4 Ways Depression Feels Like I’m Drowning

Posted by Javed Rumi in #LetsTalk, Mental Health, Staff Picks
April 2, 2017
This story is in response to Youth Ki Awaaz’s topic for this week – #LetsTalk to start a conversation on the stigma around depression. If you have an opinion or personal story of dealing with or helping someone else deal with depression or suicidal thoughts, write to us here.

Manic depression and anxiety are quite prevalent in India with 56 million Indians going through this experience. Perhaps there is a curiosity among readers who don’t have these issues themselves, and there is a need for those who do have it to feel some sense of familiarity. I, myself, have rapid cycling manic depression along with anxiety, my moods drastically changing almost every other day or so.

It often happens that a bad mood will be following me around like a pet dog for a month maybe due to a disappointment with my career or some small social gaffe. Suddenly and without warning, this bad mood, these doubts, take on a lot more importance than they should, thus triggering my depression.

I want to relate to you what my depression can feel like. Sometimes it feels like drowning. Here’s how:

I Struggle

The cold shock of fear that comes before a depression first starts suffocating me as I thrash about in the water trying to gain footing, trying to make sense of it all. But my feet tread only more water.

I am overwhelmed by a sudden feeling of failure, embarrassed by my own existence. This sudden attack on my pride makes me feel my world has turned upside down. I can’t trust anything anymore. I start questioning my capabilities and whether I will achieve anything in life, whether I’m capable of living a full life. I feel close to failure; no, I have already failed and am just walking down the wrong path.

And so I begin my drowning.

I Sink

As I go down, I hold my breath and try to repress the need that’s bursting within my chest; the need for my emotions to come out. I do this by analysing my emotions. By trying to think my way through my emotions, I attempt to keep them at bay.

But this further removes me from reality. I obsess over these emotions, trying to understand what causes me to lose trust in myself and why I can’t find any satisfaction from doing anything in life, I withdraw into myself and my friends find me disturbingly quiet during these times, staring off into the depths.

As I brood obsessively over my perceived failure, over the emotions in my head my thoughts get more and more abstract.

Weird half-formed thoughts start flitting past my head like strange deep water fishes.

I stare at my friends and wonder if I can trust them, if anyone can be trusted. I feel they are out to humiliate me. I am a failure after all, and they know it. I forget to shower, to eat, to take care of myself. And yet I believe, I believe that if only I could think it through, then it would be all right. Then I would be better.

As I sink, I realise that I’m trapped inside my mind. That there is no way to avoid sinking. But my emotions still are in turmoil, still grasping for the fading sunlight rippling above.

I Give Up

Eventually, at some point, my mouth opens and the emotions come out in small, beautiful bubbles, each one containing a part of me.

Perhaps I’m lying in bed, perhaps I’m having a cup of coffee by my table, and I’m tired and I let it in, I let in the pain.

I realise that I’ve lost all hope in achieving joy right then. But still, I continue to living despite not breathing anymore. The light has gone out, but I still work.

This is when the weight of living as a human being falls down on me, and for a while I’m down.

As I accept the sadness within me, as I let the burning water into my lungs, my mind ceases to think. I am drifting in the currents of my emotions and they slowly bat my body around as I sink deeper.

I know that this will pass but it still sucks, to be frank. I am in grief for my past happiness.

Break The Surface

As I allow myself to die, what’s left of me slowly rises up, up, up, and then eventually feels the warmth of the daylight rippling through the water.

When my heart accepts sadness, I eventually become lighter. Here I accept for while that this is my lot in life, that this sadness is here and must be felt.

Just 3 days have passed.

But my journey is not over yet, the waters of depression are my home, as much as the sun-lit windows of my good days, and the soaring skies of my mania.

I will talk about each of these in time.