It’s like trying to run while you’re under water. The harder you pump your legs, the more resistance there is to your motion. It’s exhausting and you get nowhere. It’s like trying to walk when you are paralyzed. You will your legs to move, your body to respond, but nothing happens. You can even occasionally feel what it would feel like to move your legs, but you just can’t make yourself stand up and take a step. There’s a huge disconnect between “I need to do this / I want to do this” and actually doing it. Everything requires gigantic, super-human effort. It’s like being so completely exhausted, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t move. You simply don’t have the energy. You can dig deep, but there’s nothing there. The car is out of gas. It’s not going anywhere. It’s like going rock climbing and trying to ascend the face of a mountain with a 500 lb. boulder tied to your back. You may be strong, but no one is that strong. You can’t overcome the force of the weight that is tethering you to that one spot on the ground, no matter how much you struggle and long to be free. There’s no way you can scale the sheer barrier before you, weighted down as you are, nor can you ever begin to reach the heights you long to reach. You know what you should be able to do, but you simply can’t move. This is what it’s like to live depressed. It’s actually very difficult to fully paint a picture of what it’s like to be so depressed that it severely impacts your ability to live your life. Your barrier is invisible. Your handicap is not one that can be readily seen. People who have never experienced it tend to think it’s a matter of willpower or making a choice. “Just do it,” or “Get over it” are common phrases thrown carelessly at those suffering from depression. But it’s not that simple. Those of us who struggle with this massive, many-tentacled monster certainly wish it was. We long for that magic pill or easy fix as we search for the strength to make it through yet another long, exhausting, draining day. If we could make a choice that suddenly freed us from the murky depths of the ocean of depression in which we live, I assure you, we would make that choice. But all the willpower in the world won’t set us free. Unfortunately, it’s much more complicated. And no one really has answers. My personal journey with depression began when I was a child. I was an abused child. The kind of abuse that typically lands parents in prison and children in foster care. There are times when I wonder why no one noticed my predicament. I was so broken and depressed, I would have thought it was obvious to even a casual observer. Because no one noticed or reached out to me, I concluded that I didn’t matter. I didn’t have any value. I wasn’t worth the bother. I deserved what was happening, therefore I had no reason to complain. But that didn’t make the pain any more bearable. Nor did it lessen the overwhelming sense of melancholy, hopelessness and joylessness that was my constant companion. I tried to take my life for the first time when I was in Jr. High School. I took a bottle of aspirin…I had heard that would do the trick. It didn’t. I was discouraged. I have never been free of depression, at least not that I can recall. There was a brief time when I was dating my now ex-husband that seemed pretty wonderful. I felt a degree of happiness that I had never experienced before, even though I wasn’t totally out of the grasp of the sadness that saturated my heart. I had hope and optimism. But shortly after we were married, he told me he didn’t love me and I came crashing painfully back to earth. We were both Christians. I guess we both felt a little stuck because of that. But even more, I felt that if God wasn’t able to find at least one person on the face of the earth who could love me, if the best he could do was to find someone who would tolerate me, I had to suck it up and make the best of the little He was able to provide. I had to try to make it work. So I did. For 22 years. Until my ex left me after falling in love with another woman. That’s when I really crashed. Oh, I was depressed before he left; of this there is no doubt. But afterward, I lost all hope. I plummeted to the darkest depths of the ocean of depression and suffocated there. I lost my church at the same time my marriage disintegrated. Then I lost my job. I couldn’t find another one. Then my dog died. Yes, I had reasons to be depressed, but they only caused me to be driven more deeply into that state where I already lived. I was completely owned by depression. Manacled. It broke me. I tried to kill myself just before Christmas in 2006. I took plenty of a prescription drug to do the trick, then I more than tripled the lethal dose to make sure it would kill me. I should be dead. But I’m not. For some reason, I survived. There is a lot of shame associated with being depressed. I feel defective. Totally worthless. I KNOW I should be able to get past it…just DO what I need to do. I know I should be able to get over it, get beyond the darkness, stop feeling it, not let it get in the way. But I can’t and it does get in the way. It’s an invisible barrier that keeps me imprisoned and enslaved. It’s a massive spider web that entangles me in its sticky threads, wrapping me tighter and tighter the harder I struggle. It’s like living in a coffin, buried under mounds and mounds and mounds of earth, unable to breath with no escape. I’m still in counseling, trying to remove those spider webs, those tentacles, those walls, those barriers, those boulders, that ocean, that dirt…one particle at a time. It’s tedious, heart-breaking work and progress is measured in miniscule increments. I am very slow. So far, I have managed to make it to work most days, though it is a huge challenge to do so. Some days, I’m actually fairly productive. I’m embarrassed by my lack of ability to overcome. I’m mortified at how difficult things are for me in comparison to others. I plod and barely trudge while others dance and run and jump and sing. I look at them and wonder why I can’t be like them. I wish for the magic pill that will set me free. And even as I doubt it will ever happen, I long for the miracle that will finally make me normal.