My depression is reminiscent of the ocean. From the relative safety of the beach, I look out over the vastness of the water and think I see someone. The foamy whiteness of breaking waves confirms my suspicions and although I am afraid of drowning, I put my feet into the frigid water and step forward. Soon, my ankles are submerged, then my knees, then my thighs and the place between them. The closer I get to whoever is out there, the farther the tide pulls them away.
It’s not until I’m up to my neck that I realize how far out I am. The shore, once close enough for me to see every rock with the naked eye in spite of my impaired vision, is now miles away. Aware of my situation and the depth of the danger here, I begin to fight my way back.
The water is unkind to me. Each foot I push forward gains no ground and I feel myself slipping away from comfortable earth. The current reaches icy fingers toward me and grips my ankle, tugging me away from safe ground. Panic surges up from somewhere near my navel and I begin to fight the waves, violently throwing my arms up into the air in an attempt to signal rescue. As the water breaks around me, foaming and splashing as I begin to thrash, realization of the trick that has been played dawns on me.
Sure enough, there is a figure on the beach, straining to see me. My instincts tell me to call for help, to keep treading water and fight to get enough air, but I already know the truth.
I am on the beach. I am in the water. Each time I venture into the freezing ocean, I am attempting to save myself from drowning in the waves of my own depression. But it’s all in vain — I repeat the same mistakes, follow the same twisted, slippery paths and perpetually end up on this beach, in this water, watching myself drown. Summoning the bravery to breach the waves and be the hero, but always ending up on the other side of this illusion, swallowing brine and choking for air.
There is no real choice here, no way out of the vicious circle in which I’ve managed to trap myself. If I give up, be still, and sink under the waves, then I will be lost to the darkness forever. If I stay on the beach, I will remain frozen in place and empty, wracked with guilt for doing nothing to save the version of me clinging to life in the sea.
So each morning when I wake up, I remind myself I’m still fighting. I congratulate myself on simple things like showering and washing my dishes. On days when I can’t muster the strength to get off the couch for more than five minutes, or the thought of venturing outside and being around people fills me with anxiety, I forgive myself and resolve to do better the next day, and the cycle repeats itself.
But the current is strong and I’m getting too tired to keep my head up.
My only hope is that another version of myself will soon come along in a boat and throw me a lifeline.