The Mighty Logo

What Depression Looks, Feels and Sounds Like to Me

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

We look in the mirror and see such different things as compared to how others view us. That voice in our heads, the one that tells us we are not good enough, or that we’re not worthy or deserving of love and happiness. It’s the one that has helped to crush our self-worth, the one that points out the darkness that lays beyond the shadows.

It is the voice of guilt, of shame, of fear, of terrors not yet spoken of. This constant echo of the demeaning words we’ve heard throughout our lives, rattles around our brain incessantly, and often, the more we try to ignore or counter it, the louder it gets.

It’s not like the nagging voice we get when we’re sure we’ve forgotten something after we’ve left home, nor is it similar to the one we have when irritated by someone close to us.

This voice is calculating, cynical and callous. It is demanding, deprecating and dictatorial. This voice is insistent, imperious and irritating. It is tedious, tormenting and taxing. It tells us we’re too fat, not smart enough or not pretty enough. It screams that we aren’t deserving of unconditional love or good fortune. It reminds us of every wrong thing we have said or done.

It brings those terrible voices from the past to the surface, and then piles its own shit right on top. It gets even more infuriated when we try and quell the noise or subdue the tone, as it wants to be heard, not silenced.

This voice is like a recording of self-deprecation that plays in our heads every waking moment and permeates our dreams at night. It’s the voice of ghosts of the past, uncertainties of the present and fears of the future. It is unlike any enemy you have fought as it wears the cloak of invisibility and inhabits in the corners of the darkness.

It’s worse than the schoolyard bully, as at least with them, you got some respite. You got to go home, to be somewhere safe for a while. This horrific voice uses a megaphone to drown out the loud music we’ve cranked up in an effort to distract ourselves.

It tells us to isolate ourselves and to push loved ones away because we’re just a burden to them anyway. It dares us to try anything to blackout our feelings and ignore our thoughts. It pushes us to the destructive habits which hold so much familiarity: drinking, drugs, sex, shopping, gambling and self-harm. Anything to get a moments peace. It shoves us to the edge of the proverbial cliff while dangling a rope that, despite our best efforts, remains just out of reach. It screams obscenities and vulgarities when we catch our reflection in a window or mirror, reinforcing the ugliness we feel inside. It does not fight fair. It attacks when you’re most vulnerable, pushes you into the water and tosses you an anchor instead of a lifejacket. It takes one negative thought and turns it into a snowball of the past, filled with words we’ve heard and words we’ve said. It sucks the meaning out of any words of positivity; even a compliment from a friend goes in one ear and exits the other refilled with self-hatred.

It makes a mere glance from a stranger feel like eyes staring through your outer shell and into the dark depths of your soul. It makes us project the repulsiveness we feel about ourselves onto the feelings of everyone else. After all, if you feel that way, so must they. It robs you of every credible, good thing you’ve accomplished in your life, to remind you that you don’t matter, you’re not good enough to achieve anything. It strips us of our hope, our strength, our trust and our faith in others, and replaces it with a world that is dark, unsafe and unwelcoming.

It eats away at our dignity and self-respect the way a termite destroys wood, leaving us to pick up the tiny slivers that can never be made whole again. It sucks the life right out of you, leaving you feeling like an empty shell that could crack at any moment. It knows your buttons and triggers and presses them as often as possible, leaving you walking the fine line of survival. It reinforces the shame we carry from the past by reminding us it is our fault; everything is our fault. It blocks the light, so no matter where we turn, we are surrounded by pitch darkness.

It is an enemy so heinous and so relentless it takes us to the brink of death, and some of us don’t return. It tells us we are incapable of loving or being loved, so we become afraid of both giving and accepting it. The abhorrent words it says to us are unimaginable; things we would never even think of saying to another human being. It’s ruthless, fierce and unrelenting. It slaps us in the face when we wake up and then climbs on our shoulders like a knapsack full of boulders, weighing us down and trying to prevent us from getting up. It makes us question every aspect of ourselves, from whom and what we are, to why we exist. It makes it challenging to get out of bed, to function, to work, to live and not just exist. It is corrupt, cunning and deceptive. It lies to us every moment and sometimes it is dangerously subtle, while other times it’s like walking into a brick wall.

Who is this disingenuous, duplicitous, shameless, repugnant, invisible enemy? How do you fight something you can’t see? Something not tangible, something that drains you of every ounce of the warrior you are. It extinguishes that last bit of optimism you held like water on a fire, and all that is left are charred, unrecognizable remains of hopes and dreams. It relentlessly convinces you your life is of no value, that you are a burden to a world that would be better off without you in it. It often feels like we are in the eye of a never-ending tornado that causes destruction so quickly, it seems like we’ve lost everything in the blink of an eye. It is one single word, with so much depth and so many repercussions on so many lives. What is that one word that can have utter control over every aspect of our lives? How does one word encompass so much terror, shame and regret?

This, for me, is depression.

Getty Image by MarinaZg

Originally published: September 30, 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