There's a difference between having a depression and having the blues, and while it isn't exactly subtle, I suspect you must have experienced both, either firsthand or as a witness, to realize that.
I'm lying in my bed. The time is about 10 AM, and I should have been to school about two hours ago. I'm fully aware that neglecting school will only make things worse, but I don't care. It's not that I don't like being there, Hell, I consider myself privileged that I get to spend my whole day playing (and learning about) music. Computer skills and music are pretty much what I have going for me. It's not that. I don't know what it is.
Every reasonably sane person in the world (and, I guess, most of the insane ones as well) will go through sorrow, sadness and misery. It's a fact of life, a logical consequence of living in an imperfect world. Like most (if not all) human emotions, sadness can be channeled productively, and may even take a beautiful form in the process. The Goth kiddies of today don't have a monopoly on trying to put sadness into artistic form; this is what fueled blues music, great tragedy plays, and indeed quite a lot of human art throughout the ages. Assuming a healthy individual, sadness will eventually subside and give way to other emotions. While overplaying it like the Goth kiddies do seems lame, I live in a free country and as long as nobody gets hurt, they can do whatever they like for all that I care. If they're lame, it'd be even lamer to allow them to piss you off, wouldn't it? It does seem, however, that what they're portraying (or, I guess it could be argued, caricaturing) isn't depression. It's sadness, sorrow and misery.
Noon. I should get up. I realize that lying on my bed staring blankly into thin air for two hours isn't exactly healthy, but I can't think of anything else to do. Time has made the decision for me; I'm staying home today. I should go tinker with Linux or practice on my bass. I know I won't, though. I'm going to spend the day staring into thin air. I sit up and survey the cluttered wasteland my little studio apartment has become; my ability to make a horrible mess out of an absolute minimum of belongings is not to be trifled with.
Depression is an entirely different beast to grapple with. It saps the mind, destroys creativity and will make even the most routine of daily tasks an insurmountable challenge. You won't be wearing trendy black clothes and death rock makeup, you'll be wearing disgusting four-day-old unwashed stuff because that was what was closest. You won't be writing any Gothic poetry, you'll at best get two words out of your pen before your creativity quota for the day is spent. You won't be composing the next grunge masterpiece, you'll find that you can't even drag yourself over to pick up your guitar. Climbing out of bed becomes a task comparable to climbing Mount Everest equipped only with your underwear and a roll of dental floss. You watch as your home grows messier and messier until it eventually resembles some mutant installation artist's impression of Hiroshima by Night 1945, drowning under piles and piles of old pizza boxes, potato chip bags, laundry and dishes, but you're powerless to stop it. You realize that the messy state of your home seems mostly like a watered-down parallel to the state of disrepair your body is slipping into. You neglect to exercise, you treat your body like a trashcan into which you deposit an unhealthy mix of ice cream, potato chips and various microwaved crap that has the nutritional value of gardening soil. You stop going to whatever daytime activity you normally spend your days at, and you cease all contact with the people you normally care about. A rational part of you desperately tries to cling on to sanity as you tell yourself to drag yourself out of this swamp this instant, but that little voice of reason is drifting alone in an ocean of stupid, irrational thoughts and ideas, some of them seeming so absurd that you're sure they were put in your head by someone else. You're sure you'd remember if your brain spat out this nonsense.
I decide to not eat today. My kitchen looks like a war zone, if the Third World War was fought with a combination of utensils, plates, cups and chemical/biological weaponry, and getting it into a state where I could cook something would take more effort than I could possibly muster. I can't afford going out for pizza, so I'll ignore the stomach pains again. Who cares? I might as well die of starvation. I'm the loneliest man in the world, and I'll always stay that way. I have no friends. I haven't had, um, female attention for over two years by now, I'm shy and scrawny and ugly and short and balding and sickly. Yeah, that's the explanation. I'm genetically inferior, nature has wired women to steer clear of the likes of me. That's probably also why I'm so low on the social hierarchy. I'm a fucking omega wolf. No wonder I have no friends to speak of; everything people do they do for gain, and nobody can gain anything off of me. I'm worthless. In fact, I'm worse than worthless, I have negative value. I consume oxygen and produce nothing. I'd go kill myself, but I can't really be bothered. I don't wish for death as much as I wish for non-existence, I don't really want to die, but I wish that I'd never existed to begin with.
