What Depression is Like.
Depression is something I’ve had for a long time. I don’t know how old I was when I first felt it, but it’s haunted me since. Every once in awhile, it gets a bit worse, and I find myself alone in my room. I’ll shut myself in, I become slightly agoraphobic (thank you anxiety), and I often find myself sobbing for no apparent reason. A surge of sadness just washes over me, and I can’t control it. All I can do is try to brace myself and ride it out.
I’m not alone, either. Both of my parents have depression. My brother is slowly recovering from depression. I have a feeling that my sister has depression. Quite a few of my friends have admitted to it, as well. It’s all around us. It may be true that, “misery loves company,” and that’s why so many people with depression surround me, but I don’t think that’s the case. According to DoSomething, roughly 20 million Americans suffer from depression. Worldwide, that number jumps to over 350 million.
I’ve often used metaphors to explain how it feels to have depression, but I’ve never found one that truly catches all the true feelings involved with it. That is, until now. Keep in mind that this extended metaphor is just the way depression (and anxiety) feels for me, and I can’t speak for anybody else with depression. I hope that somebody can relate. And, should they, I hope my words help them. Whether it’s to sort out what they’re feeling, or to know they’re not alone, or maybe even inspire them to seek help, I hope I can help. If my words help even just one person, then it’ll all be worth it.
Depression is a sea. A deep, blue, tumultuous sea. Somehow, I’ve been dropped right in the middle of it, and a great big storm is heading my way. I don’t know how I got there, and I don’t know why. I’m terrified, as I probably should be. I’m completely lost. I can’t see land; I can just see the soft halo the water gives off on the edge of the horizon. I have no idea what to do.
The only thing I know is that I have to swim. If I don’t, I’ll drown. But, swimming isn’t so easy. The water is starting to form waves that keep knocking me back. Once in awhile they push me under. I gasp for air, and each millisecond I spend under the water, I’m positive that this is the end. That this is how I die.
The water isn’t just water, either. It’s ice cold. No — colder than ice. I feel it all the way to my core. I’m freezing, but somehow I’m not going into hypothermia. With every wave that crashes into me, I feel like I’ve been pierced with a shard of ice. The water is salty. I realize it isn’t regular water. It’s the tears and suffering of every person who exists, ever has existed, and ever will exist. It hurts so much, and I can’t help but cry, too. My tears mingle with the ones I’m swimming in, and the water just keeps getting deeper and deeper.
I keep on swimming. I don’t want to die, I’m scared of dying. I just want to get out. I just want it to end. I just want to find land.
I swim for God knows how long, and I’m exhausted. I still haven’t found land, even though I’ve kept a vigilant eye out. There just isn’t any to be seen. I start to grow hopeless. There’s no point in swimming anymore. I’m convinced land doesn’t even exist anymore. Maybe it was just a figment of my imagination. But, for now, it’s just a distant memory. After a while, thinking about it doesn’t even make me as cheerful anymore. It just makes me angry and bitter. Why can’t I have those days back? Why can’t I be on land again? I’m so sick and tired of the water. All I want is land, but I have no way to get there again.
I keep on swimming. This isn’t my time to give up. I carry on, holding onto my memories. The sky is dark gray, the water seems black, and I see a few hints of white where the clouds part a little. It’s all so dark. But, my only objective is to swim. I don’t know where, but I still have the tiniest sliver of hope that maybe I’ll find land again.
My mind begins to go blank. There’s no stimulation in the water. The only thing I have is the water. I focus on swimming, day in and day out. That’s all I have. That’s all I’m currently living for.
Once in awhile, an especially bad wave knocks me over. I feel anxious, my mind races in a way it hasn’t in a long time. I convince myself of all the ways I’ll die. How the wave will ruin me. How there’s probably sharks in the water who are just waiting for me to give in. My heart races, and I feel like it might pop out of my chest. I brace myself and hold my breath, just waiting for the wave to hit.
When I feel so incredibly hopeless and feel like I’m near my breaking point, I see a small golden speck way out on the horizon. I’m so curious, I can’t help it. I need to keep going. I need to see what it is.
