I'm the Only One Who Can Save Myself From Drowning in Depression


My depression played a trick on me this week. It updated its operating system to keep things fresh.

I’m having quite a time trying to think of the right metaphor to describe my depression’s new iteration. Though this comparison is overused, it feels like I’m drowning.

To be more precise, it usually feels like I’ve just gone under water and it’s the moment before you drown when you’re panicking, gasping for breath, waving your arms and hoping somebody will see you and realize you’re in distress. You are flailing your arms, but there is no one to see you. You have a feeling there is no one to rescue you, but you’re hoping against all hope someone will pass by and throw you a life preserver.

But, depression changed things up this week, so it wasn’t quite like that. This depression was more like a slow gas leak, like you don’t even know it’s happening until it’s spread so far you smell it strong and then it’s everywhere and you question yourself, What is that smell? What is that feeling? You know you should run, but it’s like you’re locked in a room and you don’t know where to go. You’re looking all around you and you’re trapped and you know you’re going to die slowly. You will fall asleep and it’s a quiet death and you don’t want that.

That’s how I felt today.

In the background, a quiet evasive darkness.

Or maybe it is like drowning, but a different phase of the drowning—the end. When you’ve gone under and you’re no longer flailing your arms, but instead you realize what’s happening. You feel like you’re dying. You realize it. You know it. You’re dying.

That’s what it feels like.

So, I wonder if this is where I am, floating along helplessly, underwater, blinking my eyes, watching the fish float by, knowing these might be my last breaths.

But I realize I’m sitting here at my desk. I’m typing words into a laptop. I’m watching my experience now, so there has to be somebody to be the witness of this. So, if I’m the witness it means there is somebody left to save me.

And it’s me.

I am witnessing this. I am watching myself taking my last breath.

What does that feel like, Sheila?   

It makes me want to save myself. I want to dive into the water and bring myself up to the surface and bring my face to air. Bring my mouth to breath and freedom.

And if I do, I will breathe again and I will be thankful for the breath. I will be thankful for the life saved. I can feel a little bit of peace, a little bit of light. I can sense I can draw myself to the surface and I do it through my writing. I do it through my witnessing and seeing and understanding.

And then the final metaphor comes in—it’s a mirror. That’s it. A big mirror. I’m floating in the water now, but buoyed up by myself and I see myself reflected in the water. It’s me. I’m the one in the mirror. I’m the one who saves me.

When you’re underwater this long, this deep, the only one who can save you is you.

That’s my metaphor. What’s yours?

Finding a way to describe your depression just might help you to understand it in a new way when you really need it. There is a savior at the end of your metaphor. Search for it. Don’t allow the negative story in your mind to be the final one.

Remember you are witnessing your metaphor. You are witnessing it happening and you can make a difference.

Find your metaphor and then ask yourself—how can I save myself from this story?

And then get busy rewriting your ending.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via Transfuchsian.


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