Despair is not something often associated with men and the reason is mostly due to gender stereotyping. But like most emotional states, despair doesn’t discriminate. It does not arise suddenly either, much like what they show in the movie and TV shows. Often, it begins unnoticed. The day starts just the same as any other day, bringing with it the usual challenges, narratives and worries. It’s hardly noticeable, but the trigger for crushing melancholy often comes from outside, more often from people with whom one allows oneself to be vulnerable. When I say crushing, I mean it like a semi-truck that lost its balance and is just moments away from bulldozing everything in its path with its immense weight. These moments between the truck losing control and the resulting destruction can last hours and hours with the right person in the right environment.
The trigger is key here. It can be anything from an offhand remark from someone one looks up to or just the tone of the sly laughter one receives from the well-known crowd. It could be an unuttered ‘Thank you’ or just a forgotten mention of one’s name. Generally, sarcasm bears its sharpness from the weakness of its target and if one’s ego can be imagined as a fragile balloon, even a blunt edge from inattentive people’s remarks can slash through. Thankfully, the ego balloon is usually made of a slightly hardened latex, the thickness of which is a direct result of failures most adults are expected to accrue over the years. Not so thankfully, when a hole is poked through this balloon, the metaphorical air leaks ever so slowly and a bit deceptively at the beginning.
One assumes it would be fair to expect other adult humans to sense the brewing dark clouds in one’s heart during their seemingly normal conversations, even though the person currently seized by the said melancholy puts up a valiant effort to keep the conversation indeed normal. May be the person was too good at faking it or may the other adult humans are incapable of really ‘seeing’ or, even worse, indifferent to, those menacing clouds. In any case these moments of normal conversation, when not transformed into vents for the growing frustration, always lead to a full blown, category 5 despair. This is the point of no return.
Loss of precious air from the ego balloon, in the beginning, just creates a sense of uneasiness in one’s heart. Not the mind, mind you, it is actually the heart that notices it. Some say it is also a feeling characterized as a knot in one’s gut. Whatever it is, the feeling can be brushed aside as a minor discomfort of the psyche, a tiny annoyance among the long list of annoyances one has come to believe as an integral part of adult life. But, as one proceeds with the mind diverting activity called regular job, over time, more air gets released from the balloon, and oddly enough there is a vague sense of weight filling critical parts of the body.
It makes no difference if one is physically weak or an accomplished body builder, the heaviness of despair-in-progress is just too heavy to bear. The head, suddenly feels like it’s filled with lead and the heart refuses to pump around enough blood that even small movements with the body feels like too much effort. The mind shuts down entire cerebral blocks and only the department of self-loathing and resentment is left fully functional. The whole body, head to toe, is slumped like a cadaver in the moderately expensive ergonomic chairs often found in office spaces.
By now despair is in full force, and one knows it. Every single mistake one has ever made – everything from cheating in school and getting caught to failing miserably on hopeful starts, from doomed promises of friendship and romance to sunk expectations of a gratifying future – all are set in replay mode in the mind’s eye, in HD. The images are CGI enhanced so one looks terribly hideous and the derisive voices of others pack more vitriol, their mocking laughter more brutal. The demon inside the head recites, with glee, one’s endless list of failures and weaknesses again and again and again, until one feels small, unremarkable and worthless. We are right at the climax of hurricane Despair and it ain’t a pretty sight. No fight destroys the soul so much as the lopsided fight with one’s own demons.
A long time passes by, usually hours, when all this internal turmoil which started as a minor annoyance grew into this bludgeoning monster and there is little evidence on the outside. Apart from the slumped body and, one can only assume, noticeably lifeless eyes, there is no tangible physical proof that one went through Despair – winner of the World’s Worst Emotional State Award for every year since the dawn of human kind.
As one picks up the pieces, much like a home owner tries to scavenge for his precious belongings strewn all over by a passing hurricane, for some weird reason, one wants to know what is despair anyway? This seems like a rather long ass way to comment on something that is sure to have made more successful and eloquent men think and write about it.
And then, one finds this.