by Katie Simon Phillips
Note: This post originally appeared on Born Without Marbles and has been cross-posted with permission.
Living with depression is incredibly hard, but to people who don’t live with it, so is comprehending what it actually feels like to suffer with an illness that is often brushed off as “just being a bit down in the dumps”. For this reason, to try and help more people understand the condition, I have come up with 6 examples of the way depression feels for me in ways I hope are easily understood or related to by anyone.
1. The “night before dread”: You know when it is the day before something you really do not want to do/are frightened of? Like the first day back at school after the summer holidays or a rectal exam? That feeling of absolute dread when you look forward to the next day’s unpleasant events that you cannot get out of? That dread of the next day is what depression feels like, only you feel it every day, all day for no reason whatsoever. You look to the future and realise that there is no impending rectal exam or reason for you to feel this way at all, which in theory should make you feel better but it doesn’t. It actually feels more frustrating, because unlike when you know what you are dreading and know you will feel better when the looming event is over, when you are dreading nothing in particular, you don’t know how to get that “nothing” out of the way so that you can feel better and move on with your life.
2. The “head in a bucket”: For me, depression often feels like having your head in a very heavy immovable bucket. It is pitch black all around and darkness is all you can see. At the same time people are standing beside you without a bucket on their head, telling you to look at trees, pretty flowers and positive things in life, which would be all well and good if your head wasn’t stuck in a bucket. They tell you to look on the bright side, to look at the sunshine/how lucky you are and you really try. You squint and turn your head for hours desperately trying to see what they see but no matter how hard you try all you see is darkness, not because you aren’t wanting to see the light, but because that damn bucket on your head is blocking it all out.
3. The “Robot driver”: Many days I wake up once in the morning, and then again sometime in the afternoon, having lived part of my day without really realising what was going on. It feels as if my body has gone on autopilot and turned me into a robot carrying out all the daily tasks required of me without really being present or noticing what is going on at all. It is like when you drive yourself home sometimes (not that I can drive but I hear this is a common experience), and then when you get to your front door you don’t remember the drive because you were too distracted thinking about how fantastic penguins are. The difference is that with the depression robot automaton example, you don’t know what you were distracted by, what you were thinking about or whether you were actually conscious or present at all. Your body has just been moving around with no-one inside.
4. The “frozen mute weird coma active mind thing that I cannot think of a good name for”: Imagine someone has super glued your tongue to the roof of your mouth. They have also injected you with some weird substance that means you physically cannot move your limbs or your face and you cant really feel them either. If someone touches your arm you can see it happening but you can’t feel the other person on your skin. Mentally your brain is active and you are thinking things like “I really should get up do something productive right now” or “I have so much to do and I have to get on for goodness sake move”, but still your body is too numb to respond and you can’t even open your mouth or speak to tell anyone what is going on.
5. The classic “Wading through treacle” but with weights tied to your ankles: This example pretty much says it all in the title, but basically just imagine trying to walk across a football pitch which is filled up to your chin with treacle (an unfortunate consequence of an explosion and resulting flood at the local treacle factory. Thankfully I can assure you all that nobody was harmed in the explosion but a hell of a lot of treacle has been wasted by spreading itself across this football pitch). You also have heavy weights strapped to every limb so every step is a huge effort, yet still you try as hard as you can and use all your strength to get to the other side of the pitch. In reality though, that struggle merely corresponds to the task of cleaning your teeth, so to get through the entire day there are still hundreds more pitches of treacle in front of you that you must pass through before you can just give up and go back to sleep again.
6. The “Deserted Wasteland”: Sometimes depression feels like you are standing out in the middle of a deserted wasteland (you wouldn’t have guessed this from the title of this one but just go with me and don’t feel too surprised), where all around you there is just barren empty land. There is no grass, no trees, no sign of life anywhere around as far as your eyes can see. You can have a hundred members of your family and friends in the real world trying to look after you and supporting you through it, so you shouldn’t feel so isolated but no matter what is going on in the “real world”, mentally, in the desert, you are always completely alone.
Now I will admit that this is not the jolliest list of examples ever to exist, but to be fair depression isn’t the jolliest thing in the world, so I guess you could say I have done a pretty good job…Anyway, I hope this list helps someone supporting a friend or family member with depression to understand what they may be feeling. Also if you are a fellow sufferer/bucket wearer, I hope you find some solace in the fact that you are not the only person that feels like this and that there are people out there who understand, even if they only exist on the internet.