuous toll and gradually erodes one’s ability to experience meaning and enjoyment in life. It suffocates and mummifies the tormented and entrapped soul, rendering the individual unable to touch the world.
Perhaps the artist Edvard Munch illustrates this angst best in his world-renowned painting, “The Scream.”
A dear friend of mine who had battled depression once remarked, “You have no idea of the gruesome pain. In all honesty, there is a refreshing reservoir of abundant freedom to be enjoyed in the darkest of prisons compared to the harrowing and catastrophic assaults launched by depression.”
The most subjectively accurate description in literature of this affliction can be found in William Styron’s masterful work, “Darkness Visible.” The devastating descent into depression is described by Styron as “the despair beyond despair.” Styron offers an intimate and personal portrait of the agonizing sting of this illness,  revealing the relentless anguish of a mind he describes as being “desperate unto death.”
He leads readers to a greater understanding of one’s own struggle with the disease.
One can find ready and available treatment of depression. The person who suffers needs to be assured and reminded that it is not he or she, but the depression itself, that is “doing the talking.” The disruptive and destructively pervasive nature of this illness is not always triumphant, however.  There is, as the well-known Christian hymn states, “….a balm in Gilead.”   Welcomed healing and assured hope often lifts the weighted curtain that separates the light from the darkness.
If you have a loved one struggling to cope with depression, offer your generous gift of help. Likewise, if you are a victim of this disease, never hesitate or be embarrassed to ask for help. Depression can be successfully treated with variant aids of timely intervention.
Thanks be to God, the vast majority of individuals who suffer do indeed survive and abundantly thrive!

4 thoughts on “Battling the Savage Beast of Depression

  1. Dear Father Mann;

    I found your article very thought provoking. I know someone who I know and love very much who also suffers from this insidious disease. There are times she goes though much sadness and I only wish I could make it go way. Now she takes medication and has had treatment. But there are times she feels sad and I feel so useless in trying to make her feel better. I guess all I can dois pray.

  2. Father Mann;
    I am the Grand Knight of St. Anastasia Knights of Columbus back than and have been recently elected again after 8 years. I have writeen about you in a longer opinion on my blog with the Queens Courier. It is also in last weeks Queens Chronicle and can be found online under letters. I also had seen your oped in last weeks Queens Gazette. Keep up the good work.