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The 'Yellow Car' Metaphor That Helps Me Find Positives in Life With Depression

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Editor's Note

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

Last night at wheelchair rugby practice, I had a conversation about depression with an assistant coach because I was having a really hard day and needed to talk.

While we’ve had some conversations on this topic in the past, this conversation stood out to me. When the assistant coach asked if I liked life, I told him “no.” He followed up by asking if I liked some of the things I do in life. And I surprised myself by saying “yes” – after all, I was at wheelchair rugby, and it’s one of my favorite things to do.

Then he told me a metaphor about looking for a yellow car.

In all my years of treatment for depression, I’ve been told to look for the positives in life, and that’s been super hard. Why look for positives when all you want to do is die and constantly look for proof that dying is the best thing for you? Looking for positives never made any sense to me because there were so many negative things happening in my life.

And then my assistant coach mentioned the “yellow car.”

I’d never been good at looking for the positives, but when my assistant coach told me to look for “yellow cars,” something “clicked” in my head. I won’t easily find yellow cars unless I’m actively looking for them, and I won’t find positives unless I’m actively looking for them either.

The metaphor of the yellow car reminds me of games I’ve played on long car rides where I scan signs and license plates for certain letters, numbers, or colors. It seems as though once I find a certain letter, all of a sudden it feels like they are popping up everywhere — even though they were there all along.

If I don’t look for the “yellow cars,” then I will just continue to see the sea of green, blue, silver, and black cars that my depression steers me toward. I’ll constantly be reminded of all the negatives in my life because I won’t be intentionally looking for the positives — the “yellow cars.”

To be fair, my life is full of negative things — especially this week. It’s the anniversary of my cousin’s suicide, which reminds me of my past attempts and all the hospitalizations I’ve had since then. It’s also the week my nephew is having surgery, which reminds me of all the medical procedures I’ve had and how they affected my childhood. I’m feeling burnt out both mentally and physically. I’m in pain constantly. The only thing I want to do this week is curl up in bed with my cat.

So this week is hard. But when I deliberately look for “yellow cars,” I realize there is a pretty full lot of “yellow taxi cabs” in the distance. I have wheelchair rugby and sled hockey. I have my cat. I have my crochet and art therapy groups. I have people who care enough to talk to me on my bad days.

Even on my worst days — when the storm is raging and I can’t see more than 10 feet in front of me — I’m going to have to remind myself that even if I can’t see “yellow cars,” they still exist. Even when I struggle to identify any positives happening in my life, they are still out there.

I’ll find “yellow cars” on less stormy days and collect proof they exist as something to watch for when I can’t find them right in front of me.

Getty image by Yana Iskayeva.

Originally published: March 29, 2022
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