It can be almost impossible to portray depression in words.
People think it is just a particularly bad patch of sadness, but depression is so much more than that. There are no words to describe the pain and isolation that depression can cause. Therefore I often try and liken it to something else, something people can relate to, particularly those that have no previous experience with mental health problems.
Many of us know what it’s like to drive in the fog. Sometimes you get in the car and think “this isn’t too bad, I can cope”, and off you go and begin your journey to your chosen destination. However, as you drive the fog starts to thicken and you decide to put your fog lights on, just in case. The cars coming towards have become a bit less clear. You can work out their colour, but the make and model is a bit of a guessing game. Suddenly you turn a corner and the fog has thickened yet again.
This time you have to slow down as the road has become unfamiliar and hard to negotiate, even though you know it well. You know there is a junction coming up and you start to toy with the idea of going the longer route: it will take more time, but it is a safer, better lit main road.
You’re in a hurry though and want to reach your destination as quickly as possible, but the road you are on scares you in these conditions.
The pros and cons are spinning round your head and the decision feels like it’s getting harder, not easier. As you get closer to the junction the fog thickens yet again. The other cars on the road have become unrecognisable apart from their small red fog lights, piercing through the white blanket before you. Your heart rate and breathing increase as panic starts to set in.
You haven’t driven in fog this bad before. You know there is a layby ahead and upon reaching it you pull over and gather your thoughts. You take a deep breath and call your best friend- they’re always the voice of reason. They give you a little pep talk and tell you to take the safer, longer route to your destination.
With trepidation you put down the phone and continue with your journey. Soon you reach the junction and, even though you are still unsure and desperate to be on time, you turn down the main road.
Soon you are glad you took the main road as the fog is much easier to negotiate, and begins to lift as you get closer to your destination. Even though you are later than planned, you still reach your destination in one peace, safe and happy.
Very few people who suffer from depression will tell you the darkness came over night. Most people will say it comes along gradually, worsening over time, just like the fog mentioned above.
Before you know it, it has consumed you entirely and halted every aspect of your life. Furthermore, each action mentioned above which helps make driving in the fog a little bit safer can represent coping mechanisms (health or unhealthy) used to ease the depression.
The destination relates to being out the other side of depression, whatever that means to you. You often need help or support along the way from someone outside of your exact situation in order to make rational decisions or see clearly.
- No one just caves into depression without a fight, otherwise you would not survive. Even those who don’t think they’re fighting it are in some way because they’re alive.
That might sound dramatic, but it is not.
Depression can be a life threatening illness.
To some of you this analogy may seem to devalue what it means to suffer from depression, however I prefer to see it as bringing it down to a level everyone can relate to. People who have not experienced what it is like to live with a Mental Health problem will never fully understand. All we can do is help them to get their heads around it, help them to relate to some apects of our experiences.
Hopefully this will help with that.