Monday, February 17, 2014

If you've never experienced depression or any sort of mental illness, it can be really difficult to describe what it feels like. Many people can't comprehend what it feels like in your body or your brain because it's not something they've ever gone through. This is part of the reason why the Life is Sweet series is so important for me to share: It's not only an opportunity for people dealing with mental illness or loss to share their stories, but a way for those who have never experienced it to begin to understand and empathize with what it would be like. In today's post, Marie starts to shed some light on what it feels like for her. 

Standing on a deserted island, you spend months and even years building this raft. Finally it's done. It's not much of a raft, but you made it and you're proud of it and happy about it. So you push it into the ocean and set sails on your new raft.

The first few days are wonderful. The water is clear, there are tonnes of fishes and even dolphins. The sky is blue and the breeze is soft. Hey, you are even starting to get a nice tan!

After a few months sailing, the water gets darker. Once in a while you will see a seabird or the fin of a fish. If you're really lucky, you'll see flying fishes go by. But most of the time, you are pretty much just sailing on without many things to see.

That's when you realize that the water is as dark as the sky. You look around and all you see it water, for miles away. No land, no birds, no fishes, just dark cold water. You try not to panic, as you brave a few days of rain and waves. You hold on tight to your raft, because it's what you worked on for so long and you know this is the right place and if you just keep holding on, the storm will pass and everything will be clear sky again.

But now it's been weeks, months that you are stuck in the storm. Some days it's just a little drizzle, others, it's just fog making it hard to navigate, but the worst are the thunder and lightnings and waves as high as a mountain. You keep pushing through every day, but now you start wondering why. Wouldn't it just be easier to just let go and let the waves carry you. Who knows, maybe the waves will bring you back to the island, or maybe they will drown you. Whatever it does, you're starting to convince yourself that either ways would be better than just hanging on your shitty raft, not knowing where you are, where you are going and why you even built this raft in the first place. It's doubt and fear settling in.

One morning, the one after a big storm, you wake up and you see that your foot is caught on the rope, which is tied to the beam. You try to get it off, but the knot is just too strong. You should take this as a sign that something bad will come out of this but whatever, the sky is blue, and you may even think you heard a bird call. Things will be ok.

But that's when you realize you were wrong. Right when you think everything is fine and the water is calm, you are suddenly woken up by a big crashing wave. It is so big that the beam breaks and rolls into the water...dragging you in at the same time.

The beam slowly starts sinking into the deep water. You try to pry your foot off the rope, but you can't. Not by yourself. The beam sinks just a bit deeper. You struggle to bring yourself to the surface, just so you have enough time to take a breath of air. But each time, the beam pulls you down. Each time, you swim back up with all your might, take a breath, and sink back in. You do this for a while. You know that if you don't get that rope untie, you will sink to the bottom of the Ocean. You swim back, using all your strength to keep your head above water. Sometimes, a wave comes through and instead of breathing air, you swallow some bitter sea salt water. It's at those moments where you think this is it. But somehow, you always come back to the surface.

Then out of nowhere, a giant turtle comes along. It places itself under you, so you can sit on its shell and take a break from all that struggling. The sky is even getting clearer, but the waves are still strong and high. You ask the turtle for help and somehow it understands. Slowly, very slowly, it starts nagging at the rope around your foot. But you know turtles, they aren't very quick...sometimes you get impatient, and start calling it names, or yelling at it to hurry up. Sometimes you just think screw this! it's not gonna work. But you just keep on coasting on top your turtle, at least you aren't swallowing sea salt water anymore. But once in a while you slip off the turtle, because the beam is just too heavy. But you fight to climb back on because you don't want to end up at the bottom of the ocean with the beam. If you do, you won't come back up for air.
So you wait for the turtle to set you free.

You don't know when will that be, or if when it happens, that things will be better. I mean, you are still stuck in the middle of the ocean. Even if you are surfing on top of a turtle, you are still in the middle of the ocean; you don't know if there is an island in front of you or if you gonna slip and fall back in the water. You just don't know. And to be honest it's exhausting.

So you rest your head on the back of the turtle and you wait. And you remember the days when you were on the island and how it was so much better and safer. You wish you could go back there, but you know it is just way too far behind you, there's no way you can go back. Melancholy sets in as you wait for the turtle to do it's job. I mean, come on, how thick can this rope be? Some days you just want to let go, some days you just want to hold on. It's exhausting. It's a struggle. It's a battle of the wits and you are the only person who can make the right decision. You know that if you let go, the waves will carry you deeper, and you know if you hold on, the turtle will carry you to a safe zone for a while. but you also know that no matter what, your life will just never be normal anymore. Not after all this.

You will get back on land, and you will enjoy that land for a while. You will even come to convince yourself that this is where you want to stay, build your hut and raise butler monkeys. But you know that after a while you will get bored of it and you are gonna want to build another raft and set sails to see if the next island will be better, more fun! But you know you'll just end up getting stranded in the middle of the ocean again.

How do you know? Because this is not the first time you have been stranded in the middle of an ocean. 
You just can't be normal and have a normal life. 

Or be happy with what you have. 
You have to accept that, but most of all, the people around you have to accept it as well. You can try and have a normal life, for a while you will... But let's face it, this is a cycle that will come and go for the rest of your life.

This is what depression feels like.

And right now, I'm still waiting for my turtle to set me free. 

My name is Marie and I am a 29 year old French-Canadian girl in Barrie ON. I work as a Funeral Director, and suffer from Depression and Anxiety so I am no stranger to this disease. Most of my childhood, I was able to channel my social anxiety via humour and acting. Being a class clown, I made my way into the performing arts. At 15, I lost my father to a car accident and came face to face with depression. With the support of my family (and the meds I take) I am capable of living a normal life, but only recently I have came to accept my condition and I hope one day, people will stop to be scare of this condition and be willing to talk about it. This is my first step.

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