Depression is like a dark closet that traps us inside a cramped universe where there’s no light, no door, no way out.
I woke up on Wednesday and the pit of sadness in the center of my stomach pushed me down into my bed like a malicious anchor. I couldn’t move.
After over an hour, I made it from the bed to my couch, but there, with my computer in my lap, I couldn’t read my email. I couldn’t focus. And, still weighed down, I couldn’t get up.
I kept trying to work on my computer but my brain buckled under the pressure. The depressive voice inside my head, relentless, told me: You are too sad. You’re too tired. You’re not capable.
I spoke with my doctor. I was crying. She told me: it’s time to take the day off. No more looking at the computer. I felt guilty about my incapacity to do work, but thankfully, I do have a job and a boss that make calling in sick no huge problem.
I stayed on my couch, and instead of trying to escape the darkness of my depression, I just sat with it. When we accept what’s happening to us instead of resisting it, the battle gets easier. I picked up a knitting project. I used a new app that’s been helping me called Pacifica to share how I was feeling with the community and do some guided deep breathing. I watched a few episodes of Seinfeld.
That night, I was supposed to have dinner with a good friend, but I texted him to say that I was sorry that I couldn’t leave my apartment. He was kind enough to tell me that he would travel an hour from Brooklyn to me.
I stayed on my couch. I continued to cry, on and off. I watched more Seinfeld. There was a yoga class at my gym I wanted to go to, but I was too upset. It wasn’t a possibility. I let it go.
My friend arrived around 7. Together, we sat on my couch and talked openly about both of our experiences with anxiety, fear. We talked about my depression and we ordered Thai food. Having him there, this smart and empathetic friend, made me feel connected. Talking about my own depression somehow disempowered its hold on me. Instead of the fear and self-doubt ruling over me, I was taking over the narrative.
I was still inside that dark closet, yes, but instead of just living inside it as a victim, I could describe my version of its narrow walls, the suffocating stench, the locked door.
We finished eating and my friend said: “Do you want to take a walk around the block? So you have a chance to get outside? We could do it together.”
I wouldn’t have thought of such a thing. But he was right—I hadn’t been outside all day.
I told him: Yes.
I put on my boots. I found my jacket. And we left the apartment. It was chilly outside, but not too cold. We walked, together, north one block, then west, then east, back toward my apartment.
I came upstairs and I had a feeling of elation, as if I’d just completed a marathon. This may seem ridiculous, but that very short walk was my leaving the dark closet.
I couldn’t have done it by myself.
But sometimes, there’s a friend who is able to open the door and lead us towards the light.