About Writing "The Allegory of Despair" - James Prescott


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About Writing "The Allegory of Despair"

Copyright © 1996 James Prescott


A close friend, who lived many miles away in another country, took his life because he believed that he had lost everything that mattered to him.


To one of his friends I wrote:


Over the preceding two months or so he felt he had lost, in succession, every single group/person to whom he owed honour, duty, and loyalty. For him, these were the touchstones of his life.

He had been unsure of his place in this world, and recent events brought all remaining surety crashing down about him. He raised his glass to his lips, and found there nothing but bitter, bitter dregs. He then thought it easier to lie down than to soldier on.

The hardest part is knowing that he died entangled in anger and deep pain.


For another of his friends I wrote the following letter in the early hours of Saturday morning, 1996 September 21. I also wrote for him "The Allegory of Despair".


I write privately to you in answer to your great distress. I hope that my presumption in doing so will not too greatly offend.

Depression is an un-wellness. It is like a cancer, or a broken leg, yet it is inside the head. It is not a free choice of the sufferer.

We can cure a broken leg. We can often cure a cancer. We do not yet understand how to cure depression very well. Blame not the patient for his illness.

Depression is many things. It is a progressive disease that forces one to see the world in blacker and blacker colours. A world that is shrinking around one, with fewer and fewer choices. People may fight against it successfully, just as people may be successful against cancer. Others fight but do not succeed.

Standing on the outside, with no understanding of what it is like, it may seem simple to say "pull yourself together, man".

Inside, where you cannot see, they are trying. They are trying desperately. But the mind in depression is host to a very strong illness, and only some win the fight against it. When they lose the fight, the loss may take many forms.



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