7 Ways Chronic Depression is Like Being a Dark Lord

Sad Voldemort

Dysthymia (or chronic depression, according to Wikipedia) is a tricky thing to explain. On the one hand, it’s similar to regular ol’ depression, what with the low energy and feeling of emptiness and all that, but on the other hand, it’s not exactly the same. You may not even realize you suffer from it for years, until you finally go to therapy because you feel like screaming all the time and you don’t know why. In simple terms, I’ve heard it described as a sort of constant, negative emotional background that “builds” over a long period of time. That’s kind of difficult to explain in writing, though, especially when you don’t completely understand it yourself. So, instead, I’ll try to draw on my own experiences and go a bit meta on my attempt to explain what living with dysthymia feels like. Who knows, it might even help someone out. Here goes.

You are one day spawned by the dark forces of the universe. Your mission: to torment, oppress and generally do very bad stuff to the unsuspecting population of some fantastic, medieval world. You arrive well equipped for your quest: your mastery of the dark arts is without peer; your minions, though a bit on the slow side, are as fearsome and ferocious as they come; you’ve hidden that one flimsy trinket which contains all of your power, like, super well.

And yet, you can’t help but feel a little hollow. Things in your life just start to seem… wrong, somehow. You grow bored of the screams echoing from your Dungeon of Anguish. You suddenly lack the motivation to go out and crush the armies of mortal kings with your Mace of Oblivion. You find it increasingly harder to get out of your Evil Bed of Hibernation each morning. Before long, you realize that this nagging sense of unease has marked your every waking moment for years. And then you start to notice how you really feel about this whole “Dark Lord” gig…

1. You live in the most barren place in the entire world

Fallout gif

You get up from your spiky throne of charred femurs and walk out on the grand balcony that opens to a view of your kingdom: a vast plain of black ashes, dead trees, tar pits and suck. You can’t imagine why anyone would possibly want to live here, yet your volcano fortress is smack-dab in the middle of it. Your trusted advisors are baffled by your complaints and suggest that you simply build a new citadel somewhere else. You think it’s easier said than done, though, and you can’t shake a feeling that you’ll only end up in the same wasteland no matter where you go.
Sure, you understand that there are much worse places to live in (Shuul the Shitwalker got his name for a reason, after all), but that doesn’t do much in the way of making you feel better about the gray, gormless landscape you’ll seemingly be stuck with forever. So you sigh and return to your imposing femur throne, then order your trusted advisors burnt alive and send out ads for new ones.


2. You lurk inside your dark fortress for what seems like an eternity

Ice King gif

Tired of the dismal view, you instead decide to take refuge inside your awesome evil stronghold. A lavish feast, a blood tournament in your indoor colosseum or, perhaps, binge-watching Breaking Bad might put you in a better mood. You find little more than momentary distraction in these activities, though you almost always feel too tired to bother with anything else. Day after day, you see to your duties as Dark Lord, but only just. Instead of doing something that actually advances the plot, you mostly just wait for random heroes to barge into your fortress and try to kill you.

Even when the Ruler of the universe next door, Cordicus, invites you to hit up that new plane of hell where they have the really hot demon chicks and vampire dudes at the bar, you awkwardly decline to join him by making vague excuses about having a long day and needing to get up early. So you hunker down in your citadel and watch another season of So You Think You Can Lance Someone In The Face?, while Cordicus and his mates have an awesome time. At the end of the day, you honestly believe your absence couldn’t be helped; you just didn’t have the energy for it, and the party plane was probably too loud anyway.

3. You seem to be constantly at war with everyone

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Ugh…mortals. Am I right? What with their squishy bodies, and their dying, and the weird faces they make during sex… man, do mortals suck. Yet, even as you burn their fields and tip their livestock over, you can’t help but feel a little jealous of how damn happy they seem to be all the time. Then, out of nowhere, you start to wonder what they think of you. Do they fear you? Do they hate you? Do they find your fashion sense a bit too quirky?
God, do… do they think you’re weird?

How are you supposed to deal with that? Fear and awe you can handle, but not having a clue about how regular, well-adjusted mortals actually regard your actions and personality?Every time you try to spend time around human beings, you have to magically disguise yourself as some old hobo or the town’s drunkard, because what are you gonna do, prance around as your true self? In the middle of town? Where people can see? That’s just crazy.


4. No matter how much you conquer, it is never enough

Hades villain gif

That’s it. You’ve had it. You’re gonna show those blasted mortals what you’re made of. You’re going on a conquest spree! Then, with your dream of an Evil Empire fully materialized, you’re gonna give everyone free meals, excellent healthcare, and even goat raising subsidies. And then, right, then you’ll throw the best bloody party in the history of parties, bloodyness and bestness, and they’ll finally have to acknowledge that you’re a pretty cool Dark Lord after all!
After you start on this plan with almost overwhelming motivation, however, you quickly lose momentum. No matter how many lands you conquer, or how much you achieve, it never seems to get you any closer to ultimately realizing your ambition; the world’s turning out to be pretty damn huge, and Geography was never your strong point in Archvillain Academy.

