When it comes, my depression is colorless and oppressive.
Sometimes it feels like a fog. It slowly rolls in until a white wall of nothingness blinds me.
Other times, it appears in an instant. A blizzard kicks up — enormous snowflakes blot out all visibility.
In both cases, I am lost and alone, disconnected from everything. I want to curl up, wrapping my arms around my knees for reassurance. I am still here and the world still exists. I just can’t see it right now. The fog will dissipate; the snow will stop. I have to remember that. The clouds will roll back and I will regain my sight. I need to continue living despite the fact that the future has disappeared.
In fog and snow, the roads are slick and deceptive. I am a nervous driver. In bad weather, I tend to drive too closely to the person in front of me. Being able to see something ahead gives me comfort, but if they stop suddenly I am in trouble. And I’ve broken the cardinal rule a few times — when I find myself sliding into the wrong side of the road or toward a guard rail, my instincts tell me to hit the brakes and turn the other direction. Of course, this will make things worse. When the wheels lock, they lose the ability to grip the road. The classic advice is to turn into the skid and slowly accelerate.
I must do the same for my depression. Turn into it. I need to face these emotions. Running the opposite way causes paralysis. I freeze, re-living the same depression time and time again, sliding into it with no control over how it will affect me. To regain control, I must turn toward the pain, acknowledging its existence and purpose.
Although I’m changing metaphors mid-way, another way of viewing it comes to mind. I can’t outrun the rain — it will hit me no matter how fast I am. Can I stop and look up at the sky? Can I let each drop hit me deliberately rather than slipping into a desperate sprint with a broken umbrella? I may get drenched. I may feel cold and miserable, but I will finally cleanse myself of these dark emotions.
It is frightening to contemplate, but these clouds will come again. I have to make a decision — which way will I turn? I hope that with experience and practice, I can navigate even the most blinding stretches of road.
Photo courtesy of photographer Heather Hanson