Revisiting: Sympathetic Vibration and Depression

On this third day of the massive comic convention in Salt Lake City, I expect I am completely brain frazzled, which is why I’ve scheduled this post in advance. Since I wrote this post, I’ve written Married to Depression, which covers the topic more thoroughly, but in this one you can see I’m trying to get a handle on how to manage Howard’s depression in the era before he went to a doctor. I originally wrote it in 2012 and then revised for my book Cobble Stones 2012. You can find the book in our store for only $5. I don’t have an e-book edition at this time.

Sympathetic Vibration and Depression

If you slowly press down the C key on a piano so that the hammer does not strike the string, and then you keep the key pressed so that the dampers remain lifted, that string is now sitting free inside the piano. Take a different finger and play a different C somewhere on the keyboard. Just push and let go so that the second string plays and then is dampened. You can hear the free string still vibrating in tune with the other. This is resonance, also known as sympathetic vibration. The two strings vibrate at the same frequency, which means that they can cause each other to sound.

I am in tune with the people in my household. I pick up whatever sound it is that they are playing. I have my own music, naturally, but if two or three members of my family are playing mournful songs, I pick up on that. Even when I am trying not to, my heartstrings will vibrate sympathetically. Sympathy is a good trait to have in a relationship, yet often what is needed is not sympathy but harmony or counterpoint. When Howard is depressed, he doesn’t need me to sing along in tune. He needs something else so that the tune of the day will not be all bleak. This is one of the hard things about dealing with depression. I must have enough sympathy to feel compassion and still have enough detachment to play a different music.

Learning that was hard. Even harder was learning that I can’t fix someone else’s depression. Not really. I can succeed in alleviating bad moods or cheering up a child. I can get quite good at it, but I have not actually solved a problem in a lasting way. I’ve just acquired a never-ending job as the make-it-better person. This job burdens me and prevents anyone from taking the long, hard steps to seek out a true solution.

So I sing my own songs. I do my own soul-searching to figure out why some of my songs are sad or scared. I find ways to be happy. And I try to sing in harmony with those around me. Because sympathetic vibration works in both directions. Sometimes I’m the one who gets lifted by it.