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5 Ways to Describe My Depression

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How do you explain depression? It’s a whole different continent people don’t understand and can’t fully relate to unless they’ve visited it themselves. In college, I had a close friend who was dating a guy who struggled with depression. She had never experienced depression, but was constantly working to grasp it the best she could. One of things I remember most from our conversations was this comment: “It’s so helpful when you say ‘depression is like…’ I want to understand. I really do.”

This is for those who want to understand. Just like a distant land, I can’t take you (and wouldn’t want to) into the experience of depression, but I can do my best to describe what it’s like.

1. Depression is like being stuck in the depths of the ocean.

It’s dark and cold and terribly lonely. It feels like thrashing around trying to keep from drowning all the time. Oxygen is hope, and it takes so much effort to find enough just to exist. If you spend long enough down there, you start to forget what the light even looks like. That makes it difficult to reach out and ask for help — because a “normal” life seems so far away, like a distant memory, and we can’t really even remember what it was like, anyway. We’re scared to move upward (what kind of monsters may be lurking up there?), but we’re also terrified of falling further downward and hitting rock bottom. Most of all, though, we’re petrified of being in the same spot we’re in, in the darkness and all alone.

2. Living with depression is like fighting a duel — with an invisible enemy.

People may not outright admit they don’t believe depression exists. Yet the prevalence of advice such as “snap out of it” and “just think positive” discredits the validity of our daily struggles and battles for hope, self-esteem and energy. We’re fighting — hard — and what’s a major victory to us may not ever be visible to those around us.

3. Depression is like a thick fog.

Have you ever walked or driven in thick fog? The kind that’s so dense you can’t see more than a few meters in front of or behind you? To navigate the road, you must rely on your memory. But what do you do when the road is life, and you’ve never been on this stretch of road before? Depression is like trying to navigate through a fog externally while operating in a mental fog internally. Everything can seem slower, numb and like we’re looking in from the outside. Simple tasks suddenly require more concentration and effort, and we’re left feeling inadequate and weak for being exhausted all the time.

4. Asking someone to “get over” depression is like giving an English-speaker directions in French. 

Even it’s a simple task, it would be physically impossible for someone with no knowledge of French to suddenly understand a French-speaker. Living with depression is like having everyone around you wonder why you aren’t super-productive, when all the while you’re trying to figure out how to master the basics of the language — the basics of life.

5. Depression is like a waterboarding of your soul.

It can feel out of control and like torture. The torment, though, occurs within. Contrary to popular opinion, just because the torture happens inside doesn’t mean it’s easier to control or easier to escape. Often medical and/or professional help is needed, and reaching out for help is an act of heroic courage.

“Depression” can be such a nebulous term, but I hope this has helped in some way make it a little more understandable! If you know someone experiencing depression, take a moment and ask them what depression is like for them. I think you may be surprised at how much you can learn from their response!

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Related: These 25 Quotes Prove Depression Is More Than Sadness

Originally published: May 13, 2016
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