Depression is like your brain dripping down your throat and choking you.
The italicized part of that line I read in Lisa McInerney’s 2016 novel, The Glorious Heresies, which I recently reviewed. If my recollection is correct, I don’t believe it was in the context of depression, but I immediately thought, “Oooh, okay, here we go. That works.” See, I tend to do that a lot. If I’m reading something, hearing something, watching something, I’m always connecting the dots of something particularly poignant back to my experience with depression. I can’t turn my brain off from doing that.
I’m not alone in that fixation. Those who suffer from depression are always vexed by how to describe it to those who don’t experience it. Popular analogies I’ve heard before, and have used myself, include the black cloud hovering over your head, a spiral staircase you fall down, a big black dog following you around, a weighted blanket you can’t remove, and slogging through mud in a colorless world. One that just came to me as I was reading the post back for edits: A ragdoll pinballing through the world feeling everything and nothing at the same time.
For those with depression, everything feels like effort, whether it is an actual big thing or a seemingly small thing. It is why someone within the throes of depression often doesn’t take care of themselves with respect to basic hygiene upkeep: showering, brushing their teeth, and keeping their environment clean.
I’ve talked a lot on here about depression and suicidal ideation, and my own journey battling through it, with my efforts in big beats over the last year and a half looking like: a.) getting on an antidepressant (and then getting on a better one); b.) speaking with a therapist for a number of months; c.) eating right, and working out on semi-regular basis (to where I dropped around 20 pounds); and d.) that culminating (well, it felt like a culmination of a kind) in a speech I gave to the Clermont County Suicide Prevention Coalition’s Candlelight Vigil remembering those lost to suicide about my struggles with depression and suicidal ideation.
The reason I call it a journey is because I think I’m still battling the black cloud, watching for the black dog, sometimes feeling the weight of that unmovable weighted blanket, you know? I’ve journeyed far, to be sure. I thankfully do not suffer from suicidal ideation anymore. Before, it was a daily occurrence, and multiple times within the day. Now? Maybe a fluttering at the back of my mind once in a while, but more easily dismissed.
But what is that space between where I was and where I am now? Where the brain can still drip and choke? I don’t know what word you call it, or how to describe it; this space between depression and suicide, between depression and death. Because it isn’t full-on depression anymore. It isn’t full-on suicidal ideation anymore. I’ve journeyed beyond that, and yet, there is still more room to journey.
So, I guess, for now, I’ll chalk these brain drippings up to a “wrong pipe, that sucks” sort of thing, choke it out, and keep moving forward. Because life is the journey, is it not? To be fully human, and fully alive, is to always be journeying. I don’t feel like doing the research tonight (a rarity for me, as I love researching!), so maybe this goes against all the research, but I also don’t feel like one ever “recovers” from depression per se. I think one has to maintain a certain level of vigilance against it because one can always backtrack. I’ve long fretted about doing just that.
The difference nowadays? I have the tools to get back on track if and when that happens. Thankfully.
How would you finish the sentence, “Depression is …”?