How I’d Describe Depression To Someone Who’s Never Lived With It
I know I could tell you that it’s about feeling sad, but it’s much more than that.
I’m not entirely sure if it’s possible to put what depression feels like into words for someone who is neurotypical and has never experienced depression before.
It’d be easy to say that depression is you experiencing the worst day you’ve ever had of your entire life, but over and over and over again, like a fucked up version of Groundhog Day. Something a lot more like Happy Death Day.
Before everything happened, I had some bad days.
In high school, I even thought I had depression for a bit. (I didn’t. I was just a super hormonal teenager because I had endometriosis, so I felt things differently, and I’d get a period twice a month for about eighteen months before my first surgery. While my hormones increased after taking the pill – I remember screaming at my poor brother more times than I can count – eventually, everything settled down. That does not mean a child or teenager cannot be suffering depression – they frequently do, and we as a society frequently dismiss it ‘because that’s what being a teen is’, and then we wonder why we have such high suicide rates.)
But, since everything, I’ve learned that depression is far more sinister than that.
It’s a black hole, in the middle of the left side of your chest, right where your heart should be.
It’s feeling like every step you take is walking through shards of broken glass.
It’s not being able to breathe because you’ve suddenly been sucked into a vacuum vortex, solitary in deep space.
It’s the morning, dark fog that grips towns and cities during the coldest winters, enveloping them, hiding them, leaving an unsettling feeling of malaise on everyone until the fog dissipates.
It’s the icy cold fingers of dread, spreading like spiderwebs from the pit of your stomach, wrapping around you, making you dread’s prey.
It’s the curse of invisibility, the one that afflicts everyone who has depression, because society wants to turn a blind eye while asking, ‘But don’t you want to get better? You just need to try harder’, but no one ever wants to reach out, lending a hand, to help you get better.
Because that’s the curse of invisibility: You’re seen, but you’re never seen.
It’s the helplessness of knowing that a Category 5 cyclone is about to hit the coast, but you live near the beach, so there’s not a damn thing you can do but hope your entire life isn’t destroyed, as the rain and wind crashes and thunders around you.
It’s the hopelessness of everything going wrong, and nothing being in your control, as if someone removed the brakes of your car and no matter how hard you press, you cannot stop in time for that red light, because your car just seems to want to go faster, no matter how much you’re willing it to stop.
It’s the fear you’ve carried with you since you were a child: That something really is in the dark, waiting to eat you, to hurt you, to cause you pain.
The fear of the unknown, lurking just out of sight, but ever present, so you can feel its sharp eyes on you.
It’s tinnitus, that sharp, painful ringing you get in your ears sometimes, making it hard to hear everyone around you.
It’s your nerves being flayed, all separately, all dramatically, with the entire purpose to make you feel like every single fiber of your body is in so much pain it’s literally on fire.
I know I could tell you that it’s about feeling sad, and hopeless, and worthless, and useless, but it’s much more than that.
It’s far more powerful than that.
It distorts and twists and shreds and rips and cuts.
It alters perception and reality.
It’s a disease that claims the lives of around 3,000 Australians each year, but one that infects 65,000 other Australians whose lives are saved before they can be claimed.
It’s a disease roughly three fucking million Australians currently live with.
And yet, despite these high mortality rates, despite the long, cold spiderwebs enclosing your body; it’s the feeling of someone reaching inside your mouth and ripping out your vocal chords so you can never speak again; it’s the black hole that was once your heart – despite all of this, it’s never taken seriously.
Men need to ‘toughen up’ and ‘stop being pussies’.
Women need to stop ‘being so sensitive’ and ‘overly dramatic’.
And that’s not getting into the trauma or abuse that others face, and have faced, and may continue to face.
Despite depression being a serious mental illness with literally fatal consequences, it isn’t treated as such.
But it needs to be.
When that thick, dark, fog starts enveloping your loved one, take their hand, and tell them, ‘We’re in it together, babe.’ (Be affectionate with your friends. And babe can work for any gender fluidity.)
When the black hole takes your friend’s heart, bring them their favorite food and favorite movie and just watch it together, curled up on the couch, under a blanket, and let your friend know that you’re not afraid of the black hole, no matter how bleak it currently looks.
When asking, ‘How are you?’, listen for the person’s response. We all say ‘I’m fine’ far more times than it’s true, and it doesn’t hurt to say, ‘Hey, I love you and you just seem a little bit off lately. I know you said everything was fine, but I just wanted to double-check. Are you sure you’re okay?’
Because even if we don’t tell you – or even just you specifically, but are seeing someone for help – you’ve already given us a gift we can’t repay: You reversed our curse of invisibility. You made sure we were seen, even if we didn’t want to be.
It’s you, chanting your friend on, saying how tough they are, walking through all those shards of broken glass, comparing them to Bruce Willis in Die Hard so they know how tough and brave you think we are.
Depression is so many things, but it’s more than words.
And if there are words to describe depression, then I don’t know them, because I only know what it feels like.
But I also know that you are the key.
I know that you can be a deciding factor in someone’s depression.
I know that you can be the hero or the villain.
So be George Clooney in that crappy Gravity movie and use up all your shit to save Sandra Bullock in the vacuum of space, and bring your friend back home.
Image via tumblr.com.