Depression Is Not Like Bora Bora

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P_Megan

I used to think depression looked a lot like being marooned on an island.

At first, it’s devastating. You’re overwhelmed by the new surroundings, and terrified you’ll never, ever be able to leave. But each day, you take a small step towards learning to survive. You adapt, you get stronger, you sip some coconut juice. Eventually, you build an impressive raft to sail yourself back to the mainland. You’re greeted with great fanfare, and everyone comments on your glowing skin and inner zen. You have no desire to return to the island, but you look back on it as the place where you grew in to a better person.

Now that I have the benefit of experience, I can confidently say that my prior assessment of depression was a bunch of crap.

Depression is not at all like being stranded on Bora Bora with a killer self-help book.

If anything, depression is like an escape room. 

Escape rooms are all the rage right now. Participants pay to be “trapped” in a themed room of some kind—like Tomb or Zombie Fever. The unifying factor being that they are all very dark and very creepy. You have a certain amount of time to escape by solving interactive puzzles and discovering clues. If you’re unable to find a way out in the given time frame, you “die.”

People do this for fun.

It’s safe to say I will never take part in a pretend escape room scenario, because I’ve spent the past eight months in a real one.

After my gorgeous second son was born, I was gifted with darling onesies, shepherd’s pie, and postpartum depression. It felt as though I had been knocked unconscious, smuggled into an escape room, and left there. Door locked, key thrown away. Just me. Alone.

My initial reaction was utter confusion. How did I get here? And how in the world was I supposed to leave? The fear closed in as rapidly as the walls appeared while I blindly searched for a way out. There wasn’t one. I banged on walls. I thrashed about. Nothing.

So I lived there. In that terrifying room. Curled up and isolated. Delirious with exhaustion and weak with emotions I couldn’t put words to. There was not a drop of energy available for a plucky can-do attitude or an intelligent escape plan. I thought this was my new normal.

Although my room felt abandoned, it actually held two items, which I’m embarrassed to say took months for me to discover. The first thing I found was a mirror. The mirror was essential. Because I had to look at myself. I needed to take in the woman I had become. The woman who was sobbing on a dime. The woman who was yelling in frustration at her toddler. The woman who took every opportunity to ball up under the covers and shut herself away from her people.

I needed to look and her and not know her. I needed to admit she was not ok.

The second item was coated in a thick layer of dust by the time I got the guts up to approach it. A phone.

The phone meant I had to tell someone. I had to ask for help. I had to say the words. It meant I couldn’t escape on my own.

I ignored that part of the escape plan for a long time.

When I finally picked it up, I didn’t have any of the right words. But I was able to say the word. The only word that mattered. The D word. It was awful, the first time I said that word. It meant giving up all my well-honed pat answers:

“I’m just having a hard time. We all go through rough patches sometimes, right?”

“The jump to two kids has just been a little more overwhelming than I thought it would be.”

“I just need to get more sleep.”

Just, just, just.

Lies, lies, lies.

I had to release all my tidy little lies. It was the only way to make room for the truth.

I hate to say it, but I haven’t busted out of my room yet. This escape plan is still in progress. I really, REALLY didn’t want to write about depression while I was still in it. I wanted to write about it as someone thoughtfully looking back on a tough season, not someone in the thick, clumsily plodding through the trenches. But I have a feeling that maybe I’m not the only one in this trench. Maybe when you’re in a trench, you need to hear from someone who’s in it right this very moment. Not from someone who was in it ten years ago, and has since written an inspiring devotional.

So have I made it out of my escape room? No. But the darkness doesn’t scare me nearly as much as it used to. And though I’m messing up constantly, I’m learning to lean on others for support. I’ll have an amazing day where I think, “I’m fully healed. Hurray, Jesus!” And then I’ll have the worst day ever. One step forward, three steps back.

As I’ve been writing this, pouring all my mess onto the page, I think I’ve stumbled upon the door. My door. My way out. My fingers wrap around the cool steel of the doorknob. The most glorious beam of light is streaming through the crack, like it can’t wait to envelop me.

“Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot tolerate having words wrapped around it.” —Brené Brown

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Image credit: Derek Hatfield

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Megan Gahan
After over a decade in the fitness industry, Megan now spends her days chasing two pint-sized tornadoes disguised as little boys. By night, she is a writer and editor for SheLoves. A proper Canadian, Megan can often be found in the woods or at Tim Hortons. She writes at megangahan.com.
Megan Gahan
Megan Gahan

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