On Dickens and Depression

Photography by Devon Butler

I am related to Anne Boleyn and therefore, Queen Elizabeth I. I am related to mayors of London, and members of Marie Antoinette’s court. I am related to lawyers, soldiers and aristocratic ladies. I am related to thieves, criminals, and men who beat their wives. I am royalty and I am rubbish.

Some time ago, I trudged around London, trying to find the church my great-grandparents attended, and were married in. Imagine my surprise when it stood rough and dirty in Southwark. Imagine my surprise when I learnt it was the same church which preached to Charles Dickens. It was the same location that housed Dickens’s father, when he served in debtor’s prison.

Imagine a life of dirty windows and yellow fog that engulfs your senses. A life of restrictions and rigid conventions. A life of hardships, where everybody knows their place. But Dickens knew better. He never went to prison; he wrote. He wrote legacies passed down with the promise of being a self-made man, of escaping his prison. I am grateful to Dickens and grateful to my great-grandfather who sustained himself by slaving at a luxury hotel, so that one day I could return to have afternoon tea in a fancy dress.

But how self-made can I be when the blood in my body and the thoughts in my head are pre-determined, pre-conditioned and running through another? When the state of my mental condition is subject to the anxiety and depression that runs through the veins of my ancestry. Hospitalization for their inevitable nervous breakdown is the cold memory I’ve been left with to remember my predecessors, and to reflect upon when I fall subject to the same fate.

It wouldn’t matter if my relatives were crowned monarchs or drug-dealing crooks, they would still encompass the blood that builds a legacy, and forms my sense of self-awareness. I am aware that there is purity in my intentions and I am aware I possess traces of evil. Evil that was trapped in somebody years ago that never fought its way out. It latched onto the next of kin to continue its reign after being forced off a bridge and drowned. So it wreaks its havoc down the line until somebody stands up to it; to claim their life as their own.

I will be the end of the line. My blood will soak into the ground with me, and only with me. I will not let it carry on and infect the pure intentions of another. I will engraft a legacy taught by Charles Dickens, to live eternal in a form that cannot be corrupted by the misguidance of a conscious that’s been reincarnated too many times. I am royalty and I am rubbish and I’ve lost the ability to relate.

Devon Butler is Blueprint’s current Contributing Editor.