What Does Depression Feel Like?


“But what we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.” – George Eliot

Story Break

This title is a misnomer.  I cannot describe how depression feels.  I can only describe what it looks like.

There is a lint ball, under our hallway chest, the one my husband brought into the marriage, where we keep wrapping paper and orphan buttons, right next to where the lamp is plugged in. It moves slightly from some minuscule breeze, a current I cannot feel.  There’s a hair in it, long, mine.  it moves back under the chest and behind the leg.  And then out again.  Like a dancer.

It’s quite active, this lint ball.

Why do I know this? 

I see it.

I’m lying on the floor. 

On our 2nd floor landing at the top of the stairs.  My head is pressed against the wood, my body might be on the carpet. I didn’t plan to be here, I just got overwhelmed in sadness and this is where I came.  

I have depression.

The floor is a comfort. I come here to cry. To grieve for nothing and everything. Images flash through my head. Images of sadness, other people crying, people I’ve lost, emotions without names.

Then words come, phrases. I don’t see them, I hear them.  I can’t do this, why am I alone, I don’t have any one to talk to, I cannot do this anymore. I cry them outloud, too. It’s unclear what is in my head and outside of it.

And then, there are moments of joy.  Being free. Not being this person or in this body.

And then I think of my husband. His face. His voice.

The tears stop. Just stop. Like a faucet that’s been turned off.

But I’m not ready to get up.  I want to lay here, forever. There is no time, no anxiety, not rush.

I seek floor, or corners, when I am depressed.  There is something about the heavy smoothness of our floors that pull me to them.  They have gravitas.  We have area rugs so sometimes I’ll go on one and curl up.  It feels safe, like an island. 

And corners, I love corners. I need to be held, and since there is no one around, I wrap the walls around me.  These places make me feel safe, protected.

My mom tells me to stay out of the corners. To come and stay in the center of the room where I can feel love. Real love

This round, however, I’m on the floor. Flat out, beaten. I’m not looking at anything in particular, and not feeling anything.  Just deliriously exhausted, like I’ve been up for days.  This is the state I will stay in, empty, just not caring.  Days, weeks. I usually drop out of sight, withdraw from my own world and others’. I can’t take care of myself, I do the bare minimal. 

It’s ok, I’m not hungry anyway.
It could last a day, a few days, or weeks.  I’m completely useless, not thinking, not feeling, just breathing and sleeping. But every once in a while I’ll start to feel again, and it quickly overwhelms me, and then I’ll seek out the floor. Or a corner. It is so hard, so damn hard to stay in the center of the room. To be loved. I try, but sometimes I just can’t do it.

This is the cycle I’m in and where I was a few moments ago.  And then the lint caught my eye.  I watched it all afternoon. There is no time right now. Just day, and not day.

The way it keeps moving when I cannot.  It seems to have a life force. How does it do that? Why can’t I do that?

I don’t know. Many things I don’t know.  What does depression feel like? That I know.

I just can’t easily describe it. I also know this isn’t my fault.  There are imbalances in my brain that overwhelm me with stimulants and what not. Powerful, powerful stuff.  It is not rational, I can’t think my way out of it. I’d like more than anything not to be crippled by this.  But I am.  I do something about it, treat it, but sometimes it’s not enough.

Which brings me to the floor.…pondering what could be my life force. Do I have one?  Well, I’m still here, so yes…but I don’t feel like I have one. Right now my life force feels a bit deflated. Like it’s napping, or taking a holiday.

So I just lay there, empty of tears, empty of everything. Waiting.



Then, I don’t know how long—a minute, an eternity— I felt a warmth, like when you think of a person you want to see smiling at you.  The warmth turned into an urge, a warm urge. I felt compelled to write this down and share with people, make it ok to talk about this stuff.  Just like that.
So I did.  I wrote it down and am here, posting. Because it is ok to talk about this stuff, it’s imperative, in fact.

That compulsion didn’t get me over depression, it didn’t solve it.  It will come back, perhaps in a few hours, perhaps tomorrow.

But it made me care about something. That got me off the floor.

What does depression feel like? Today, it feels no longer.



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