Water

I’d like to think of it first as somewhere your feet can’t reach the ground. The darkest, most claustrophobic space you can remember being in.

You are the heaviest, most sinkable mass of cells that has ever existed. Maybe you slip under the feet of everyone you knew and land where it’s darkest. Where it’s soft and mute. The weight on you crushes that instinct to endure, so there’s no urge to swim up. Instead you’re curious what it feels like to be 2 dimensional, so you let the weight flatten you.

You tread through things at a heavy pace. Maybe it takes an hour to read ten pages in a book. Maybe getting dressed takes a lot of muscle. So does moving one place to another, so much that by the time you get there you worry you’ve lost a bone or two. And maybe there’s this ripple of anxiety rolling over you, from the impossibleness of  small choices. That absurd fear of calamity that threatens unhinge all life if you make the wrong decision.

Water makes distance. If you are sitting on the same couch of a loved one, who reaches to put a hand on your shoulder, maybe that press of physical affection ise lost, because of the gulfs between you.

 

Shelter

It’s easy to trip into the first found sense of relief and start building a foundation there. Coping doesn’t always have a safe glow around it. My personal choice for a long time was self-harm. It’s fairly common, it’s habit forming. easily kept a secret. I always found it comparable to smoking. Of course it’s bad for me, but why would I give up that sturdy umbrella of remedy and comfort? The problem is it inflicts a lot of damage and demands an unhealthy sort of precedence.

It’s also that flicker of endorphins self-harm release that makes it harder to give up, especially when you’re brain will not produce serotonin like it should. But better to seek both from natural sources. Some personal goldmines I keep returning to include: running, laughter, poetry, dogs, and an abundance of sunlight.

My advice is to practice loyalty to whatever inspiritive thing your entire self responds to. Build shelter in books, or art, or faith, or platonic love if you can lift your head and shoulders high enough to witness

and gather it.

 

Identity

When I was 20 I wanted to be a houseplant. I wanted the safety of being as inconspicuous, as inanimate as possible. A living thing, here between everything, but only to observe soundlessly. A leaf falling wouldn’t be enough to turn a single head.

Identity becomes something to question when you and depression have become so acquainted and so fastened t0 one another, your ability to recognize yourself a step away from it is diminished.  You develop a fear of strangers, including your healthy self. Your healthy self is a stranger.

A therapist once asked, what if depression doesn’t have to determine so much of who you are? And, while somehow offended, I thought if I could somehow remove or separate myself would there only be this small, strangely shaped lump of myself left-no ability to walk or speak or interact with other people?

 

Mercy

Maybe a year or more of peaceful day to day living has gone by, maybe you’ve maintained a long stretch of adequate happiness and you can’t help wonder if you’ve finally pulled out the last remaining roots of mental illness. Then you plunge again, suddenly, into that familiar claustrophobic space and the speed of fall completely rattles your dignity and confidence in how to take care of yourself.

It happens. That’s totally fine. That’s the beautiful thing about self-forgiveness. That’s why

self-forgiveness is so crucial.  It’s this place of stillness to keep returning to, when you are grasping for a flicker of normality. Hopefully, with a lot of diligence, there comes this point of deep understanding of self-worth and how it doesn’t chip away by relapsing or self-inflicted damages. Even if it’s a pattern for the rest of your life.

In you are not all the tools you’ll ever need to endure suffering. Carve out a space to make room for help from other sources. Therapy can do wonders. Antidepressants have some controversial opinion wrapped around them; for me personally they help tremendously. These are tactile examples, two that usually require an abundance of patience, but usually it’s worth it.

 

Permanence

I don’t think it’s wise to wish depression away. To try and swipe those darkened spots off the brain and pursue a perfectly intact state of mental health.

I think depression stays with you forever, I’m not convinced this is a devastating fact. Maybe there’s a loveliness to permanence.

I have a tattoo on a specific rib-it’s a quote from The Bell Jar. The main character is on the edge of attempting suicide by drowning. As her body refuses to let her sink, she personifies her heartbeat into speech. Each double thump says I am. I am. I am. When writing about depression, I know it’s unoriginal to make a Sylvia Plath reference, but the explanation behind that remarkably simple quote has always struck me. It needs very little interpretation. That little fist in our chests tells us, you have purpose.

You’re meant to exist.

Depression demands an enormous amount of space. But it is not entitled to steal the whole of you. Maybe the idea of permanence introduces us to a kind of grace. That having a history means having experience means no matter how many times you stumble and re-stumble, you can stay sure that you will eventually find a way to rebuild yourself.