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How Depression Is an Ocean With a Dangerous Undertow

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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.

Today I am depressed. I’m more than sad. I’m “wanting to stay in bed all day and let the world pass me by” sad. This is depression.

People say, “Yeah, I know what it’s like to be sad.” I know they mean well and, of course, we all know sadness. Depression, however, is so much more than just sadness. Comparing sadness and depression is like saying swimming and drowning are the same.

Depression is like being on a beautiful beach with a horrible undertow waiting to pull you out to sea. You walk the beach staring at the warm ocean waters, thinking how nice it would be to hop in for a swim, but you know the undertow will take you away. But the undertow will eventually subside, and you can enjoy that swim.

I, on the other hand, walk around the same beach, but dive into the inviting ocean. The undertow is much stronger than I anticipated, stronger than me. As it pulls me under and out to sea, I panic, trying to hold my head above water and take a breath.

When you’re sad, it’s often said you feel blue. When I’m depressed, the world is void of all color. There are no rainbows.

“But you have a beautiful wife, a good job and a nice house in the woods,” you say. “What have you got to be depressed about?”

Nothing, yet everything. Yes, I have a life full of wonderful people, and I am blessed to have all I do. Trust me, I know I do. But my buddy depression couldn’t care less.

Depression, often ignited by life’s hardships, can just as easily be lit by nothing at all. And, let me tell you, that is the absolute worst kind. When I’m asked what’s wrong and I answer, “I don’t know,” the look I’m given says it all. They just don’t understand.

You may want to fix it and help me. Wouldn’t it be incredible if it was that easy! But it isn’t. Depression has to sometimes run its course, no matter how much I have. It doesn’t care at all.

“Then why are you smiling, laughing and seeming to enjoy things?”

Good question. Those like me often have to learn how to coexist in two lives simultaneously — the life of “normalcy” and a life of darkness we have learned to cover up when necessary. We can smile, laugh and tell jokes but what’s inside, you don’t see; we are not there. We are like an airplane on auto-pilot. We look forward to the time we can be alone, until the light fades to darkness because we know the way out is through.

“But aren’t you on ‘happy pills?’”

Why yes, I am on antidepressants, but this medicine isn’t a cure; it’s only like a damper on a wood stove to keep the fire from raging. It causes the duration of our episodes to be shorter. If I wasn’t on medication, I probably wouldn’t be writing this. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d still be here. Yes, it’s been that bad before. I often wander aimlessly through my days without purpose or motivation.

When I’m depressed, I’m like Atlas holding the world above my head. The weight of the world makes every movement an excruciating, exhausting effort. When I’m depressed, I just want it to be over. It’s exhausting!

Depression will swoop in like a mythical flying monster and suck all of the life from you at any given moment, and it happens in a blink of an eye. In the morning I can feel absolutely fine, but by noon I am down and out. By mid-afternoon, I want to shut the world out and hide away. Sometimes it gets so bad you just want the curtain to close for the final time on this horrible show your starring in.

As I write this, the waves of the ocean seem so inviting but I know the undertow will be my demise. I only hope depression doesn’t invite me in. So next time I tell you I’m depressed, know all I need from you is compassion and understanding. I need to know I’m not being dramatic or seeking attention. I need you to understand I have a mental illness, and I’m trying my best to not let it define me. Most of all, I need you to know I’m still here, I’m still me and at times I’m distant, I will be back!

Depression used to have me, but now I have depression. I will never stop fighting, for I am a warrior.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Originally published: July 26, 2018
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