What is depression?

It is a masked intruder. It disguises itself in mundane moments, seeps darkly under doorways. There is no time to prepare. It arrives and announces, “You are not necessary in your own life.” And you believe it.

You watch your husband play with the children in the other room after you screamed “shut up” to your six-year-old during dinner. He makes her smile. “You are the wound and he is the bandage,” the intruder says.

It weaves itself into your clothing. Before work, you pause while pulling a blouse over your head. It hurts to move. What is the point of dressing for the mundane job that you only
have because you waited too long to go to college? Who will care that you sprayed perfume onto the new wrinkles of your neck?

Sometimes, it is weakened by the pigtails of your toddler. You thank God or the sky that you fixed her hair that way. The blonde locks rejoice in their own innocence, bouncing as she waddles on the sidewalk. You are reminded, briefly, that you created her.

Sometimes the intruder sits on your tongue. You try to say words like, “I’m sorry,” but you stutter.

It tells you that you are fat. It tells you every.single.second that you are fat.

It highlights your gray hair and taunts, “You have these signs of age without the accomplishments to match.”

It directs your eyes to overpasses and third-floor railings. It says, “Dive.” You close your eyes and remember the pigtails.

You start crying during commercials about diapers. The intruder laughs at you.

Then, it builds your alcohol tolerance. You drink more. In the morning, your hands tremble.

It shields you from possible friendships and places its cold hand on the backs of your loved ones, pushing them away inches at a time.

It says, “Medication is for the weak.”

It holds you under the water too long in the bathtub.

You learn to be outgoing. The intruder knows that no one will suspect its presence in you.

If it comes after childbirth, it dares you to stab a kitchen knife into your thigh when everyone is speaking too loudly. Pigtails.

It sleeps and you tell yourself it is dead.

It wakes again, rising in the steam of your coffee.

Courtney Melvin is an English graduate and mother of four. She’s been published in Ponder Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Wanderlust-Journal, Trigger Publishing Co., and Whiskey Island Magazine.