The maritime world is abuzz with talk about depression at sea and wellness training. Although the latter is a load of baloney, I thought I’d weigh in with some great quotes about depression. In some cases, the authors used the term “melancholy” (or melancholia, a dated term for severe depression). I trust that these quotes will provide all those suffering from depression with some enlightenment and inspiration.

…wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.

~Sylvia Plath, American poet and novelist, The Bell Jar (1963)

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken”.

~C.S. Lewis, British writer, The Problem of Pain (1940)

O melancholy!
Who ever yet could sound thy bottom? find
The ooze, to show what coast thy sluggish crare
Might easiliest harbour in?

~William Shakespeare, Cymbeline (1611)

Melencolia I, 1514, by Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528)

Is not, as you conceive, indisposition
Of body, but the mind’s disease.

~John Ford, English playwright, The Lover’s Melancholy (1828)

Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced… It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It’s a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.

~J.K. Rowling, British author of the Harry Potter fantasy series, from “J.K. Rowling, the interview” by Ann Treneman, The Times (UK), 30 June 2000

If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.

~Stephen Fry, English actor, comedian and writer, as quoted in The Telegraph (2017)

Melancholy, 1894–1896, by Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863–1944)

I sometimes lament how much more industrious I would be without my own (now manageable) depression. But I also allow that, even today, my melancholia may have benefits. It focuses me on deeper questions of where I’m going in my life, even though—or, alas, because—it makes me question the value of anything and everything: including depression itself.

~Matthew Hutson, science writer, from his article ‘Does Depression Have an Evolutionary Purpose?’ (2017) in Nautilus

I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.

~Hermann Hesse, German novelist and poet, Siddhartha (1922)

Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a soul? A Place where the heart must feel and suffer in a thousand diverse ways!

~John Keats (1795–1821), English poet,, as quoted in The Paris Review (2014)

Moonrise over the Sea, circa 1821, by Caspar David Friedrich (German, 1774–1840)

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloudshadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Austro-German poet, Letters to a Young Poet (1929)

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