The Mighty Logo

To Those Who Don't Understand the 'Rip Tide' That Is My Depression

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Let’s go on a trip…

It’s a sunny summer day at the beach. By all accounts, a “good day” for those of us who struggle with this invisible pain.

I am able to enjoy the moment, enjoy my husband and children. And play. Feel the sun. Smell the salt in the air. It feels nice. A kind of nice I could learn to live with. The kids call to me to come play in the water and I happily get in. Riding waves. Playing.

Suddenly, I am caught up in a rip current. It takes complete control of me as it drags me down, down, down. I am helpless to the power of the current below me. This ocean is vast and so much bigger than me.

There are life guards. Many of them. Some with life vests, some with floatation devices. All of them have the knowledge to get in the ocean, swim against the tide that is now almost drowning me and save my life.

Instead, they stand on the shoreline. In complete safety. Far from the current that is trying to take my life. And they yell things like, “Rip currents aren’t real!” “You are deciding to drown!” “Just stand up!” “It’s not that bad!” and “Just come out of the water!”

All the while, my lungs are beginning to fill with the very same salt water than I was so enjoying only moments ago. The ocean now may be my grave. And apparently, it’s all my choice.

Finally, thankfully, the current releases its grip on me. It spits me out and I crawl back to shore. Nearly lifeless. Completely exhausted. The life guards proceed to explain to me that this is all my fault. I could have changed the situation if I tried. If I wanted to, badly enough, I could have just stood up. People don’t drown from rip currents. As a matter of fact, rip currents don’t even exist. I should be thankful that I didn’t allow myself to drown… I should stop thinking about the imaginary current that tried to kill me. It’s all in my head.

This, friends, is the best way I can think of to describe what it feels like to live with depression. So many people wrongly believe that it is a pity party of sorts. A decision to live in the past.

Let me explain to you what it really is. It is the inability to get through a day. It is exhaustion after seemingly minimal tasks. It is knowing that no matter how loud you scream, some will never hear you. Some will never accept that the hurt is real and vicious because it is invisible to their eyes.

It is very painful to be on this side of depression and have people dismiss your feelings, as if doing so will take them away.

If you love someone caught in the rip current of depression, love them loud. Love them on purpose. Be available, not to fix, but just to hear. To love. It’s even better if you try to understand that this is not a thing they would ever choose to carry. It’s far too heavy. Too crippling. Too lonely, to ever be a choice.

My only hope is that the tide will release its grip… and one day I’ll be able to enjoy the ocean again.

lets do this,


A version of this originally appeared on Periwinkle Wishes

The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: December 6, 2015
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