So my brain was vaguely inspired by that Prozac/romanticizing depression post thing and I had a train of thoughts about Grantaire.
Grantaire mentions that he “was always bright,” that he used to be a student of Gros, but he spent more time “pilfering apples”. He doesn’t mention whether or not he still paints, but to me the way he talks about it (despite the way I tend to write it in my fics) is that he no longer does. Especially since he precedes these sentences with talk about being ignorant and follows them with talk about every good thing running into a fault.
All of those mentions combined, plus his “I have the spleen” bit, makes me wonder about depression’s effect on Grantaire. (I mean, besides the drinking.) How much of his non-attendance to Gros’ lessons was him actually out and about stealing apples or exploring the city? How much of it was him crippled by depression, unable to get out of bed or find any sort of motivation or inspiration to pick up a paintbrush in his home, much less go to a (semi) public forum in which he’s forced to compare himself to his classmates?
He was a pupil of Gros, probably with a promising talent and a good eye both for traditional work and experimentation. But his depression took away his will to get up in the mornings, his ability to function as a normal person, his ability to function as an artist, his motivation to learn his craft, his inspiration to paint, his ability to work without comparing himself to others and finding faults in both his and their work, but more faults in his own, enough to make him not want to try again. Maybe he still feels this way and depression still has that hold on him. Maybe he felt this way long enough and intensely enough that he simply believed he was not cut out to be an artist, that his passions were wrong and that he did not have the skills or talent to do what he wanted. Either way, he stopped.
This brings in his “I was always bright” and “it’s a shame I’m ignorant” quotes, and even his “all good qualities run into a fault” quote. Perhaps his depression has done what it does to many people, and shoved him into a sort of brain fog. He feels he can no longer think as well as he used to, he feels that he has to struggle to keep complete, complex thoughts in his head or apply one thought to another. He remembers when he used to have whole passages of literature memorized and could recite them verbatim. Now, because of the depression (and possibly the drink) he can only remember the synopsis of those passages. He remembers that when he was younger, he was smart and talented and clear-headed. Now he feels he is no longer intelligent, that his talent and brightness has been washed away with whatever youth he had, that his mind is fogged and fuzzy.
The brain fog would also semi-explain his rambling. He just talks and talks because it’s easier for him to just talk the thoughts out as they come instead of trying to hang onto them inside his own head where he knows they’ll slip away into the mist and he won’t be able to find them again. So he rambles, full of vague-ish references and random sentences and some divergences because he doesn’t want the frustration of trying to formulate all of this in his head only to have it disappear.
In his “I have the spleen” bit, he also talks about being tired, bored, full of nostalgia, having the spleen (meaning being ill-tempered), and being tormented. All of these things could easily be attributed to his depression. He’s probably exhausted all the time because of it. And it’s boring as fuck and also upsetting as fuck to wake up exhausted and unable to get out of bed for the entire day. He’s lost interest in everything, and that’s awful and boring. He remembers the way he used to be, and he can’t get away from those memories or from the urge to look back and wish it was the way it used to be. He’s irritable. All of these things together are upsetting, and plague his mind constantly. Maybe he’s even tormented by suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of self-harm, or just negative, intrusive thoughts in general. All of this stuff is seriously upsetting to him. He probably wants to hide from it, wants it all to go away, doesn’t even want to think about it (even though that’s nearly impossible).
Maybe he drinks to pretend that the fuzzy, blurry-mindedness and exhaustion and aches aren’t caused by his depression, but by overindulgence and drunkenness and hangovers. He drinks to self-medicate. And he drinks to pretend just as much as he drinks to forget how it was before the depression took hold.
So depression didn’t just make him an alcoholic. It took away his passion and motivation to become an artist. It took away his enthusiasm for anything. It made him exhausted and irritable and sad and bored. It made him feel things he didn’t want to feel but didn’t know how to get rid of. And maybe Les Amis can see some of it, but definitely not all of it.