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What It's Like to Experience the Storm of Mental Illness

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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 741-741.

You’re floating in a massive expanse of water. It’s like the ocean, but the water is still and calm. It’s a nice day. The water is warm and comfortable, until suddenly it’s not. The water is noticeably cooler.

You start swimming and quickly find the warmth again. The cool water chills you again. You keep swimming, but the water only gets colder. It feels like something is gently pulling you back as you try to escape this freezing cold water.

The current gets stronger. You know what’s happening because you’ve been here before. The clouds cover the sun as you keep swimming, trying to get away. The waves come. They threaten to pull you down but you keep fighting.

You’re fighting, but you’re tired. You’ve been swimming for ages and the storm is only getting worse. It’s tempting to give in, but you don’t want to. Every time you come close to letting go, the darkness below becomes too real and too scary so you swim back to the surface again.

You can’t do it anymore. You can’t. You’re too tired to swim, and too scared to drown alone. You scream for help, hoping someone might hear your desperate cries through the raging storm.

A boat in the distance brings some relief. They won’t save you. You know that’s not their job. The only way to get rid of a storm is to face it. You know that’s what you need to do.

You grab onto the rope your friend has thrown to you and you dive. The air in your lungs is replaced by water. The pressure builds and the darkness grows. You can’t breathe and the water feels more like ice. The currents throw you around like a dead fish, not caring what happens to you.

You hear the sounds of monsters as they cry out to you in angry moans. You can’t make out what they look like because their blackness blends in with the darkness of the ocean. You know they are there because you sometimes see flashes of light reflected off their eyes

You feel a little bit of warmth come back to the water. The currents weaken a little as you cling to the rope as tightly as ever. You slowly pull yourself towards the surface and away from the monsters of the deep. You see sunlight shimmering on the surface of the water for the first time in days. You make it to the surface and feel the air fill lungs once again.

You make your way towards your friend’s boat and they help you to get onboard. You crumple into an exhausted heap as they wrap a blanket around you and hold you close. Their warmth helps you to relax a little and catch your breath.

You look out at the water. It is still and calm. You dip your hand in the water and feel its warmth. You want to stay on the boat where it’s safe and comfortable, but you know you have to get back in the water again. You slowly and carefully step back into the water. The lack of support beneath you is unsettling, but soon you’re floating again. The monsters still lurk below you, and the storms will inevitably come back, but for now, you’re back to being OK.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Unsplash photo via John Towner

Originally published: June 8, 2017
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