The best I can tell, it’s effortless to fall into it. It’s like you’re walking somewhere out in a forest and you just plunge into a deep, dark hole. It happens that fast and it’s that jarring. At first, it’s awful. You scrabble to get out. You claw at the sides of the muddy walls. You might cry and rail against the circumstances that cause you to fall. And then after awhile, you get used to it, and you get tired. You get so tired, in fact, that staying in the hole is preferable to getting out.
People might peer over the side of your hole and look at you judgementally. “Why aren’t you moving?” they ask you. “Why aren’t you trying to get out of there?”
And there’s no answer, really. You shrug. “I don’t see a point,” you might say. Or, “I’m too tired.” Or, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” And you say these things because it’s easier than explaining that the darkness is kind of comforting. The hole is safe. It’s not pleasant, but it’s maybe not as bad as you thought. It’s easier to curl up and close your eyes and forget everything.
When I was 20, I became depressed. I can’t tell if I was depressed to begin with, and circumstances lined up to make it easy to fall into that hole, or if something happened and the hole just opened up below my feet. I do know that my teenagehood was tough, on me and on my family. I know that going to university was like an escape from people I felt didn’t understand me and didn’t care. But when you go away from the familiar, no matter how uncomfortable you perceive it to be, other things have a chance to move in. My thinking is that I already was depressed, already was anxious without the ability to deal. The hole opened up and I didn’t have a choice. I fell effortlessly and I didn’t even know it until I’d been in the hole for weeks.
An excerpt from my diary at the time reads:
Depression, in short, is a lot of fear wrapped up in apathy. I spent months lost in this fear, trying to define it, feeling guilty about it. It’s easy to forget there’s sunshine when you stare at dark walls day after day. You know it’s not right to feel this way. You know that you live in a world of first-world problems. You’re not starving. You’re not being persecuted. And yet, you feel hopeless and scared. You lay awake at night, panicking, wondering if you’ll ever feel normal again. And that’s the cycle of depression.
I went on medication that did nothing but wrap me in a numb, impermeable blanket. I lost interest in everything, but I was stable. I felt quiet, calm. I stopped sleeping, but I didn’t panic anymore. I couldn’t write, but I didn’t cry as much. And eventually that wasn’t good enough, either. I took myself off the medicine, stopped going to therapy, and dealt with the dark hole of depression head-on.
Some say that means I wasn’t really depressed. “True” depression is something you can’t climb out of easily. But I spent years unable to do anything but stare at a wall. “White nights” of being unable to sleep. Of having everything magnified to ten million times its size. And the free fall was so easy, but climbing out was hard. I did it, but it took years. And I still fall back into the hole – it’s so easy to fall back into it. It’s safe, if a bit uncomfortable. It’s easy to fall.
I think everyone’s experience is different. I realized I couldn’t live the way I was living. I was unrecognizable, to my friends, my family, my teachers. I was a bright student that ended up failing my classes. I stopped taking interest in learning, something that to this day, I love to do. I’m known for my intellectualism, for my ability to remember any piece of trivia. I lost most of my memory then. There are entire periods of time that I can’t remember. That’s what depression does to you.
You stop feeling. Feeling is hard, like rubbing sandpaper on already-raw skin. You use coping methods that aren’t healthy. I’ve mentioned I was a cutter. I carry the scars to this day. Others choose different ways to feel. Sometimes, not being able to feel is as bad as feeling too much.
Depression is a long-term stay in darkness. It’s not easy to live there, and it’s not easy to choose to climb out. But it’s real. Every day I was depressed, I was aware of what it was doing to everyone around me. That’s the thing they don’t tell you – when you’re lost in the fog, everyone else gets lost trying to find you. It’s pervasive. It’s awful.
Everyone’s journey is different. Everyone struggles with the side effects of living so long in your own head. But if you’re lucky, you can find a way out.
I never forget just how lucky I was to be able to navigate my way out of the hole I lived in for years.
- The Stigma Around Depression (du.uloop.com)
- 10 Truths From a Decade of Depression (otitijasmine.com)
- Living with Male Depression (northantsrugby.wordpress.com)