What is depression?
To be honest I have no freaking idea. I can describe (kind of) what MY depression is, what it feels like, how it controls me. But I cannot even attempt to describe anyone else’s depression. No one can because we have never lived anyone’s experience but our own. I have found that people who don’t have depression often want to say the most invalidating words; “I know how you feel.” And that my friends, is garbage. And also just a tad insulting. How could you POSSIBLY know how I feel when I, myself don’t even know how I feel 90% of the time. Yet they always say it.
What is depression?
Depression is being stuck in the middle of the ocean with only a child’s water-wing to keep you afloat. Sometimes it’s enough, when the sea is calm and forgiving. The waves, barely swells, helping you rise and fall. But all too often and mostly without warning the storms come. With no telling how long or how strong the storm will be, you cling to that tiny scrap of inflated plastic, and hope that it will just get you to the end of the chaos, knowing full well that logistically, logically you need more than that to keep yourself from drowning. God’s grace is what gets us through each storm when, by all facts of the matter, it should be impossible. But that does little to reduce the terror as mountains of water crash over you, keep you from breathing, steal away your control. And when the storm settles, you can use your body. Hands, legs, and abdomen all aid you in staying afloat. And though this comparatively small amount of effort should bring calm, joy, gratitude and peace, your muscles are chains that bind your soul to terror with the knowledge that any moment that nefarious storm could again rear it’s ugly head.
But what makes depression hell is the people. The people who surround you on boats, rafts, canoes, jet skis. Every possible flotation device conceivable. And they try to help you, in their own perverse way. You can’t join them on their watercraft. It won’t work, it’s against the rules of life. You can’t help but be embarrassed by your humble water-wing next to paddles and propellers. So you keep quiet. You don’t make a fuss. Anyone who looks closely at the equation that is your survival can see that it doesn’t quite add up. But it’s amazing how rarely people look at you unless you start to talk (complain). THEN, people see that you have a problem and THEN they try to fix it. And this is the part that really gets under my skin. It’s the hardest to hear and all it does is widen the gap between us.
“Oh, you had trouble during that last storm? That sucks. I know how you feel. One time I accidentally tipped my canoe over and it took me like, three hours to turn it back over.”
“You know, storms stink and all, but if you see that they’re coming they’re pretty easy to avoid. If you just angle and maneuver your sails diligently, you can just go around it.”
“I heard about someone who didn’t even have a floaty or anything! At least you’re not as bad off as he is. You should try to be more grateful.”
“Are you sure you actually almost drowned? It seems like you’re just trying to get attention.”
What really is the kicker though, is that we are all close to blind when it comes to distinguishing what each others situations are. We can’t see what someone else’s craft can or can’t do. How difficult it is to maintain. How they obtained it. So because we can’t really tell; Everyone else’s situation looks prefferable. We feel guilty for whining and being dissatissfied because, “maybe I only thnk it’s bad.” “What if i’m just being dramatic?” “That last storm felt like I wasn’t going to make it , but maybe I just didn’t prepare myself well enough.” “It must not be that bad because i’m okay now.” “Maybe this is just the floatation device I deserve.”
I can’t really say for sure what is keeping me afloat. I’m definitely not living on a yacht of emotional health, but I know that i’m probably not in water wing territory either. I think what has been the most important thing for me to realize is that it’s okay to struggle with the emotional and mental struggles you have been given. They don’t make you more or less important, good or beautiful. All we can be expected to do is to turn to God, not compare ourselves to others and have compassion on those doing better or worse than we are.
That being said, if there is anyone who reads this who is in need of a listening ear or some not too chipper words of support, I’m in the water with you.
photo credit goes to my amazing friend Kellie! Check out her work at www.Kellieviagem.com