I recently came out of a really low depressive episode and have been trying to keep my head above water ever since. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and my mood recently slipped back down. I was trying to think about how to explain how that really feels, the process of trying to keep depression at bay.
Keeping my head above water
On a day to day basis when I’m stable or close to stable, I feel as though I’m swimming along through water with one manageable weight on my back which is my bipolar disorder. It’s hard to keep swimming but I can manage, I keep my head above the water although sometimes it’s higher than other times, sometimes my chin touches the water, sometimes the waves are choppier, but in general I keep moving forward and I’m coping. Occasionally there are islands along the way and I get to stop for a rest, and there are some really beautiful things on the island; I experience true happiness at these times and I am able to fully relax, then I start swimming again.
When my mood is sinking lower and I am struggling to stay afloat, it feels as though more weights are being added to my back as I swim. I try to keep going but it gets harder and harder to keep my head up and to keep moving forward towards the next island. I do my best to knock the weights off, to get back on an even keel, and sometimes I manage.
Other times, more and more weights keep being added and before long I’m just treading water, not moving forward, stuck in one place just trying not to drown. By the time it gets to this point I am very unlikely to be able to remove the weights and to get moving again; I start to feel at a loss and helpless, worried about slipping under the water into full depression and feeling worthless because I haven’t been able to keep swimming even though I’ve tried really hard.
Drowning in the water
Usually, this leads to me not being able to stay above water anymore and I feel myself slowly sinking under, the water engulfing me, until I’m underneath in the darkness, water surrounding me; I’m in a depressive episode. I can look up and see the islands and people getting on the with day to day lives but I feel totally removed from it; I’m able to breathe under the water and able to survive, but it feels like I am drowning none the less. It feels like the lowest place I could possibly be and I am not sure I will survive. I can see people I love reaching down their hands from the surface to try and pull me back up, and knowing they are there is comforting and even sometimes brings me back towards the surface, but often times as hard as they try they can’t rescue me from the depths. Although I know logically I will eventually be able to push those weights off my back and rise to the surface again, at times it feels impossible.
For me, this is the best way I have come up with to describe how it feels to be fighting off a depressive episode and the emotions that go with that. I’d love to hear how you would describe it. Right now I am under water, but soon I will back at the surface again, and I know that the sun will shine on my face before long; I am holding onto that. If you are going through the same right now, I hope you hold onto that knowledge too, and know that before long we will be swimming towards an island again, and how beautiful that will be.