You’re paddling along just fine, in the ocean that is life. Sometimes you struggle with a stronger current, sometimes everything seems calm and you can relax with a soothing back stroke.
When depression comes, it hits you like a tidal wave. It crashes down on your mind, body and soul. It takes away those memories of calmer waters and fills your head with panic, sorrow and misery.
You struggle to keep your head above water, the strength of the tidal wave trying to force you down, pulling your thoughts with it. Everything seems a bit darker, a bit colder. You really wish you had the energy to swim back up, to keep on going, and sometimes you do. But other times – most of the time – it just feels easier to let yourself sink.
A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.
– Elizabeth Wurtzel
Once you start sinking, it’s hard to stop. The pressure of the water suffocates, it strangles your body and mind. Any hope of getting back to the surface has gone. Depression has drowned your thoughts, turned them into something else. Maybe it would be easier to let the water crush you further, to let it take your life away.
The water is heavy and getting colder – you feel numb. There’s no future or past for you anymore, just the thoughts that are currently flooding your mind. You close your eyes because it feels right – what’s the point in being awake when you feel such dread? When every possible movement seems pointless? When fighting seems impossible?
I just want to sleep. A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind.
– Laurie Halse Anderson
What we forget when we are being crushed by those waves is that somebody who is paddling up on the surface has noticed that we’ve gone. They can’t keep moving forward without us, they need their loved ones close, so they reach out to save us. It doesn’t matter how far we have sunk, they will swim down to find us and bring us back. Even if that means staying by our side down in the deep, waiting until we are ready to face the surface again.
Eventually, the pressure doesn’t feel so suffocating, the waves not so powerful. The waters have calmed a little bit – they’re becoming manageable. You are able to think again. You begin to swim upwards with that person who loves you, you begin to recover.
Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
– Robert A. Heinlein
You finally reach the surface and begin paddling forward again. You know that that may not be the end of those tidal waves, your depression, but it’s okay. As long as you survive them, as long as you know that you are loved, you can keep going.
This post has been written as part of Mental Health Awareness Week (8th-14th May 2017)