I recently posted a question on my Facebook page asking people who'd suffered from depression to describe what it felt like so that those who'd never experienced it could understand it better. Here were the responses:
1. Depression is seeing no future, and no answer for any of the problems in your life.
2. When you have depression, nothing is enjoyable. Nothing can make you smile.
3. It feels like you're a ghost ... not a part of the real world.
4. It's like drowning ... except you can see everyone around you breathing.
5. Depression is a dark, inescapable place. It's like being locked in a room with no light, windows or door. It's so dark you can't even see your hands in front of your face let alone find a way out.
6. Depression is the inability to construct or envision a future.
7. Slipping into depression feels like falling down a dark bottomless shaft, wondering if and when your fall will ever be caught. And as you look back to where you fell from--which is where you know you need to get back to--you can see it receding further into the distance, the proverbial light becoming dimmer and dimmer, while the shaft into which you are falling becomes deeper, darker, and all the more enveloping.
8. Depression to me is like having your mind replaced by another one that makes me feel worthless and numb to life--even to my own husband and son. It deprives me of feeling anything other than a sense of perpetual sadness, never quite knowing the source of it but knowing that feeling well. Depression has stolen my confidence and now I no longer feel I am worthy of anyone's love. Depression calls me names and makes me have awful thoughts, and there have been times when depression has won and I've taken an overdose.
9. It's like being stuck in a box that you can't get out of--a very dark place where you feel so low that even simple tasks are difficult. You feel completely alone.
10. A total loss of who you are.
11. Standing underneath a floor of glass, screaming and banging on it trying to get the attention of the rest of the world going about their lives without you. The problem is no-one can hear you or even knows you're trapped there.
12. Depression is like the heart or the mind breaking.
13. Depression is a state in which nothing tastes, smells, or feels right and you are unable to think or make decisions--yet you still have to carry on doing all those things. And so much of the time you just don't have the energy or the desire. But you still carry on anyway.
14. The belief that you just don't matter.
15. Like the death eaters in Harry Potter have caught you and sucked all the goodness from you.
16. Swimming through treacle.
17. Multiple emotions: fear, despair, emptiness, numbness, shame, embarrassment and an inability to recognize the fun, happy person you used to be.
18. Depression is losing the desire to partake in life.
19. It's like trying to breathe when you're covered in tar.
20. Depression makes you feel like you're an actor playing you--one that's always forced to smile.
21. Being depressed sometimes feels like tunnel vision--regardless of anything going on in your life, you can feel miserable and overwhelmed for no reason at all.
23. Cancer of the soul.
25. It's just like being inside a wheel that's spinning and spinning and you don't know when it's going to stop.
26. Living in fog all the time--a world without color or laughter.
27. Like living in a dark tunnel with no light at the end, and no air to breathe no matter how deep a breath you take.
28. Feeling completely alone--even if you're surrounded by people.
29. Complete and utter hopelessness.
30. Living in hell.
31. Like mourning the death of someone you once loved--you. When you look in the mirror you see only dead eyes. There is no spark. No joy. No hope. You wonder how you will manage to exist another day.
32. Trying to keep your head above water when it's up to your nose. And getting deeper. And you can't swim.
33. Feeling numb inside. The world and time just passes by and nothing brings you joy.
34. Feeling dark, lonely, scared. Sleep is the only escape from your pain.
35. It's like being a prisoner and the jailer both.
36. Waking up to another disappointing day, and feeling that heaviness in your chest that never goes away.
37. Just wanting to stand in a field and scream your head off--but you don't know why.
38. Like your mind is paralyzed.
39. Depression is silence. It's total isolation in a room full of people. It's feeling the drag and pull of life making you smaller by the day
40. It's like falling into a well or a deep dark hole and having no ladder to climb to help you get out of it. You get trapped in the darkness feeling cold and numb.
41. It makes me feel like I'm a tiny seed stuck at the bottom of a pot plant--the more I try to grow and break free, the more dirt and soil falls on me, suffocating me and pushing me down.
42. Depression is that nasty voice in my head that says things like "your mother never wanted you and that's why she kicked you out at 15 to sleep on the streets for three months". It shows me the mental picture of the benches I made my bed and the nooks and crannies I tried to hide in for fear of being raped. The voice also reminds me of my daughter dying and thrusting her photo in my face telling me I'm a rubbish mother. Depression for me is a force so powerful that I fear I may never be free of it.
43. Being depressed is all your emotions taken away from you--apart from negative ones like sadness, anxiety and fear.
44. It's a ten tonne ball of lead in your gut that you've no choice but to drag everywhere with you. And you've got to try and look normal doing so.
45. Every day is a struggle and I feel like its ground hog day--same shit, different toilet.
46. It's a thief ... it takes everything from you and leaves you to die.
47. It's peaceful water to the outside world, but a raging tsunami below the surface.
48. It's more painful than any physical pain I've ever experienced. And NO-ONE can see it.
49. Depression is hating yourself so much you can't look in the mirror.
50. Depression is waking up wishing you'd died in your sleep.
I know how painful depression can be, because I've been there myself. But please take solace in the fact that you are not alone--as you can see from all these responses, and the dozens of others that, due to lack of space, I couldn't include in this article. Remember that the World Health Organisation estimates that 121 million people suffer from depression worldwide; you are one of many, and you have nothing to be ashamed of.
The other thing I want to tell you is that, as hard as it may be to believe, recovery IS possible. If you don't believe me, download a free copy of my memoir, which recounts my struggle and eventual triumph over depression. When you read it, you'll see that I've felt everything described in the list above, and that there were times when I was convinced that I'd never, ever get better. But these days I'm very happy and healthy--as are thousands if not millions of other people who've also suffered from depression. We're all proof that recovery is possible.
Perhaps it's not possible for you to understand what it truly feels like to have clinical depression unless you've suffered from it yourself, but the above descriptions should give you some indication. If nothing more, they should make you realise that depression is far, far more severe than just "having the blues" or feeling "sad". It is a soul-sucking, debilitating illness--one that is so severe that it claims nearly a million lives a year worldwide. So if you know someone who has it, don't just tell them to "pull themselves together" or to simply "get over it". Instead, listen to them. Support them. And most importantly, be their friend.