The Mighty Logo

When Mental Illness Leaves You 'Couchbound'

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I rest my head on the sofa, my right hand bracing the back of my neck. My clothing is loose, and has been draped around me since I can’t remember when. A cat rests on the back of my knee, but his presence fades out of awareness. It’s another day, and I’m still myself, yet I desperately try to escape my ruminative thoughts, trapped on the maroon couch in my parents’ den in suburban Seattle.

My psychologist entreats me to move, but her exhortation proves futile. My legs are lead, and those outside me and the neurochemicals within have stripped me of all motivation. Years of therapists instilling hope vanish as sand in a sieve. People are simply too disappointing. They let me down at the very moment I gain confidence. How am I supposed to stave off depression when life gives me little hope that the future will be different from the past?

I flash back briefly to my ride on the Metro paratransit bus. My accomplishment? The delivery of parcels to a shipping center. The ride wasn’t so memorable as the realization that I’m now in my mid-30s — broken, lost, my ultimate goal living out my remaining years with a roof over my head. I dread the days to come, where there is simply so much to lose. My parents are nearing 70, and our financial situation tightens.

The inertia is briefly interrupted by my scrolling on our family’s spare laptop. I’m logged in, plugged in, yet totally disengaged. The news of the day scrolls past me, my index finger moving vertically on the touchpad. Today is as yesterday was as tomorrow certainly will be, until it’s over and my parents sell my childhood home. I have navigated a world where my mom told me I could achieve anything, yet where the world and my depression have simultaneously pronounced “au contraire.”

I stretch out my legs as I ache underneath the weight of the 12.4 pound cat. I try to regain awareness of my toes, my heels, my upper back. Where has the time gone? I muse, as I exhale and am conscious of my breath. Cue more scrolling and interludes of fixating on a photograph I took on a ferry last December, where the dog in the car next to me appeared as if driving. I yearn for breezy boat rides on Puget Sound, where balmy air and crisp mornings break up the monotony and mollify my doldrums, if only temporarily. 

The achiness morphs into itchiness as I once again become aware of my body. It is not December but February. Record snowfalls halted mail delivery for five days, and our driveway is still icy. The world just doesn’t seem like the same place it was even a couple months ago. My depressive spells have rendered me motionless under the weight of crushed dreams, of a past that never can be revived and a future that only appears bleak. The cat approaches, but I doubt that shared space will ever yield a shared reality or even shared suffering. 

I sink into the couch, as the moments fade into hours into days into weeks. I am depression, OCD, PTSD and panic disorder — and this is my reality for now.

Can you relate? Let Leslie know in the comments below.

Getty image via Rawpixel

Originally published: March 4, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home