When I have a really good day, I understand how hard it must be to empathize with someone with depression, because even I forget what depression is.
“And what is depression?”
Depression is a glass case. Sometimes the walls build up around you slowly, and sometimes the whole thing just comes crashing down on you, already built. At first, you think it’s okay — you think you can just keep going. So you set your hands on the walls of the case and push it around with you. You tell yourself you’re strong enough and you smile through it, and for a while, you do okay.
But one day, the case is heavier. A lot heavier. You wake up and you feel like it’s crushing you. But there’s no reason for it, right? Nothing’s wrong, so why do you feel so bad? You don’t have an answer, so you get up and push the case through your day again. You tell yourself you feel fine, and you almost believe it. You smile in the mirror and feel the case let up a little as you stand still inside it. You can control it, you know you can. So you go downstairs and find your family eating breakfast. You pick a seat at the table and sit down, but something feels wrong. There’s not enough space. The case has doubled in size overnight, and nobody’s moving to accommodate it. They’re loud, and their words echo around the case. You feel claustrophobic, you feel horrible. The walls are starting to fog up, and you’re beginning to perceive the people around you as blurry, distant, yet still too close. Your mom says something to you, and you snap back at her. You didn’t mean to, but you feel so tense inside that your words come out that way, too. She’s offended, maybe hurt, maybe mad. You feel sick. You want to say sorry; you want to explain, but you have no explanation. So you get up and leave.
You’re in the bathroom again now. Just standing there with the fan on to block out the sound of your panicked breathing. You’re panicking because you can’t control it anymore. You’re starting to break under the weight of the case. It feels absolutely impossible to go back outside and interact normally with the case still with you. You want someone to help haul it around with you, but that’s wrong, isn’t it? To want to burden someone else with this? You know it’s wrong. So you feel even worse now, because you don’t just feel horrible for no reason. You feel horrible because the case is still breaking you down, and now you also feel so immensely weak and selfish and guilty because you’re starting to doubt your ability to get through this on your own. You know you can’t keep giving in to yourself, so you go back outside even though you still feel like you’re on the verge of tears.
And that’s how you spend your days — for days, weeks, maybe months at a time. Every now and then you’ll get a day where the case is lighter, and feel like you might even be able to break through the paper thin walls. And then other days, it’s twenty times thicker and even a tiny tap on the glass throws you, shaking and sobbing, against the corner because just having to carry around the weight of the case has put you so on edge that you can’t deal with anything normally anymore.
Sometimes people just get mad at you because there’s no broken arm, no scar across your face, nothing physical that they can see. Sometimes they try to empathize, try to ask you what’s wrong and how they can help, but they always just end up frustrated because you can’t find the words to answer. And meanwhile you feel like your entire head is screaming, and also like it’s completely shut down. You don’t know if you want to talk to someone or not, and you definitely know you don’t know how. You’re embarrassed when you break down in public and spend days trying to apologize, but just feel even guiltier and more embarrassed when all you can say is “I don’t know what’s wrong.”
You see other people living so effortlessly, reacting to things so rationally, being so . . . happy. You wish you could be like them, but all they’ll tell you is “choose to be happy,” “life’s too short,” “life’s what you make it,” and countless other things that just make you feel worse because they don’t have any effect on you.
And the worst thing about the case? It’s glass. It’s the finest, clearest glass in the world, and no one can see it. Not even you.
Note: this isn’t meant to describe everyone’s experience with depression/anxiety. People experience depression and anxiety in vastly different ways, and this is my way. Really, I was just trying to make sense of what I felt.
[Also, I don’t know why this is written like an interview. That’s just how it formed in my mind and I went with it.]
Photo by Nicole Mason on Unsplash