[Disclaimer: this is quite long, but bear with me]
Depression is a shape-shifting, ever-present monster. It is a monster that many battle; some slay the beast, others are swallowed whole, sacrificing life and limb to its gaping jaws, but most are stuck in an eternal stalemate, neither winning nor losing.
It takes a different form for everyone. Mine was a deep black bottomless lake that I was trapped in, the dark waves lapping at my neck, threatening to submerge me. It was a dense grey fog, obscuring all of my senses and causing me to heave and choke, unable to catch my breath. It was a python as thick as a tree, squeezing the life out of me, tightening with every move I made. It was a cancer in every one of my cells; a dull ache that couldn't be numbed. It was every one of my worst fears realized, ready to pounce as soon as I woke every morning. It was a constant IV drip paralysing every muscle that I couldn't rip out of my arm.
But despite all the imagery, it was not poetic. It was not lyrical. It wasn't a heroic effort to maintain a grip on reality and sanity; it wasn't a single tear falling onto a love letter. It wasn't how it’s been artfully depicted in movies and songs. There was no plot twist, no knight on a white horse, no epiphany followed by an orchestral swell and rolling credits. It wasn't poetic – it was ***** and lonely and terrifying.
It was dealing with the crippling knowledge that I was absolutely worthless, that if I was to fall off the edge of the earth, it really would not matter; that though people would be sad for a little while if I died, I would eventually be forgotten because in light of Eternity, my existence was truly meaningless. It was night after night of restless, soul consuming insomnia paradoxically paired with bone-deep exhaustion. It was struggling to get out of bed the next morning because the monster was sitting on my chest, weighing me down and grinning evilly in my face. It was giving up – on friends, family, school-work, because I was wearing these blinders that forced me to only see myself and my unworthiness. It was second-guessing my every move, terrified that I would do or say the wrong thing, and people wouldn't like me any more. It was withdrawing into the prison in the depths of my mind, trying to peek out the bleary windows of my eyes but only seeing the monster, pacing and drooling and growling at me.
I contemplated suicide countless times but only attempted it once. It wasn't from a sense of self-loathing or unworthiness, it was because I couldn't bear the ache inside of me, I couldn't bear looking in the mirror every morning, I couldn't bear going out and having to spend time with happy people. I couldn't bear feeling like I didn't matter, that I was only a feeble shadow floating throughout my day. Sometimes I would feel sick, physically sick with the anxiety of having to interact with people, and knowing that I would have to pretend to be okay. And it was hiding, choking, suffocating, pressing down the gaping raw hole inside of me – because, for me, the worst thing about depression is not being depressed – it’s the fear that someone will find out. I was suffering, but there was no way any one could know, I could not would not would never ever let anyone know that I was drowning in a black lake and there was no one to save me. It was no one's burden to bear but my own. My suicidal thoughts weren't about the morbidity of death, they were about the freedom and release from my self-inflicted suffering. Because depression is self-inflicted, whether we like to admit it or not. It is a battle of our soul against our mind.
There were people who would occasionally notice I was "feeling down", or "under the weather" and would ask me if I was okay. And I would always say Yes, though inside my prison I would be screaming and rattling the bars of my cage, yelling No, Help Me, Please. And once in a while I would be given a little note, a syringe of words, Scripture to inject in my veins and chase away the numbness. Still others would tell me “it’s all in your head”, and that was when I wanted to scream YES IT IS BUT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. People would try to fix me, but I didn't need fixing. (This isn't something you can fix; I was not broken)
I needed someone to lie with me in bed and hold me until I could breathe. I needed someone to hold my hand and never ever let go of me. I needed someone to sit silently with me in the dark, just so I could know I wasn't alone. I needed someone to trust me to be able to fight this monster.
I fight, day in and day out, against the black waters ******* me down. I accept that depression is something that isn't going away right now, and might not ever go away. But I've also come to realize that though this monster may be bigger and stronger and even smarter than me, I am not helpless.
Trying to explain something that millions of people struggle with, something that gets ignored and swept under the rug, labelled as "self-centred", "self-pitying", and "it's all in your head".