People describe depression in many different ways. It is a disease that is particularly difficult to articulate, which by no means is a surprise and a reason why it is largely misunderstood.
The most common explanatory words used to describe depression are “living in a fog”, “carrying extra weight” or “the black dog”. I am sure many of these phrases sound familiar but what do they really mean?
One of the most arduous challenges in my life has been finding a way to best describe what depression is to others. For years I have searched deep inside myself for words that could match the feelings I have experienced but nothing has ever measured up. It is like there are no words yet created in the dictionary to define and embody the true meaning of depression.
Depression needs a definition though and an accurate one in order for anyone to be able to understand this disease. That is in fact how we learn what anything in this world is. It is defined and explained to us and ingrained into our minds. If something exists without a definition then is it really anything at all?
I can not speak for all the unknowns in this world but I can promise you from my own up close first hand experience that depression is there; it is real and it is rampant.
I think I could live 10,000 lives before I could take what I feel inside and get in down on paper, to get it right. For depression is a complex and magnificent enigma. However it couldn’t hurt to take a shot at it. When it comes to the unknowns of this universe we have to start somewhere even if we aren’t sure exactly where to begin……so here it is my definition of depression.
Depression (noun): A soul suffering from depression is climbing a never-ending mountain. There is no top to ever reach, no destination, no finish line. They are just always endlessly ascending.
The mountain does not stay the same though. It has the ability to change itself; morph hour-by-hour, day-by-day, month-by-month, into whatever form and conditions it pleases, with no forewarning.
One day you could find yourself carelessly and effortlessly strolling the paths of a slightly sloping climb, making steady progress. These are the sunny days, the clear sky days, the alive days. No baggage needed, you are just blissfully and naively enjoying the ever-upward motions of life.
Then in a split second everything changes. You’re caught off guard. All of a sudden the sun disappears behind storm clouds that begin to roll in (there’s no weather forecast for these types of storms).
Whether it is rain, sleet or snow all of a sudden you find it difficult to make any forward progress. You are no longer living your are just trying to survive. That slightly sloping mountain has transformed into steep rocky cliffs. You become weighed down with wet soggy clothes drenched in what feels like a torrential downpour. It is impossible to see where you are going, like traveling through a blinding blizzard.
You spend hours walking thinking you are going a direction, any direction, only to find that you have been walking in exhausting circles for hours or even months on end.
That’s when it happens; you make one misstep and find yourself helplessly sliding and tumbling down the mountainside. Once your weak, fatigued and fragile body finally comes to a stop all you can do is curl up into a ball and wait it out; lost, numb and alone, hoping that you have the strength to outlast yet another storm.
Then in an instant the mountain transforms again, because that’s exactly what it does. The storm clouds lift and the sun shines back through. You are no longer drenched in wet heavy clothing or covered in dirt and mud from your tumultuous fall. You find your self lying in freshly planted grass that is transferring energy back into to you; reviving you.
The storm has passed, you have survived, you are at peace again. Then you look up to the sky and see how far you have fallen and how much progress has been lost, progress that you may have spent an eternity working on. You survived this storm and are alive once again but is it worth the cost? Is it worth all that you have lost, all the work that needs to be re done? It makes you wonder if you would have been better off never making it out of the storm alive at all.
But there is no time to linger on those thoughts because like I said depression is a perpetual climb and now that you are alive and awake again you have no choice but to keep moving upwards, no matter how tired you may be still be or how steep the path is. You have to keep going because that is what the mountain of depression demands of you.
The cycle continues, the storms and clear skies, the progress and regression and through it all we never stop moving. We are either climbing upwards towards success and happiness or hopelessly falling deeper into a dark abyss.
Like I said there is no peak to this mountain, it never ends. It is a climb you will continue for a lifetime, hoping that the sunny days linger for as long as possible and the storms come and go quickly without leaving too much damage or suffering in their wake (this is rarely the case).
However there is a base to this mountain and there is always a risk that one day you will make that fatal step. A misplaced footing or a loose grip on reality and then you fall and never stop falling until you reach the very bottom. And that I can tell you there is no coming back from. There are no clear skies waiting on the other side. This time the storm wins. You cannot start the climb over once it has ended. Just as a person cannot continue to live after they have died.
This description of depression is only the tip of the iceberg. The complete meaning lies deep under water like a massive glacier packed within the ice, each layer filled with its own mysteries.
To this day I continue to search for answers no matter where it requires me to look. Because with answers we can finally put the last pieces of the puzzle of depression together once and for all and read the map to its demise.
The one promise that I have made to myself is that no matter how far I fall on those dark stormy days I will always get back to where I was. I will not let the demons that lurk in my mind and hide in the caverns of the mountainside, keep me down. I will never let them win.
It will take a brave soul to dive down into those icy waters in search for answers with no guarantee they will come back with anything or even come back at all. I can honestly say I have tried and it’s no easy task. Depression is cunning and it keeps its secrets hidden well in the most difficult places to find.
But that does not give us an excuse to ever stop searching.