Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What does depression feel like?

Here's a picture of some rocks. Because I like rocks and I don't have a picture of depression.
Ok. I'm ready to chime in. It's been just over 24 hours now since I read the news that Robin Williams had died. And that his death may have been a suicide.

I've run the gamut of emotion since hearing the news. Trying not to cry at first because, why? I don't know him personally. Why would his death have that effect on me? Then letting myself cry because, damn it, it IS hurting me, so feel it and let it go already. Then reading all of the tributes and articles and realizing just how many emotionally important (to me) movies he was in.

At this point, I'm starting to get annoyed by all of the coverage and took a few minutes to figure out why. Of course it's good that people would talk about depression and suicide, right? That's how things change and get better, right?

I want to yell, JUST SHUT UP ALREADY. Honoring Robin Williams and the impact he had on all of our lives is wonderful and right. Encouraging people to get help for mental illness is a good start.

But until we all actually start talking about depression out loud and in the open, then little will change. So, I'll start.

What does depression feel like?

I can tell you what I feel like when I am depressed. I'm not depressed all of the time, but I have been depressed. I LIVE WITH anxiety all of the time, to varying degrees. (Another day, I'll tell you how I discovered the true extent of my fear of heights last week while we were on vacation. It was the opposite of awesome. Good story, though). But depression is something that visits me situationally.

And this? Is a picture I took while I was pretending not to be stark raving TERRIFIED on the observation platform.
When I am depressed, it feels like there is a lead ball in my chest, sometimes sinking into my gut. It feels thick and heavy and ugly and dark. There is no removing it.

I also feel very heavy, just generally, in my body when I am depressed. It's harder to move around for no apparent reason, and I just don't want to get up. All of the things that I normally love to do, I pretty much don't care about. I can sit and list them in my head, trying to find something to WANT to get out of bed for. There is nothing. Not because I don't still love those things, but because I am depressed. I know, it doesn't make sense to me either today because I'm not depressed. But when I'm depressed that's exactly what it is.

It's been this way long enough now that I can see it, as if from outside myself. Even when I'm in a depression, and I have to list the reasons I should get up, I'm able to realize that it will pass. I'm able to know in my head that I won't always feel this way. Eventually something inside of me will shift and I'll feel differently and the dark inside of me will lift and I'll get up and enjoy something again.

I think it helps to decide ahead of time that you're going to believe that. That the next time you are depressed, you are going to believe that there is something to hope for. You have to decide ahead of time that you know the dark will lift, because when the darkness falls, you won't want to believe it, you certainly won't feel it. And for me, and I think for many others, feeling is how we move through the world.

That, I think, is why we loved Robin Williams so much. Because he made us laugh and feel so very good. Even in his dramatic roles, there was warmth and love and hope.

I don't always write about these things, so I'm never sure if I should. But, here it is. I don't want to add to the noise because I hate the noise but I do want to contribute to the discussion. Please feel free to share in the comments how depression or suicide has touched your life. Feel free to link to your own post if you like.


  1. Thank you very much for posting this, Jennifer. You are a beautiful writer and a beautiful woman.

    -Shelley Arredondo

  2. Very powerful words. So glad that you are sharing this.