Charles Bukowski On How To Deal With Depression
Charles Bukowski is perhaps as famous for his unapologetic alcoholism as for his poetry and novels. Bukowski went through much of his childhood and teens as a shy and socially withdrawn person who also had to deal with an abusive father at home. His father was frequently abusive, both mentally and physically, lashing out at his son at the ‘smallest imaginable offence’.
Much of Bukowski’s work – his poetry, his novels (Ham On Rye, Women, Post Office) and other writing – is heavily informed by his life, both the years of his youth and his contemporary lifestyle. Called the ‘laureate of American lowlife’, it’s no wonder that many of the tragedies, vexations and anxieties that plagued Buwkoski found their way into Bukowski’s writing, under the ephemeral as well as ever-lasting observations of daily life.
Bukowski’s depression, especially, forms a core theme that runs through his poetry and novels. Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s part-autobiographical protagonist, is lazy, socially evasive, misanthropic and perpetually at odds with true and lasting happiness, resigned instead to heavily depressive tendencies.
Like his characters, Bukowski sees his depression as a rut, a paralysing handicap that condemns people to a life of dead pattern. His advice is not to fight that pattern, but to embrace it: to go into hibernationand emerge out of it at the end of a long, sleepy stretch:
People are nailed to the processes. Up down. Do something. Get up, do something, go to sleep. They can’t get out of the circle. You’ll see, someday they’ll say, Bukowski knew. Lay down for four days, then get up, and do.
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