How Depression Feels Like An Independent, Consuming Being Inside Me

by Caitlin Jill Anders

To the sadness inside of me, and everyone who has it inside of them, too, (and to everyone who wants to understand):

I don’t always like to admit that you’re there, but you are. Many people don’t understand you. They want to, and they claim to, but you’re not an easy concept. I’ve had you consume me, and I still don’t fully understand you. I will try to explain you though, to everyone — to myself and to you.

You're good at hiding sometimes. In some phases of my life, you would win the colored construction paper award for best hide and seek player ever. That's how long you've been around. Even when you were hiding, you were always there. I learned how to be sad before I learned how to ride a bike.

I've noticed that my feelings have always been more intense than everyone else's. Most fourth graders don't notice sadness on the playground, but I did.

I would stand alone, at the top of the play structures, and wonder if I was different. I watched the rest of my grade running around while I hung out alone. Sometimes, others would ask me to play, but four square scared me and I hated running. My imaginary friends didn't make me as sad.

Other kids could be rid of sadness with popsicles or stickers. My sadness though? Well, mine is still here.

Sometimes, you were a good companion. I didn't want to make you out to be the consistent bad guy. Sometimes, it's good to be sad. Some sadness reflects things that have happened and things we can't change. You weren't always overwhelming.

You still aren't, not always, anyway. You were present but mild. You made yourself known, but didn't try to run the show. I had other feelings that were stronger than you, like anxiety. Being sad didn't scare me like the monsters in my closet did.

Anxiety was the older brother overpowering the younger one. Sadness was there, like an old friend; sometimes we could just sit and be quiet and sad together, and that was okay. When we were done, I could leave you behind and you didn't try to chase after me. Everything was alright.

You got needy though, didn't you, sadness? There were times when you didn't overwhelm me, and then, there were times when you did.

Not everyone knows what it's like to be sad. Not landing an audition or failing a test isn't being sad, or it is, but it's temporary sadness. Temporary sadness comes around to keep you sane, to remind you to keep trying in this life.

It stays briefly, then moves on to remind the next person in need of a wake up call. The sadness I'm talking about doesn't go away. It doesn't go away. It doesn't go away. Let that sink in the way sadness does when it's preparing for a permanent stay.

Are you listening, sadness? I want you to know what you really are. You are annihilating.

When you're here, it’s just the two of us. Sadness and me, alone in a room. We don’t want company. I do, but sadness convinces me that we don’t need it. Us and the covers and the feeling of dread. That’s what we’ve got when sadness is in charge.

If you have a sadness inside, you know that there are some days when you just have to listen. Sadness takes your ability to choose. When you’re under the spell of your sadness, other people’s words sound garbled and far away because you know they won’t help.

Other people tell you that happiness is a choice. It’s true: Happiness is a choice, but sadness is not, and you can’t choose happiness if sadness chooses you.

Sometimes, this crippling sadness comes and goes. Sometimes, we are able to forget that it's even there at all. Then there are times, weeks, months or even years at a time, when it stays. It gets comfortable, it plants roots inside of you and it stays.

It stays.

Sadness inside, why are you here? I have a happy life. That's what people don't understand about you. The people you touch are happy; no one chose you.

I didn't make you up because my life was hard. This life can be hard, but it's still a happy one. This sadness isn't the opposite of happy. It's not because of anything. It's an isolated force. I'm allergic to pizza and jellybeans, but other than that, things are good.

My sadness isn't from not enough pizza, and that's what's so frustrating about you, sadness. I don't know where you came from, and I never know when you'll leave. Quite simply, my dear, you were not invited to this life.

When you can no longer see an end to something, it usually means one of two things: love or death. Both can come from sadness.

Sometimes people die because of you, sadness. They give up. I know, I know. I'm sorry about it, too. Don't cry sadness, I don't want to hurt you. I need you sometimes. Sadness can describe things happiness can’t, like leaving someone you love or having to move on from one of the best experiences of your life.

We need a little sadness in our lives, but not constant sadness. Not crippling sadness. We need sadness that keeps us sane, not sadness that drives us away from sanity. You hurt me sometimes, sadness, can't you see that? I want to go outside and play.

I don't want to sink too deep in too many feelings and not be able to smile at my friends while we're out together. I don't want to think you're gone and then have you tackle me into a bear hug while I'm at work. I told you, I do enjoy your company sometimes. But, only sometimes.

It's not always bad times with you. You've taught me, for example, to never take happiness for granted. You taught me to never run away from love and instead, to feel it hard, because beautiful feelings are precious. When you have sadness inside, you know to let everything else inside, too. After all, we cannot fight this sadness alone. None of us can.

Let me pause to remind you all of this: None of us have to brave sadness alone.

Sadness, I know you do not fully understand. You heard that people end their lives because of you and you said, “Wait, that’s awful, sit with me for a while?” And then, we were sad about it together, and you didn’t realize that this was the problem.

We cannot be sad about everything together. I know it's scary, but I need to be alive, too.

I got away from you for now, sadness, but not everyone has. You're not always here; you come in waves, but some people’s sadness is not as kind; some people's sadness is needier. Please, sadness, let them be. I know what it’s like to have you, but I don’t know how to help others get rid of you.

This letter is for sadness, and also for all of you. Sadness has a hold on you, and it's okay. It's not your fault, and we're here to help you through it. Smile back at sadness. Keep smiling and keep fighting.

This sadness is depression, and it's crippling. We have to understand.

Our sadnesses come and go throughout our lives. Some days, weeks, months, years and minutes are easier than others. Our battle with sadness is never over, but it’s easier to fight a foe with an army than by ourselves.

Sadness, be quiet for a moment. I need everyone to know that no one is alone. It’s never just sadness and you.