As I draw closer, I see it’s an island. I drag yourself onto the shore, and I feel the sun’s warm rays hit my face. I look up, and the sky is clear. The darkness that I was swimming in seems far away now. The water here is a crystal blue. It’s all so warm and comforting. The sand is soft beneath my feet, and I don’t feel like the human embodiment of an ice block anymore. I’m just a regular person.
I see my friends and family lounging around and playing in the sand. I walk over to them, and they all look concerned. Why am I so wet? Why do I feel so cold? Why are my clothes dyed black? I say I don’t know, because I really don’t, and they help me clean up. I know they don’t understand. I know they can barely comprehend the sort of harshness just beyond the island’s scope. They seem so cheerful, and I almost feel sad. Sad that they don’t know, and sad that I still don’t quite fit in. If I’m lucky, I might catch a knowing eye. They have this look that just tells me they’ve lived it. Maybe they still are. Maybe later on, when everyone’s gone to rest, they’ll come to me and we talk about just how bad the water is. We talk about anything and everything, but it always comes back to the water.
Eventually, they all leave. The vacation is over, I guess. They all have to go back to their routine, and I have to go back to mine. I can’t stay on the island, either. The storm is closing in. Some people leave on a boat, and some of the few knowing eyes getting ready to swim again. Some go and swim on their own, taking on the waves solo. A dangerous quest. I want to call them stupid, but I understand. No matter what, I’m worried I’ll be the loose link that accidentally drags everyone down. If I drown, they’ll all drown. Nobody wants that stress. Regardless, I can choose to go alone or with a few kindred souls.
I choose to go with one other person, with a few more trailing behind. Those behind me aren’t quite close enough to be a constant reassurance, but close enough that they might be able to save me if you drown.
The swim is just as arduous. Just as cold. Just as mind numbing. Nothing at sea has changed, except for the fact that I’m now with someone. They talk to me, help keep me motivated. I try to keep them motivated, too. I share the most intimate things with them, and them with me. I eventually know almost everything about them. Even if we wouldn’t have normally been friends because of vast differences, the bond we share because of the water holds us together. We need each other, if only to remind us that we’re not alone. I constantly remind myself of what it was like when I was alone, and I don’t want that. But, that fear of dragging them down with me weighs in my heart constantly. I want to pull away, only for their sake. I’d do anything to make sure they reach land safely, even if it means I don’t.
I spot another island. I warm myself. I find a few more people like me. Everyone leaves, and I’ve got a few more people in your posse. I keep that one person from earlier by my side, though. They have to be.
This cycle goes on and on and on and on. I get older. My partner in crime gets older. The people following me get older. Every so often, I leave one or two behind at an island. Sometimes I get more people. It’s a crapshoot, really.
I’m getting tired of this endless journey. My friend probably is, too. We stay strong for each other, but I don’t know how long I can last.
If I’m unlucky, and I haven’t got enough hope, I’ll let go of their hand. I’ll let myself sink. I won’t be able to take it anymore. I’ll be too tired to keep going, and it’ll be time. I’ll let the sea swallow me.That might ruin my friend. They might not want to go on without me, and they’ll let themselves sink, too. They might keep going in my memory, though. I can only hope they do.
If I’m a bit stronger, I’ll keep on swimming. I’ll never leave the water for good, but I will find a few more islands. I’ll keep going in search of land. I’ll only stop once you get eaten by a shark. My friend might have already left the water, or maybe they’ll still be by my side.
If I’m extremely lucky, my friend and I will leave the water together. I’ll find land, and we’ll live your lives. I’ll constantly remind myself of the water, but that’s just a memory now. I’ll finally be warm. I’ll finally walk. I can finally be at ease.
If you, or anyone you know, have depression please take it seriously. There are so many resources out there for you. And, if you’re thinking about letting yourself drown, please just take a moment to visit ImAlive, call someone you trust, or seek immediate medical assistance.
ImAlive is a wonderful site full of trained professionals volunteering help you overcome your problems. It’s entirely free, anonymous, and easy. And if you want to help others, ImAlive is always on the lookout for new volunteers!
Please be safe, and keep on swimming.