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The Physicality of Depression


Depression is not considered a “physical” disease, but there is a physical aspect to it. That’s why it’s so hard to get out of bed some days and why there is an ache inside you. I want to try to bring a physical idea of this intangible sickness.

It feels like there is a dense weight dangling inside my chest. It is full and hollow at the same time. Sometimes it feels like it rises up over my lungs and presses against me so tightly I can’t move. That’s when I feel like crying. The color varies from dark, waxy purple to an abysmal black.

It would smell like a rotten apple inside a trash bag left in the corner of a forgotten closet — unnoticeable until you move the bag and that sickly sweet smell creeps into your nostrils. It tastes the way hospitals smell — antiseptic and indifferent. It sounds like the rush in your ears underwater or when you stand up too fast.

It makes you eat when you are not hungry — it is strangely easy to confuse the empty feeling in your soul with an empty feeling in your stomach. It makes your eyes ache. It makes your skin tender and sensitive the same way a fever might. Sounds are too sharp but too quiet at the same time. When you try to listen to music you can barely hear the instruments, but the vocals are just so loud. Screens are too bright but colors are too dim. For a disease that isn’t a physical one, there are many physical consequences.

For myself, I force myself to sing in the car to happy songs and leave all the lights on and watch funny shows even though I will not laugh. I text to check up on friends who never text me first, even when I’m bitter that it feels like I do all the caring (which I know is not true, but that’s not what the darkness tells me). I look in the mirror and I smile. I smile for as long as it takes. Just to shift the weight in my stomach only a little bit; to move the color from black to purple. I am not happy, so I force happiness upon myself. I am trying to change the pathways in my brain and rig the system to a happier me. It does not always work but it does not have to. It just has to be enough to fend off the darkness today. Tomorrow’s darkness is tomorrow’s work.

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