If you’ve ever seen the movie The Ring and remember the scene where Naomi Watts is at the bottom of the well and the lid slowly slides across the opening, leaving only an eerie ring of light visible in the darkness, you have some idea of what depression looks like.
Suspended in dark water, a crippling fear of what lies just beneath the surface to drag you under at any moment with only a faint light out of reach miles above you. That’s what depression feels like.
Every now and then you’ll find the strength to claw your way up the slimy walls and out of that well. But there’s always the stench of stagnant water clinging to you, your hands wrinkled from weeks in the water, your eyes clouded from their time in the dark. The fear of falling back down that well never leaves you, it never rests.
To the outside world you might appear aloof, just casually sensitive or only mildly interested in what’s going on around you. It’s just that it takes a lot of attention to fight against the constant tide of water that drains right back to that well. When the tide comes it takes all your energy to swim against it, forever looking over your shoulder as your dragged closer and closer to the pit.
For anyone who’s never experienced it, it’s easy to say, think positive, your life is good, just be happy, don’t be so negative. But until you’ve experienced depression’s icy grip you just don’t get it.
As I feel the tide rise against my chest this latest time, I wonder, do I still have the strength to swim? Will I be able to climb the walls once she takes me under again? I’ve barely had time to catch my breath. I am still so tired from last time.
But I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a life jacket, family who will never let me float out in to the abyss alone. And I have a life raft, that strong side of me that will never give up without a fight, even when the waves get so big and the rain so dark that I can’t see the horizon anymore.
Depression is my inheritance, passed down through generations of my family. It’s not something I wanted, or courted, or expected. She arrives uninvited and always overstays her welcome. She is pushy and impatient and tenacious. The older I am, the more I almost respect her. She doesn’t take no for an answer and she always comes prepared. She remembers every stupid thing I’ve ever done and will remind me over and over. She knows me better than anyone and when no one else is around, she can always convince me she’s right about me. I am weak, I am pathetic, I am nobody.
She thinks she’s protecting me, she lets me know quickly when I’m not strong enough to do something, when a situation requires more than I can handle. She keeps me locked away at home, safe. She keeps the world out so I can’t get hurt. She slides the lid of that well closed and keeps me close in the dark, where no one can find me, not even me.
If she were a person you’d tell me, cut her loose, she’s terrible, she doesn’t care about you, she’s no good. But you don’t know anything about her or about us. You see, we’re old friends she and I. My greatest moments of clarity have been down in that well. My greatest strengths have been discovered clawing my way up out of the darkness. There’s nothing like that first breath you take after being under water for too long.
So as she sails in on the next tide I step in to my gum boots and get ready to get down in the mud again. Because I thrive in a challenge and no matter how many moons it takes before she realises I’m stronger than her, I will keep fighting.
Depression, old friend, welcome back you bitch. Let’s dance.
If you know someone who is battling depression you can find more info on how to help here