What’s worse, all of the excitement and satisfaction that comes with demolishing every outhouse in a vanquished kingdom starts to wear off much faster than it used to. You barely derive any joy from it now, and before long you give up on your plans of conquest and retreat back into your fortress. What’s the point, after all? It’s gonna take you years to gain control of the whole world, and right now you’d just rather have a pint of something hallucinogenic.


5. You may be the silent and menacing type…

Silent Buffy gif

Alphagor the Fantabulous (self-styled) bursts into your throne room, with the Sword of Banishment held high in his muscly hero arms. He looks straight at you, righteous fire burning in his eyes much like his father burned in your fireplace, and he bellows a challenge to your rule in the forgotten language of Karazach. You silently stare him down, saying nothing as your guards descend upon the overconfident idiot like the pack of direwolves did on that one guy that failed you too many times. After the sorry display, everyone makes fun of Alphagor’s unusually high-pitched death screams and thinks you handled the whole thing like a total badass.

The only problem is, of course, that you didn’t really mean to just freeze up and say absolutely nothing. You even had the perfect one-liner prepared for just that situation, but when you tried to make fun of your foe’s uneven body proportions, you simply locked up and couldn’t utter a word. “Is this really the right thing to say?”, you thought. “What if it’s just a condition he has? What if I say my thing and he just shrugs it off? What if he laughs? Would I just make a fool of myself?”

Thirty minutes later, you’re still asking yourself these questions before you even realize that the underworld janitors are almost done scraping Alphagor bits off the lynoleum. You curse (silently) and wish you would have just said it; secretly, though, you’re grateful that you didn’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself by risking a one-liner that could have been very badly received. You may give this “silent villain” thing a shot, after all…


6. …or develop a quirky, cynical sense of humour

The Joker gif

Shit. The silent villain thing isn’t working. Sure, it’s all well and good with the underlings, heroes and fellow Dark Lords that have just met you. In the long term, however, you fear that people would start to notice that you rarely seem to contribute to a conversation, and that you’re less of the “mysterious, brooding overlord-type” and more of the “awkwardly shy and awkward-type”. But this one time, something great happens: with a bit of luck and good timing, you crack a joke that has even Urgott the Unsmilling literally roaring with laughter.

Slowly, carefully, you start practicing and learning what types of gags certain people like (dark humour for lords of darkness, fart jokes for orcs etc.). Before you know it, you’ve built up a reputation as one of those really funny villain guys, the kind that nobody can really bring themselves to hate. Hell, even the humans seem to appreciate your dry, humorous quips; they certainly seem to prefer them over the long-winded speeches of courage and destiny that some of their more “special” brethren are prone to making from time to time.

That’s it, then. You’ve done it. You’ve found a way to cope with your awkwardness… except now you seem to use humour to defuse every uncomfortable situation. You’re stuck in permanent cynical-observation-and-wry-commentary-making mode, to the point where you now often just come across as arrogant.

So what the hell are you supposed to do, then? You feel like you’re squandering your potential as an almighty master of evil, you’re worried about what humans and immortals alike think about you, you can’t possibly display anything as disgusting as weakness by talking about it and…wait, actually…


7. However powerful you think you are, it always helps to have allies

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You don’t really know Cordicus that well, but you decide to invite him over for a chat and an ale in your fortress of darkness. Conversation flows smoothly, starting from business related topics (dark legion dental plans, advanced evisceration techniques, that sort of thing) and eventually ending up with a discussion about your respective experiences as Dark Lords.

Having had perhaps one too many, you suddenly start blurting out your grievances, one by one. As you rant and complain, Cordicus just sits there listening; you’re sure he’s silently judging you, but you don’t care; you’ll have time to regret it during tomorrow’s massive hangover. Once your rant is finished, though, and to your immense surprise, Cordicus just nods and smiles (or at least you think he does; it’s kind of hard to see through all that black smoke), then gives you a couple of token words of encouragement.

That’s it? No judgement? No snickering? No biting remarks? No attempts to usurp power from you in your moment of weakness? Nope. None of it.

Despite your faults and grievances, you’re still a badass Dark Lord at the end of the day. Your loyal legions are still yours to command; granted, they’re much more twitchy around direwolves now, but they remain loyal nonetheless. Your trusted advisors still advise as well as ever, despite the professional risk of fiery death. Your evil lieutenant hasn’t gone through with his inevitable betrayal yet, and Alphagor still gets resurrected and challenges you from time to time.

And, hell, if things get tough, you can always just talk to allies like Cordicus and ask them for advice. If things get really tough, you could hire those mind magi from the Psijic Plane to help you out. Other Dark Lords have gone to them before, and there’s no shame in it.

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