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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Depression

sketch of girl in winter clothes standing alone

To the Girl I 'Gave Up on' During Her Battle With Depression

I’m sorry. I really am. The fact is I didn’t know what to do. We both live with severe depression, and my fear was through you seeing my dark days, through me seeing yours and how much you hurt, that at some point I would find I had missed something crucial and had lost you permanently. You want me to be honest? [...]

What ‘Just Keep Swimming’ Means to Me as Someone With Depression

I wanted to share a photo of my new t-shirt with you because it is significant to me and my recovered health. I thought you, a fellow chronic and/or mental health patient, would understand why. The people who don’t understand the battle we have with thyroid problems and/or mental health conditions like depression will think I’m [...]
drawing of woman working on a laptop

10 Confessions of Someone Who Has Depression

This piece was written by Ella Ceron, a Thought Catalog contributor. 1. There’s a difference between sadness and depression, and though that doesn’t take away from a diagnosis, it is empowering as a distinction. Though you may feel depressed, a person who has depression is not always a “depressed person,” in whatever way — hyperbolic or otherwise [...]
cross in a church

10 Thoughts About Faith and Mental Health

A healthy mind is a healthy soul. ___ Mental health and faith can feel like two separate worlds. For many people, they look at life as either spiritual or physical/mental. Mixing the two is like trying to mix steak and Kraft Dinner. They just don’t seem to fit. But this is not healthy, because a healthy mind is [...]