Depression isn’t an on and off switch. It isn’t an option. It sucks. It’s exhausting. It’s hard. It’s lonely. It’s not a dark cloud. It’s a smoke screen. Looking in, no one will know. You hide it and keep it inside. If one dares to look on the other side, though, it’s another story. No one goes on that side, so no one knows. You are alone. And that cloud above you? It’s not above you. It surrounds you. You can’t see all the joy you should see. You can’t hear the good; the cloud keeps it all from reaching you. Soon the rain comes pouring down.
You can’t hide from it. You’re helpless. You run. You cry. You scream. No one hears. The worst part is that you can’t explain it. You just keep telling people you are OK, but you aren’t, and they know it. You are drowning in false concern and too many people asking “are you ok?” The water levels rise, and the clouds rain down harder.
I take it back. The worst part is that you have no way of knowing when it will come or what to do about it. Nothing causes it; it just comes. You are frustrated because you don’t even know what you’re sad about. You just are. The tears are just there. They pour down, washing over you like the ocean. The water levels rise. Soon you won’t be able to breathe.
The darkness is the most painful comfort. It’s scary, it’s alone, and it’s sad, but at least it holds you. It carries you through the hard nights. All the light does is let you see your tears, so you go to the darkness and you just cry. Nothing can cheer you up. You just cry. Then when you hear your name being called, you put on a mask and wipe your eyes. No one can know. The solitude makes the water levels rise once again. One last breath. You forget how to swim. You forget what dry land even feels like. This has become normal. You drown in the oceans you made.
No one understands, so no one can help you. That last breath you took? You took it on your own. You cried in the darkness on your own. You pushed through on your own. Now, on your own, you’ll remember how to swim. The water levels have been slowly rising for eternity, but now, when it’s almost too late, you realize you can do it. You never needed them to ask if you were OK. You needed to know that you can make yourself OK. The darkness wasn’t holding you to comfort you. It held you captive. You were strong enough to push through those hard nights, so you’re strong enough to swim to shore. It was hard, it still is hard, and it won’t stop being hard, but you can do it.
In the beginning, depression is tears, solitude, and confusion. They grow and blend together into the ocean you can’t swim out of. Giving up seems like the only option. Right before you drown, just remember how to swim. It sucks. It’s exhausting. It’s hard. It’s lonely. But once you push your way out, the pain will almost be worth it.
Megan Mulder’s story is not one that is unique to her. We at the Soul Care Collective want to emphasize that we all have people in our lives who feel this way on a daily basis. We have included some helpful resources below that can help you love them through the pain.
What Families Need to Know about Adolescent Depression – a printable guide from the National Alliance for Mental Illness
Myths and Facts about Teen Depression – printable education sheets.