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The Texture of Depression

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What does depression feel like? I am learning about mindfulness and meditation, and I found an exercise that asks this question. I decided to try it. I slowed down, focused on my breath and pictured myself in a vast room, all alone, with a lit candle at the center.

I ask into the room, “What does my depression feel like? What is it? What are you?”

In answer, I feel a presence come into the room from all sides, slowly, quietly crawling up walls that I hadn’t even known was there. It is like a film clinging to these walls, everywhere but nowhere. It is dark gray and gritty, slowly turning this room into something that feels like a dungeon. I reach out to touch one of the walls, but I pull back immediately. It feels wrong — my fingers are too sensitive to its touch.

I am reminded of a problem I have in real life… an aversion to terracotta. I am repulsed by touching anything that feels like terracotta. I hate touching flowerpots. I have a hard time holding chalk. It sends a shiver through my whole body. I have this strange fear that it will creep under my fingernails.

The feel of the walls in this dungeon image is similar: a creeping, cringing feeling.

I pull my hand away. I sit back down and remind myself of the candle in the center. It is still there. I feel alone here, but on one level I know I am not. This candle represents my relationship with God, my relationship with other people, my relationship with my true self. My depression is a film that covers everything, but it is not I. I look up and see that the walls are darker the further away they are… the candle’s light doesn’t quite reach them. I instinctively know that this is because the walls are not real.

The film of depression makes its own wall… it’s a chimera. Beyond it is not an impenetrable barrier, but rather an open field. A field filled with light, the same light that shines from this unquenchable candle. One day soon, I will see that field.

One day soon, I will get up the nerve to poke through the flypaper mirage.

One day soon, I will see that this dungeon isn’t real.

But not today.

Today I sit here in melancholy contentment.

It’s OK.

I’ve got my candle.

This story was originally published on ScholtesBlog.

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Thinkstock photo via Ingram Publishing

Originally published: February 20, 2017
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