What does depression feel like? I am learning about mindfulness and meditation, and I found an exercise that asks this question. I decided to try it. I slowed down, focused on my breath, and pictured myself in a vast room, all alone, with a lit candle at the center.
I ask into the room, “What does my depression feel like? What is it? What are you?”
In answer, I feel a presence come into the room from all sides, slowly, quietly crawling up walls that I hadn’t even known were there. It is like a film clinging to these walls, everywhere but nowhere. It is dark grey and gritty, slowly turning this room into something that feels like a dungeon. I reach out to touch one of the walls, but I pull back immediately. It feels wrong; my fingers are too sensitive to its touch. I am reminded of a problem I have in real life…an aversion to terracotta. I am repulsed by touching anything like terracotta. I hate touching flowerpots. I have a hard time holding chalk. It sends a shiver through my whole body. I have this strange fear that it will creeping under my fingernails. The feel of the walls in this dungeon image is similar. A creeping, cringing feeling. I pull my hand away. I sit back down and remind myself of the candle in the center. It is still there. I feel alone here, but on one level I know I am not. This candle represents my relationship with God, my relationship with other people, my relationship with my true self. My depression is a film that covers everything, but it is not me. I look up, and see that the walls are dark, far away…the candle’s light doesn’t quite reach them. I instinctively know that this is because the walls are not real. The film of depression makes its own wall…it’s a chimera: beyond it is not an impenetrable barrier, but rather an open field. A field filled with light, the same light that shines from this unquenchable candle. One day soon, I will see that field. One day soon, I will get up the nerve to poke through the flypaper mirage. One day soon, I will see that this dungeon isn’t real. But not today. Today I sit here in melancholy contentment. It’s okay. I’ve got my candle.