I’ve thought about this a lot over the last few years in trying to find ways to talk about my mental health struggles, and I think I’ve come to the conclusion that for the moment at least, I have two go-to analogies for depression. Of course, everyone experiences it differently – I can’t even begin to say what goes on in other people’s heads, how could I know? I can’t talk about other peoples struggles or the things that hurt them, but I can try to talk about mine.
Depression worsening as it being like a glass bell jar were being hovered over her and slowly lowering around me, until it hits the ground and seals her inside. You can still sort-of see and hear the things going on around you, but you’re totally separate, it doesn’t feel real. You can’t touch those things or reach them and they can’t hear you. life goes on and you sort of just watch in this isolated, frustrated, frightening daze as days blankly drop off one after the other and everyone else moves, but you stay frozen still. It’s this incredibly strange feeling of being aware that you are still alive, somehow, but nothing in you is quite there. You aren’t LIVING. So the jar is one of mine. As are the endless blank days falling off one after the other. Depression isn’t always claustrophobic and black, it can be overwhelming, eerie expanses of white meaninglessness too.
So that’s one, and this is the other, one that’s more my own, I guess, than a found comfort in the words of someone else. (And it is a comfort, it sounds so futile and silly, but it really is).
It’s like treading water, at sea. But not a nice sea, not like a soothing rolling turquoise cove sea in Italy, I mean like and angry cold Cornish-on-a-bad-day sea. And rather than for a bit, it’s all the time.
You know how tired you used to get when they made you do that army-style treading water circuit in swimming lessons? How you desperately have to keep everything moving just to keep your head up long enough to take a breath, but it takes absolutely everything you have? It’s like that. And in both cases the breaths you manage to snatch are often short and frantic and full of seawater/other gross things. The other fun part is, you’re not even sure if you WANT to do the whole fighting thing. Sometimes it gets too much, you’re too tired, the wave is too big and you get swept up in the current. That would be one, trying to keep my head above water when it feels like everything in me and the sea itself is just trying to pull or push me under, and in some ways yes, it would be so much easier to let go.
But the important thing to understand, or for everyone else to understand too, is that you are not the sea, or the jar, the depression is.
You can’t control the sea, and when it gets too much, yes, you might get angry at yourself for not fighting harder, but in the moment you couldn’t. How can you break out of a thick glass prison-bubble if no one can reach you?
Sometimes just breathing takes everything you have, and that’s just the way it is. It’s okay. The sea is not your fault. The jar is not your fault. Depression isn’t anyone’s fault.