Some depressed states can be clearly and logically traced to some meaningful 'trigger' event that set off the depression. The girlfriend/boyfriend broke up, a loved one died, some major life-shattering event that set off the normal, healthy reaction of sadness and sorrow, which somehow spiralled out of control. Such a depression is called an exogenous depression. Others don't follow such logic at all, starting on what appears to be their own volition(these are called endogenous depressions). Or perhaps it's a minor and insignificant event that sets it off, the proverbial drop that finally makes the cup flow over.
I'm sitting in front of my computer. I had hoped to write some code; I remember a time in my life where I could tune completely into the logic of programming and drift away from the pains of real life. Instead I'm sitting reading random nodes on E2. I read some radical feminist ramblings and my old feelings of gender-based self-hatred resurface. Damn men, we're the cause of all the fucking misery in the world. Not only that, we're inferior to women in every single way. If we were subjected to mass gendercide and humanity got along by cloning female foetuses, the world would be a better place. I hate myself for being one of these monsters. Some strange voice in my head, which I eerily recognize as my own, is shouting to me to snap the fuck out of it, get real, there is no such thing as an inferior sex, and I'm no evil oppressor just because some gibbering lunatics claim I am. I'm a decent guy, I've never raped or hit or sexually harassed a woman in my life. I don't even use porn, for fuck's sake! Economic oppression? I'm unemployed, damnit, how can I be subjecting anyone to economic oppression? I tell that voice to shut up. I know that it's all my fault. Just like everything is. I'd readily take responsibility for September 11th, the Holocaust, the murder of Olof Palme and the extinction of the dinosaurs right now. Sapped of strength, I crawl through the mess into my bed. I lie awake in the dark, pondering my wretched existence for an undeterminable time before I drift off into a dreamless sleep.
Psychiatrists sometimes refer to depression as "the common cold of psychiatry". Just about everyone has one at some point. The reason why depression, the evil bastard cousin of sadness, is so popular as a theme for Gothic rockers, grunge musicians, tragedy playwrights and the like is that, like love and anger, it's something we can all relate to. Depression ranges from a debilitating, paralyzing variant of the blues to full-blown clinical depression which may lead to suicide. Like many other medical conditions, there are medications available to help people who suffer from major depression (although for some, the side effects are worse than the depression itself). It appears that the condition is caused by the brain's serotonin being re-absorbed too quickly. What nobody seems to ask is what causes this rapid re-absorption to begin with? Is it something genetic and purely physical, a condition which is just naturally present in some individuals, like, say, asthma? Or is it how the hardware behaves when the software is detecting that something is horribly wrong? Nobody really knows. The minor depressions usually end "naturally", coming to a conclusion at some point. The major ones need professional treatment, or the sufferer risks that the depression ends at the same time as his or her life.
7:45. I wake up, feeling rested for the first time in weeks. It's Saturday, and while there's one day's worth more of mess on top of my already trashed home, I figure that if I put an effort into it I should be able to put things back into order before afternoon. As I get up I become aware that my body is in a worse state than my apartment; the natural consequence of sitting on my ass and living off chips and juice for a week. I decide to go for a walk later on, and to treat myself to something decent to eat this evening. I'm thinking clearly, and I begin the process of putting my life back together again. I shudder at the hazy recollection of the stupid and horrible things that went through my head less than 24 hours before. But that's over for now, time to try and find yet another strategy to keep the next one from coming. I know I can do it....... sooner or later.