Depression, when you think about it, is like being stuck at sea.
One moment, you’re sailing along perfectly content, and suddenly, you find yourself lost among the wind and the waves. I say suddenly, because often it seems that way, even when in retrospect, it might have been a long time coming. Gradually, you may begin to feel yourself losing direction, but you don’t think to much into it.
At this point, instead of sailing back to shore, where we will be able to receive the help we need to continue, we usually shrug our worries off and proceed. Slowly and perhaps even subconsciously, we sail further and further away from mainland, until one day, we find that the distant smudge of our homeland has disappeared completely. Perhaps this is the moment we realize that we are stuck. That is certainly the case for a lot of people. Some hold on for longer, insisting that, if you squint your eyes and concentrate, the shore is still in sight.
But eventually, our fate has to be accepted. You realize that, somehow, you are lost and all alone in this vast, empty blue. There is nothing around you to see but angry waves and grey sky, and, confused and helpless, you curse yourself for venturing so far out, for not seeking help when you still had the chance. For a while, part of us still believes that this is just a blip, a mere setback in our voyage that will soon sort itself out. We frantically search for a way out of this situation, but despite how hard we hope, how thoroughly we search, we often come up with nothing. Hope is drained from us, in a way that seems both gradual and sudden, and it is then we know that we must terms with our new reality.
Adapting to our circumstance usually involves feelings of helplessness, disbelief and despair. How could this have happened to you? It seems like just five minutes ago that you were sailing soundly, heading from point A to B with perfect confidence. And now you are stuck. If you don’t get back on the right track soon, you’re supplies will be gone before you know it, and then how are you supposed to survive? For a while you will be able to function, but just barley. Then what will you do?
This initial panic and despair leads to the ‘functioning stage’ of depression, because, although you are feeling great levels of desolation, you continue to do what you have always done. You eat, sleep, fix the sails. But a fire has gone out in you, it’s burning glow replaced with a sense of dread and regret. You have failed your mission to get to A to B. A mission you had the honor of being trusted with, the privilege of being a part of. You begin to despise yourself, and everything that surrounds you. The salted smell of sea water makes you want to throw up and the sounds of waves crashing causes your head to hurt. As the days drag on, it is though all motivation drained from you, leaving you unable to enjoy the things that once brought you such pleasure. Wishful thinking becomes a distant memory, in fact, you try not to think to much at all if you can help it. You are simply existing the best you can, using every piece of internal strength you possess to simply get through a single day.
But there comes a point when there’s nothing left to drain, nothing left to hang onto. Before, you may have had a molecule of hope to keep you going, but now? Nothing. Nothing is worth such misery. You’re so lonely out here. But even if you had a companion, you’re not sure if you could muster the effort to have a conversation with them. At this point, sleep is all you feel you can manage. That long stretch of unconsciousness, temporarily taking you away from everything. Since this happened, sleep has been your only friend. Everything else has come to feel unnatural and exhausting. If a sailor can sleep well whilst stuck at sea, he is likely to hold on for longer. Insomniac sailors, kept awake by the ocean sounds or the anxiety of their imminent fates, tend to be worn down faster. How are you supposed to go on, without anything to numb the pain? Maybe you get creative. Finding sharps in the way of glass shards or fishing equipment, cutting yourself open, savoring the presence of those long-forgotten endorphin’s. Maybe you have intoxication’s on board for one reason or another, and you consume them in hope that they will take the edge off of your suffering. When peace becomes almost impossible to find, you will often find people searching for it in the most unthinkable of places.
These are only temporary fixes though. Like an addict, in the long term, your respites mean nothing. Compared to the anguish and the misery living now brings to you, any aid seems insignificant, as it always must end. You start contemplating a permanent fix. You begin to fantasize about throwing yourself off the edge of the ship, into the raging waves that have spent so long taunting you. You imagine destroying all your food and resources, bleeding yourself dry as a punishment for your carelessness. You do not deserve to keep living; nor do you want to. Not like this.
It may take years to stop feeling this way. For some of us, it takes a matter of weeks. There is no right or wrong way to experience depression. Some sufferers do not reach the point of suicidal ideation, but this in no way should degrade their suffering. Depression, and it’s stages, are personal to the individual experience. There are different levels of severity, but the groundwork remains the same. Just because one shadows larger than another, it doesn’t mean the smaller shadow isn’t relevant. The shadow is still present, and, in this case where the shadow is depression, it still has a negative effect on our day to day lives.
It’s the same with recovery. It comes easier to some than it does to others. To people who have been suffering with depression for a long period of time, the concept of recovering seems impossible, and from that comes an unwillingness to engage in therapy. Long-term sufferers are resigned to a life tainted by misery, and find it difficult to accept that this may not be the only way they can live. This is understandable. It is hard to believe that there is a world beyond the one you are living in. Stuck at sea, your vision compromised by the fog, it is hard to make out anything but your initial surroundings. But, with time and patience, things can change. Maybe the fog begins to fade, or perhaps something illuminates the mainland so that it becomes visible, and suddenly, you find yourself becoming hopeful once more. The trip home will not be easy, but at least you have the motivation now to endure this difficulty. Along the way back you may find yourself lost again, but at least you know now that hope exists. That there is a life beyond being stuck at sea. That there is a life beyond depression.
(This is just my take on the illness. The metaphor my mind latched onto for some reason.I would just like to make clear that being stuck at sea is a situation that is likley to cause distress and despair to anyone, and such dramatic events are not needed to provoke an episode of depression. You could have the so called perfect life, and one day, simply find yourself lost in the darkness, with no idea how to escape. Depression is often circimstancial, and is almost always exaberated by negative events and trauma’s, however, sometimes the exsplanation for it isn’t logical, sometimes not to the sufferer themselves. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Although events may cause this imbalance, an depressive reaction towards a negative situation does not mean that you are suffering from depression, as this illness is a long-term and persistent reaction to life in general. If you feel that you might be suffering from depression, i urge you to seek help before things worsen. You can do this by talking to your GP or a local councelling service, who will hopefully be able to support you and make the links that will help you recieve the help you need and deserve. If your depression is making you feel like a danger to yourself, I suggest taking yourself to accident and emergency, or, if you do not feel this is warranted, to call one of the numbers listed below.)
Samaritans-08457 90 90 90 (every day, 24 hours a day)
NHS Direct-0845 46 47 (every day, 24 hours a day) <!–(lo-call rate)–>
Sane- 0845 767 8000 (every day-1:00pm-11:00pm