As published on the Psyche website, this article has been co-authored by by Cecily Whiteley and Prof. Jonathan Birch. It begins:
“You’ve lost a habitable Earth. You’ve lost the invitation to live that the Universe extends to us at every moment. You’ve lost something that people don’t even know is. That’s why it’s so hard to explain.
This is one person’s experience of living with depression, as recounted in the psychologist Gail Hornstein’s book Agnes’s Jacket (2009). If you ask someone to describe what depression is like, they will often struggle to put it into words. We know a lot of the symptoms, but we still don’t understand the nature of the illness. We are like someone who knows that a fever, a cough, and loss of smell are all symptoms of something, but has no idea about the virus that causes them.
People who’ve never been through depression might assume it’s just an extreme form of feeling low. Don’t we all find that our daily activities can sometimes lose their sparkle? Yet, accounts of people with depression point in a different direction. As another person said to the psychologist Dorothy Rowe, recorded in her book The Experience of Depression (1978): ‘I awoke into a different world. It was as though all had changed while I slept: that I awoke not into normal consciousness but into a nightmare.’
Such reports support the idea that depression stands apart from other forms of everyday experience, as the philosopher Matthew Ratcliffe has emphasised in his book Experiences of Depression (2015). Depressed people often say it involves a fundamental shift, like entering a different ‘world’ – a world detached from ordinary reality and other people. Depression seems to be a more totalising kind of experience than some others. Perhaps it is even a distinct state of consciousness, and can, in turn, reveal something about the nature of consciousness itself …”
You can read more from here.