What Depression Feels Like

Describing depression is a difficult challenge. Sometimes it is a temporary affliction, perhaps caused by trauma, anxiety or tragedy. For some it’s a lifelong affliction. Some describe it as walking through sand, and for those who suffer from it, this analogy is spot on. Yet people still can’t seem to get their head around it. So I’m trying it my way. Here is how I personally describe depression;

Imagine that every day you wake up to a five acre field of long grass. Next to the grass is an old push mower. And every day it’s your job to get up, grab hold of that mower, and cut the grass. Why do you HAVE to cut it? Because it’s the job that was given to you. You didn’t ask for it, didn’t want it, but it’s yours, and so you just have to do it.

Now on a good day the sun is soft and warm, the breeze is cool and refreshing, and the field is flat. And you cut the grass. It’s tiresome and takes a fair amount of effort, but it’s a good day. And you get it all done. And you fall into bed feeling tired but good.

On a worse day, it’s raining, and the grass is wet. The ground is sucking at your feet, and the field is hilly. You somehow manage to get it all done. You fall utterly spent and exhausted into bed.

On the really bad days, the worst days, the sky is black; the field has become an evil wonderland. The grass ducks under the blades and away from you, you chase it but can’t catch it, it’s so tall, so very tall. And the wind is screaming at you, making every step forward a challenge. And the whispers…they are the worst part of all. They tell you the most horrible things. Things you would barely consider on a good day suddenly seem so believable on this utterly dark day. Everything is against you, still you fight on. You must. It’s your job. And on this, this hardest day of all, you somehow manage to get it done. And you fall into bed, for days, because that’s how long it takes you to recover, to gain enough strength so that you can resume your cutting.

Now, imagine that you have a healthy person who doesn’t normally suffer depression, and they wake up and walk into a day filled with grief, tragedy, pain. And they think, I can’t cope with this. It’s too much. No one can deal with so much all at once. I’m so alone, no one has felt this kind of pain, my pain. No one can know what it feels like to be ME on this day, suffering this most awful kind of emotional pain.

And now imagine what that same day would feel like to someone who’s already cutting the grass, through a storm, on an evil wonderland kind of day. Imagine how we’d all expect them to cope with so much. And of course they can’t. They simply lay the mower down and say, enough. And we cannot judge them for that.

Drugs and therapy help to give you strength to push the mower, and maybe they sometimes give you more sunny days than rainy ones, and maybe sometimes they can mute the screaming of the darkness, but they are not perfect. It’s not an exact science and they can only do so much.

No matter what you take or do the field will still always be there in need of cutting.

So the next time someone tells you they suffer from depression I’d ask you to see the field before them. Understand how hard the work can be.

Lastly, people who suffer from depression are the exact opposite of weak. They are warriors.

Rest in peace Robin Williams, you laid your mower down like a champ, and left us a legacy. I will miss you.

 Tammy Tip of the Week for helping yourself or others with depression: Get them outside for a walk if you can, it’s the best thing. It gets the blood pumping, makes you breathe deeply; it’s a mental distraction and a physical release of tension.

If they won’t leave their house, the couch, or the bed…bring them a great book, or call and talk to them about random funny things, bring them a comedy movie to watch. Laughter helps. Distractions of any kind are good as it helps to put people into a different state of being. Crochet, craft, paint, play an instrument. All good!

I would love to hear what helps you through your hard days, please post your own tip/trick!

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8 Responses to What Depression Feels Like

  1. Great post, Tams. Very accurate description. I try to give myself something to look forward to, something to get excited about. Plans with friends, a shopping trip, a new tattoo. Something, anything to keep me looking forward.

  2. Alicia says:

    The analogy is terrific. I like to watch videos of babies laughing or animals doing silly things.

  3. Marianne Su says:

    Your descriptions of the field really help me to understand depression better. Thank you for this.

  4. Excellent post, Tammy. Your advice is perfect. During my own experience with serious depression what I hated the most, besides the self-righteous judgement of others, was the constant stream of well-meaning advice and lame pep talks: “Snap out of it.” “You’re as happy as you decide to be.” “You need to apply the secret power of intention in the now program of positive thinking and all will be well!” What I wanted was for someone to simply listen, be there, and not try to fix me. It’s a compassionate and powerful approach that draws the depressed person out of shadows and isolation.

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