themighty logo

The Ways My Depression Disguises Itself to Seep Into My Life

“It feels like my brain is trying to kill me.”

When I have this thought, it feels mostly funny, an absurd idea that comes to mind whenever I think about suicide. Sometimes it mystifies me that there could be people in the world who fight against all odds to cling to survival and then there are people like me who pray for mornings when they just don’t wake up.

The depression that has taken residence in my brain has shown up in many different forms over the years. It has all of these inventive disguises that allow it to seep into my life, sometimes more noticeably than other times. A few months ago, I would have said that the sadness was like a heavy blanket – one that at times felt suffocating and other times comforting (the way insulation can muffle things or confine and tame chaos).

But now, there are endless days where I’m drowning in quicksand, my fingers scraping to find something to hold onto before my head is submerged. The sand finds a way into my mouth so that I often find myself choking it down, swallowing gritty grains in order to attempt to speak like a “normal” person. The more I ingest, the harder it becomes to breathe as the granules fill up my lungs, my ribcage, my throat. Sometimes the sand is so smothering that I can’t utter a word, even to whisper for help. There are instances where I can try to gulp down the sand enough for a moment or two of respite, but these are few and far between. These are the days when I struggle to get out of bed, to go through the day like a “normal” functioning adult.

Other times, the sadness masks itself so that I think of it like the cold. It’s the freezing snow that is no match for a soul bared in the outdoors. This is when my brain jumps in to plan an exit strategy — it’s like when they warn of hypothermia in freezing temperatures. If you fall asleep, you’ll succumb. Prolonged exposure to the cold can mean certain death. Every part of me wants to give in to the cold — the tempting allure of closing my eyes, sinking into the frozen depths, letting the suicidal thoughts win. So, I try to find warmth anywhere I can (a Zoom call with family, a Netflix binge of a show I’ve been wanting to see, the way my puppy’s tail wags when she sees me).

Sometimes the sadness shifts into a dull ache. It travels to different muscles, leaving me feeling exhausted and sore, as if I’ve exerted myself through a grueling marathon. But no matter how I envision the pain permeating my heart, I can find no steadfast solutions. Imagining quicksand doesn’t give me ropes to climb out of the mire. Describing the frost of despair doesn’t warm my body or reignite the fire to keep fighting. All I can do is spend the days hoping and praying that I’ll somehow come up with a way to outsmart my brain so that it doesn’t get the final say.

Oh, how I wish I could turn this story into a more hopeful one. But that is depression‘s greatest trick — its clever disguises lead you to believe there isn’t any hope. I desperately wish that my brain and I could work together to find a way to safety — one that doesn’t involve being consumed by sand or lost to the cold. I so want to be able to finally say, “It feels like my brain wants me to live.”

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash