Depression: Thinking in Metaphors
I am depressed. The realization comes barreling down on me like a truck with no brakes, slamming headlong as splinters and shards slice open my reality. But the doctor isn’t in the office today. And it’s the weekend. And the counselor has no available openings for months. And I realize that I am standing at the curb with my suitcase properly packed and a sign around my neck, but nobody is coming to get me. Nobody.
Logically, I can read the medical studies and understand that a recent neck injury, compounded by a head cold and deadline stress, has created chronic inflammation which produces cytokines which degrade serotonin and tryptophan which results in me sitting on the couch, wrapped in blankets, sobbing through days for no discernible reason. Logically, I understand that this is not me nor is it permanent. Logically, I know the laws of science and medicine have overtaken me.
But logic doesn’t much look after my heart these days.
In the summer I sail a Minifish–a small, one person boat. I am a novice and overly-conservative sailor, hesitant to take on fierce gusts, and when I start to pick up too much speed for my comfort, I haul the sheet tight and turn the boat a little out of the wind. Slowing myself down while my heart races ahead, I hold those sails as tight as I can. That’s how I am in this depression–sails hauled, boat steady, terrified of tipping. Slowing down as though there is no wind. Looking around for help and realizing I’m on a one-person boat. Nobody can help me. Nobody.
I scroll past copy paste Facebook statuses about reaching out to those who have depression, because I know people don’t actually do it. Not because of their intentions, but because they don’t even see it. And they don’t actually mean it if you are somebody they expect something of. I have to hide it from as many as possible so that I can be a functioning human being who walks and talks, while others are unaware of the immensity of this kind of isolation. The thing about depression is it is lonely as hell. I am lost, with a flat tire, in the desert. The road is straight, and if somebody saw me, I know they would help, but there is nobody there to see it. Nobody.
With depression, I have no words, and the ones that do occasionally bubble up are so replete with self-loathing and disgust, I cannot imagine anyone wanting to be near me. I don’t want to be near me anymore, so I withdraw and people start leaving me alone because it appears solitude is my wishful solution. The quiet feels like the first ice on the winter lake–glassy, serene, fragile. In the sudden moments when I reach out and a friend doesn’t immediately respond or has to get up and go about life, because life keeps going on, I feel betrayed. I knew I was alone all along and somehow they tricked me into thinking somebody was there. In a sudden realization, I am inconsequential. I crack, shattered glass spilling onto a plush carpet to be painfully discovered later, on my lacerated hands and knees, picking it up alone. Because nobody is there. Nobody.
In times of adversity, I have always been able to close my eyes and find that pulse that pulls me up out of dark waters. I have been able to square my shoulders and march into battle. I have been able to breath in the fortitude that blows from brutal north winds. I am strong and resolute, running miles to find my stride, to build my tenacity. But not today. Today I am afraid to run, lest I split open and all of my insides, all of my pain, fall out of my fragile shell, spilling through my fingers, like catching water. No, I will not run today. I will not thumb rides. I will not rock my boat. I will not search for broken pieces.
Because today, there is no me to be found. When I most need myself, even I am not there.
Angie Miller is an award-winning teacher, traveler, and freelance writer.
Angie can be found on her blog.