The Scary Horrible Thing About Depression


The scary horrible thing about clinical depression is that it can hit you any time, for no reason, from zero to freight train in a second.

At the grocery store I’m thinking about how to grill this salmon, and the next moment my chest caves inward like a curled up canvas of wax paper in a cruel gnarled fist. It’s the familiar feeling of drowning in slowly frothing grief, like disappearing in acid. It’s almost too familiar. I’m trying not to weep. I tell myself, Everything’s fine, everything’s fine, a cognitive trick to pull you out of the falling, but nothing is fine, nothing is fine. There’s nothing I can do. My basket full of trinkets is weightless and too heavy at the same time. I see people rushing to somewhere, but the illusion of significance slips away from me in a long, defeated sigh. I hate this part. My shoulders crumple because I’ve stopped holding them up. I can barely look at the cashier and I don’t remember paying when he hands me the receipt. I can’t turn on music in the car; it’s unbearable to turn the wheel. I’m someone else’s ghost in someone else’s body.

I wish I could tell you I snapped out of it. I wish I could say it gets easier each time. But I never know how long it’s going to be. I never know when the colors will come back. I never know if this will be the one that wins.

The worst thing about clinical depression is that it can do whatever it wants with you. It has no rules or code or fairness or dignity. I have every reason to be happy, but I’m completely debilitated and naked. It’s a cheater. It’s a liar that sells truth.

I know I have to fight for air. I know I have to crawl for every inch of territory that’s stolen. I know I cannot make decisions unless I talk with someone first. I know there’s so much worse going on in the world, and the war inside doesn’t even compare. I know. It doesn’t make the fog lift any faster.

I can only claw for breath. I reach for every scrap of surface to escape this tunnel. I can’t let it win. By the tiniest shred of sight, I crawl.

– J.S.


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25 thoughts on “The Scary Horrible Thing About Depression

  1. I feel your pain, I really do. I feel like Alice in Wonderland at times. Like everyone around me is completely different and I just don’t belong in their world.

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    1. An apt description, like Alice. It reminds me of when I get migraines and someone offers a glass of water. I know they’re only trying to help, but a glass of water won’t work here.

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  2. What is an acceptable method of treatment? I come from a family where I don’t feel it acceptable to seek medical attention, as if I’m to shake it off, so to speak. Sometimes I worry it will win or that I will fall back into addiction after three years of sobriety. Jesus fills the emptiness but in those times it’s as if I can’t even grasp the idea of a savior, or a loving God. It’s a loneliness like no other. Do you have any suggestions?

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    1. I hesitate to play doctor, so I can only tell you my experience: I have friends who have taken medicine, cognitive therapy, pastoral counseling, or a mix of any of the above. I think there’s no shame in taking medicine, as long as it’s taken correctly and researched in depth. The best thing is really face-to-face intimacy with a close friend who won’t judge. I know that sounds cliche, but such open vulnerably community is a huge anchor during such up-and-down seasons.

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  3. I love the honesty of this post thank you for giving me more insight into the things that my dearest in my life struggle with. This is how people like you change the world buy strong words with strong visual effects that help people understand the real struggles of mental illness. …. thank for sharing keep it up!

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  4. Just curious to know how did you come to define the understanding of depression? How did that label associate with what you are feeling and is there different types of depression or does it always work that way?

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    1. Hey there: I think at first, I was hard on myself because I thought it was just typical “sadness” or I was being “emo.” I came to find my moments of depression were un-instigated and had no real cause from external events, so I began to think it was physiological. While there are certainly types of depression that result from circumstances, there is a clinical depression that happens for almost no reason, with no warning or triggers, and will stay for a long time. While I can’t say how this looks for others, I often try to find out by asking, “Why do you feel this way?” If there seems to be nothing particularly wrong with life, I start to suspect it might be physically connected.

      I very much hesitate to use the word “depression” too much or too fast, because sometimes life will just be hard and we need to roll forward. Depression is a prolonged stated that’s often un-provoked, and when we instantly say “I’m depressed,” I have to question if this is being used to sound relevant or relatable or trendy. When my dad, a 2nd lieutenant in the Korean army who fought for the US in the Vietnam War, was captured by enemy soldiers, it wouldn’t make sense at that moment to say he was “depressed.” Scared and anxious and upset, yes. Depressed? I can’t say it qualifies (though I wouldn’t rule it out as a condition that could happen later). I think when someone uses the label of depression as a reaction to everything that doesn’t go their way, they might need to re-examine what they’re really saying. It not only diminishes truly depressed people, but it also avoids the real issues at heart, whether it by selfishness or self-loathing.

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      1. Thank you for taking the effort and time to clarify that. You hit the spot with things aren’t going my way and a train of thoughts carried on with ideas of failing at everything. I am usually an optimistic person but when given too much quiet time I am unsure how to use it to reflect and find peace, mainly as a Christian because prior to being one I felt results appearing quicker and less time feeling “down”. My quality of life wasn’t better than it is now but the emotions of being down is happening more vividly.
        I think I am just feeling stagnate, uninspired and demotivated. The term “transitioning” is happening at it’s constant. While a part of me understands life is a process, a journey not a destination the other part of me isn’t feeling growth. Does that sort of make sense?

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  5. Your willingness to be honest inspires, because “depression’ is so isolating. Such isolation makes it hard to reach out for, or receive, help. I do not have every answer for everybody, but I know that one thing that helps is to change body shape. If depression makes you curl up, stretch out. If it makes you cower, rise up. Our bodies, minds and souls are connected, because that’s what makes us – us. Anyway, I personally have found it helps.
    And JS, I am constantly inspired by your vulnerability. It is a gift God has given to benefit others. May God bless you and others through this.
    Peace

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    1. Thank you my brother. Of all the things I would like to be honest about, this is really the hardest one, because it’s so misunderstood. Either people shun depression as a first world problem of entitlement, or people “want” to be depressed for a permission slip to do reckless things or to appear relatable. While I can’t judge others’ motives, I eventually find that many people who say they’re depressed are really not, while some who are depressed don’t know even know they are. It’s a tough discussion.

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      1. Indeed tough, but one believers should be more willing to discuss (before condemnation!) because it is everywhere, even congregations. A survey in Canada a few years back showed clergy are MORE prone to depression than their parishioners!!
        Peace

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