Shape-shifter (n.): one that seems able to change form or identity at will.
Depression is not a tangible being that can be outlined by a set definition; it manifests itself in many different ways, for different people, at different times. Sometimes it presents itself externally, sometimes internally. Sometimes it’s something enticing, sometimes it’s threatening and terrifying. It is an expert shape-shifter; it knows your desires and your fears, therefore is able to draw you in by creating a mirage of your deepest yearnings. Once it has you, it manifests into the demons that haunt you, scaring you to death. This is how it retains its grip. This is how it wins. Although I cannot speak for others, these are some of the forms that Depression has taken in my life-long battle with it.
Depression is the flood of water that comes gushing toward you, while you are standing in a narrow corridor, with your back against the wall and nowhere to run. It is the water filling up your lungs as you try to swim, making it harder to breathe. You start to panic as the water rises above you, knowing that there is nowhere to go; you are stuck. You are drowning.
Depression is the line of gasoline that leads straight to you as someone lights the flame. You see the match falling in slow motion; knowing that the fire will inevitably reach you, but you are rooted to the spot. You watch the flames approach; you feel the blazing heat on your face. You feel the fire burning your skin and it hurts, but you cannot move. You know that it is only a matter of time until the flames engulf you, leaving nothing behind except ashes on the ground.
Depression is the dirty mistress. Your partner knows about her, but knows that you will never leave her. They have to deal with having a third party in your relationship, no matter how much they try to show you that you don’t need her. They will love you until it hurts, thinking that if they loved you enough, you would leave Depression for good. Depression is the desert that is between you and your lover when you lay your head down at night. Your lover will reach for you, but you will be too far away. It will prevent anyone from getting close to you, because this desert is impassable. You are an island that no one will be able to get to.
Depression is the monster hiding under your bed. You can hear it breathing when you close your eyes, trying to fall asleep. Even though you cannot see it, you know that it’s there. It’s lying in wait, to grab you at any moment. You pull the covers over your head and try to pretend you’re invisible, just like you did when you were a child, thinking that it will eventually give up. It doesn’t work; it never does. Depression is the collection of skeletons in your closet that keep falling out. They wake you up with a loud crash at two in the morning. You get out of bed and pick them up, stuffing them back into the closet, knowing that the closet is just too small to hold them. Using all of your weight, you close the door, acknowledging that they will eventually fall out once again.
Depression is a screaming child. It wants what it wants when it wants it. If you don’t give it your full attention, it will start screaming until you do. You cannot focus on anything else; you cannot have a moment’s peace. It disguises itself as the critical mother, pointing out all of your flaws and telling you that you aren’t good enough. You’re a disappointment and a failure. You listen to her and realize that you will never be good enough, no matter how hard you try. It can act as the clueless father who tells you that “other people have it worse, so suck it up”. You start to feel guilty because you know he is right, and your feelings are instantly invalidated.
Depression can be a million needles piercing your skin at once. Your body is rigid and you’re paralyzed. You start to bleed and no one notices. You are bleeding from every part on your body but no one can see it. You need help, you need a bandage, but you cannot speak. Depression is the duct tape over your mouth, as you scream for help. No one can hear you. You scream until your voice is hoarse, but it’s no good – they can’t hear you. Depression is the blindfold over your eyes that disables you from being able to see things clearly, from being able to see anything at all. All you can see is blackness. There is nothing ahead of you; no hope, no future, just darkness.
Depression is the weight sitting on your chest, making it difficult to breathe. Your breathing becomes shallow as you can feel your ribs breaking one by one. It is the ankle weights that you wear every day, causing your footsteps to be heavy, making it difficult for you to move. You try to run, but they weigh you down, until you eventually collapse from exhaustion. Even walking is something grueling and taxing. Every day routines become fatiguing.
Depression is a hand clenched around your throat, choking you, after feeling the light touch of another human being. Depression is a jealous girlfriend; she does not want you to have any contact with someone else. She wants you all to herself and will stop at nothing to make that happen. Depression can be the abusive husband that hits you and uses verbal and emotional abuse to degrade you, to make you feel like dirt beneath his feet. Then, he turns around and tells you that he only does this because of YOUR actions. If you would just learn to be good, to be worth something, he wouldn’t have to hurt you. After all, he loves you. He’s the only one that does.
Depression is the assortment of black rose petals slowly falling from a bush, as you watch from the window. You can’t understand how something that was once so beautiful, is crumbling right before your eyes and changing into something ugly, something dreadful. Depression can be the curtains being ripped closed, so that no light can seep in. You can no longer see the world, even from your window, and you are left inside an empty, dark room.
Depression is a bully that picks on you for no reason; a bully that is miserable and wants you to be just as, if not more, miserable than he. He will hit you, embarrass you, and take things from you. You are at his mercy because he is twice your size and no one will step in to help you. Depression is the bartender pouring you another drink. “Just one more” he says, enabling your habit. Depression is your security blanket, the one you have had since you were young. You know you have grown out of it, you know that it isn’t good for you, but it makes you feel comfortable. It is the only thing you have ever known, and even though it is debilitating, it is all you have.
Depression is the group of vultures that circle above, smelling the death that is inside of you. They are eagerly waiting for you to finally collapse so that they can swoop down and devour you. It is the black rain cloud that follows you around wherever you go, even when you can see the bright skies and sun above everyone else but you. It is the Grim Reaper that is hovering behind you, following you throughout your day; the dismal reminder that death is right around the corner. You know your soul is dying. You can feel it slipping away. You are slipping away.
It’s an external being, one that is hell bent on destroying you. It’s a shapeless monster that hides in the deepest caves, in the darkest of corners. You decide to meet its eyes and to finally confront it, but when you look up, all you see is yourself staring right back at you. Your eyes open wide in horror, as the mirror image’s mouth forms a smile. The realization hits: the monster has been you the entire time.