There are certain terms that are frequently used when talking about or describing depression. It's a darkness or a hole, an abyss or a void. You fall in and then sink to the bottom. You can hopefully climb out of it. It's a battle, a war, you fight it as if it's a person. It's demons or monsters, a mountain or a tunnel.
You may read these and think the words are cliché, and they probably are. You can hear them and swap them out nearly interchangeably, choose them from a master list, they are generic.
This is worrisome to me, I fear that they have lost their meaning because of their use, or overuse. We have rationalized these descriptions to the point that they no longer convey what they once did.
I was depressed long before I realized it, before I even knew what depression was. It's a set of feelings that encompassed my life, feelings I couldn't identify, feelings I struggle to recognize even to today. What do you do when you don't understand something, don't have the right words to try to explain it? I grasp for things that are similar, I make analogies, and these analogies work because they are universally understood. They give people who aren't experiencing depression the ability to try to understand how it feels, a glimpse in to a world that is different than the one in which they live.
They also help me make sense of my own experiences. If I can put something in to words, turn it in to a concept that is known, then maybe I can understand it, and maybe even change it.
These are the terms I use because this is how it feels, at least this is how it feels to me. These words are important. These descriptions matter, they are real and when people share them, try to step back and think beyond the words, think about what people are saying, and think about the actual feelings that are behind these words. Most importantly think about the people saying them, people who are desperately trying to make sense of things, trying to connect with others, and trying to find a purpose for each and every day.
Photo via Michael Chen CC Attribution 2.0