“Don’t look for someone who will solve all your problems. Look for someone who won’t let you face them alone.” ~Unknown
Depression for me is like constantly walking up a hill.
Most of the time the hill has only a one percent gradient. You can hardly even tell it’s a hill. I walk, run, jump, skip along, doing cartwheels and stopping to smell pretty flowers and listen to bird-calls; it’s sunny and warm, with clear blue skies.
Even though I have to put in a little bit of effort to walk up, times are good.
And then something happens in my life, like I lose my job, I have to move, or I’m having ongoing arguments with my partner, and my hill starts to get a bit steeper.
It’s still reasonably easy climbing, but it takes a little more effort. It gets a bit darker around me, like the sun has just gone behind the clouds. But it’s fine. I can do it.
And then some other things happen, like I’m feeling stressed out because it’s exam time, and I call my friend to hang out but she doesn’t have the time, and I injure myself and can’t do my usual activities anymore—and my hill gets even steeper.
And then all of a sudden, almost without me realizing it, I’m on hands and knees, crawling up this really steep hill.
It gets kind of dark around me, and pretty windy, like a storm is brewing. The temperature drops, I get goosebumps. But I don’t look at the darkness around and behind me. I am still aiming for the spot of brightness at the top. I know I’ll get there soon.
I struggle to make eye contact with people, go out to social events, or call friends back, because I’m so focused on just making it up the hill.
And then some other things happen, like I get a virus, or someone I love dies. And then my hill is so steep it’s like climbing a ladder, but slippery and made of grass and dirt and rocks.
I freak out a little bit now, because it’s really hard! I’m scared of falling, but I still keep trying, to keep going up. Even though I’m barely moving.
I can’t talk to you. It’s like I retreat right into the depths of my mind, and I can’t connect with anyone. I really need all my concentration not to fall.
And then it starts raining. Really heavily. It’s become pitch black, like the middle of a moonless night. It’s still crazy windy. I try to grab a tuft of grass, to hold on to something, anything. But it’s slippery and wet, it slides through my grasping fingers, and I fall.
And I fall, down the hill; sometimes not so far, sometimes a long way before I can grab a hold of something and stop myself. And I’m scared. Because that far down the hill, it’s dark, it’s rainy and stormy, and I feel so alone.
And at that point, people around me—my friends, my family—get frustrated with me. Because I’m crying all the time, at this point. (Wouldn’t you, stuck in a storm in the dark?).
People think they need to, or they think I want or expect them to, fly down on a helicopter, throw me a rope, and haul me straight back up to daylight. Fix me. Save me.
I can understand people wanting to do that, because you know, I would like it to be that easy. It would be nice. But no one can do that for me. It’s my hill. I have to climb it—myself.
And what is so comforting, at this point, is someone to just climb next to me. That’s all I want.
Just someone to sit it out with me, dry my tears and hold my hand, and give me words of encouragement and feed me occasionally, while I start to make the trek back up from so far down.
Because it’s a whole hill I have to walk up! It’s really steep that far down! It’s going to take me a little while. It’s hard for me to even remember what it feels like to be near the top.
But I’m trying, I’m forever climbing, and eventually I do get back up to the daylight, where it levels out and it’s not so steep and hard at all.
Though it can be tough climbing next to me, because when I’m down I’m inclined to do things like cry or ignore you or get angry with you over nothing, its worth it! Because when I get back up and I’m skipping along in the sunshine, I’m a really great person.
If you have someone in your life that’s struggling up their own hill in the dark, could you not worry about fixing them and instead just offer to be there with them? Sometimes that’s the most meaningful thing.
Depressed woman image via Shutterstock