Each time I read someone else’s attempts to explain how depression feels to them, it gets easier for me to fill in the blanks of my own depression. I re-discovered the post written by one of my favorite authors that the quote below is from and it rang so true and clearly that I needed to share some of it.
“Depression is hard to understand, because it is not a consistent state. Depression is rather like a virus, but like a virus, it has its manageable days and its acute, life-threatening flare-ups. You can be in a depression and still laugh at a friend’s joke or have a good night at dinner or manage low-level functioning. You grocery shop and stop to pet a puppy on the corner, talk to friends in a café, maybe write something you don’t hate. When this happens, you might examine your day for clues like reading tea leaves in a cup: Was it the egg for breakfast that made the difference? The three-mile run? You think, well, maybe this thing has moved on now. And you make no sudden moves for fear of attracting its abusive attention again.
But other times…
Other times, it’s as if a hole is opening inside you, wider and wider, pressing against your lungs, pushing your internal organs into unnatural places, and you cannot draw a true breath. You are breaking inside, slowly, and everything that keeps you tethered to your life, all of your normal responses, is being sucked through the hole like an airlock emptying into space. These are the times Holly Golightly called the Mean Reds.
I call it White Knuckling it.
When it’s White Knuckle Time, you will have to remind yourself to stand in the middle of the subway platform, well away from the edge.
You may find yourself on the floor of your shower, your face turned toward the wall while the water courses over your shoulders, your mouth opened in a howl that will not come.
You may find yourself on the treadmill at 5:30 a.m. running, running, running, as if you could outpace the emotional mugger at your back.
You might sit at a dinner party making small talk, hoping that you pass for normal, because you suddenly feel as if you are not in touch with the usual social paradigms.
You will not sleep. Insomnia becomes your permanent house guest, and you will wake, blinking up at the weak moonlight splayed across your ceiling like a crime scene, the very stillness of the house seemingly complicit in your guilt.
Ordinary tasks become extraordinary challenges: The laundry. Phone calls. Emails. Making food. Making decisions. Engaging in conversation. Concentration proves impossible—you stare at your computer screen and all your words feel as if they are trapped behind a curtain far too heavy to lift. Deadlines are missed. These everyday failures compound adding an element of panic to the already untenable situation.
There is an undertow to depression. It doesn’t take you all at once. It leaves you with some false sense that you are coping. That you are in control. That you have the shore still well in sight, until, at some point, you raise your head to find yourself all alone, battered by rough seas with absolutely no idea which way you should swim.”