Depression is a shape-shifting, ever-present monster. It is a monster that many battle; some slay the beast, others are swallowed whole, sacrificing life and limb to its gaping jaws, but most are stuck in an eternal stalemate, neither winning nor losing.
It takes a different form for everyone. Mine was a dense gray fog, obscuring all of my senses and causing me to heave and choke, unable to catch my breath. It was a python as thick as a tree, squeezing the life out of me, tightening with every move I made. It was a cancer in every one of my cells; a dull ache that couldn’t be numbed. It was every one of my worst fears realized, ready to pounce as soon as I woke every morning. It was a constant IV drip paralyzing every muscle that I couldn’t rip out of my arm. It was the knowledge that the monster couldn’t get to me, that the pain would stop if I just died.
But despite all of my imagery, it was not poetic. It was not lyrical. It wasn’t a heroic effort to maintain a grip on reality and sanity, or a single tear falling onto a love letter. It wasn’t how it’s been artfully depicted in movies and songs. There was no plot twist, no knight on a white horse, no epiphany followed by an orchestral swell and rolling credits.
My depression was not being able to get out of bed for four days. It was turning off my phone, unable and unwilling to speak to anyone. It was dropping out of college, because the idea of going to class seemed impossible. It was bottles of vodka and lines of coke and pills taken in at a furious rate to try to numb the pain. It was the loss of friends and boyfriends and family, unable to reach me in the depths of my mind. It was night after night of restless, soul consuming insomnia paradoxically paired with bone-deep exhaustion. It wasn’t poetic, it was dirty and lonely and terrifying.
I was prescribed anti-depressant after anti-depressant, each one worse than the last. They obliterated any ability to feel anything, leaving a black void that let the suicidal thoughts come screaming to the forefront of my mind, without anything to distract me. I swallowed six hydrocodone and five sleeping pills, and woke up the next morning not knowing whether to be relieved or disappointed. I was taken off the drugs after that.
By far the worst part of depression is the response from people without depression. I wanted to scream at everyone who told me to “just smile” or “try talking to someone.” Everyone was always trying to fix me. I didn’t fixing. I needed someone to lie with me in bed and hold me until I could breathe. I needed someone to hold my hand and trust me to be able to fight this monster.
I can’t say that I’ve won my battle. I fight day in and day out. But I’ve made progress. I’ve realized that sometimes it’s okay if the most productive thing I do all day is make coffee. That everything horrible can be funny. To take the battle slowly; day by day, minute by minute, breath by breath. That this monster may be bigger and stronger and smarter than me, but keeping it at bay is possible.