How do you feel?
When I’m feeling low, it’s really hard to answer the “How are you?” question. Most people, when they ask that question, are not looking for an actual answer. When the clerk at the grocery store asks me how I’m doing, she doesn’t exactly have the time to hear me list every single one of my problems. She’s paid to swipe my bag of Bolthouse carrots across the scanner—the “How are you?” is just polite. (Duh.) “How are you?” is simply the cultural acknowledgment of another’s existence. But when I’m depressed, being asked that question stings a little.
I don’t even know how to answer when a friend asks me that question. I could try to explain that I’m depressed. The friend will listen, of course, as good friends do. But how do you explain what depression feels like? It’s invisible, but it feels strangely tangible.
I think the most important thing is that we keep talking about it. Just because it’s difficult to articulate what depression feels like, it shouldn’t mean we should stop trying. The more we talk about it, the more understanding can spread.
In my book, I have a list of metaphors that I (hope) capture depression in the moment. In the following list, I’ve done something similar. I hope that as you read, you don’t grow discouraged but that you gain insight into the pain that many depressed people experience.
walking under water and
getting stuck in an elevator that has no floors at which to stop.
I am an empty, airtight Tupperware.
the clown smile, painted on with a whorish red, worn at every necessitated outing.
When I’m with them, I’m a con-artist.
I walk around and around in circles.
Time is too slow.
the comfortable blanket hung around the neck in 100-degree sun
and the rotting onion in the back of the cupboard.
(I meant to throw it out but didn’t.)
Decisions are heavy right now.
looking at a map in another language while
trying to get up the gravel road on a pair of skis.
The road signs are there, but the names have been crossed out.
Going downhill is much easier, but downhill, I’m told, is “not an option.”
the elliptical that’s broken—I can’t work out today.
It’s a paperweight pressing the head.
Going, going, gone!
I didn’t even raise my paddle.
-How do you feel?