"I can't describe what depression feels like. But I can tell you what it looks like."

I cannot describe what it feels like. But I can tell you what it looks like.

There is a lint ball, under our hallway chest, right next to where the lamp is plugged into the wall. It moves slightly from a miniscule breeze I cannot feel.  It has a hair in it, long, mine.  Hmm, now it moves back under the chest and behind the leg.  And then out again.  It’s very active, this lint ball.

Why do I know this? Because I’m lying on the floor. On our 2nd floor landing at the top of the stairs.  My head is pressed against the wood floor, my body might be on the carpet, not sure. I didn’t plan to lie here, I just got overwhelmed in sadness and this is where I came.

depression feelings
"I’m completely useless, not thinking, not feeling, just breathing and sleeping." Image via iStock.

To cry. To grieve for nothing and everything. At first images that flash through my head. Images of sadness, other people crying, faces of people I’ve lost.

Then words come, phrases. I don't see them, I hear them in my head.  Things like “I can’t do this, why am I alone, I don’t have any one to talk to, I cannot do this anymore.”  That kind of thing. I cry them out loud, too.

And then, there are moments of joy. Being free. Not being this person or in this body. And then I think of my husband and how closely I’m connected to him.

Then the tears stop. Just like that, stop.  But I’m not ready to get up.  I want to lay here, forever.  I normally choose the floor, or corners, to go into when I am depressed.  There is something about the heavy smoothness of our floors that pull me to them.   They have gravitas.  We have area rugs so sometimes I’ll go on one and curl up.  It feels safe, like an island on the floor.  And corners, well, I need to be held, and since there is no one around, the walls against me will do.  These places make me feel safe, protected.

Now I’m lying here, on this floor, I’m not looking at anything in particular, and not feeling anything. Just deliriously exhausted, like I’ve been up for days.  This is the state I will stay in, empty, just not caring. Days, weeks. I usually drop out of sight, don’t return emails, or see people. I crave alcohol (but don’t have it because that makes it worse).  Mostly, I can’t take care of myself, I do the bare minimal. I will exist on croutons and salad dressing because I cannot leave the house.  It’s OK, I’m not hungry.


It could last a day, a few days, or weeks.  I’m completely useless, not thinking, not feeling, just breathing and sleeping. But every once in a while I’ll start to feel again, and it quickly overwhelms me, and then I’ll seek out the floor.  Or a corner.

depression feelings
"I just got overwhelmed in sadness and this is where I came." Image via iStock.

This is the cycle I'm in and where I was a few moments ago. And then the lint caught my eye. The way it keeps moving when I cannot. It seems to have a life force. How does it do that? Why can’t I do that?


I don’t know. Many things I don’t know.

I do know, however, that this isn’t my fault. There are chemical imbalances in my brain that overwhelm me with stimulants and what not. Powerful, powerful stuff. It is not rational, I can’t *think* my way out of it. I’d like more than anything not to be crippled by this. But I am. I do something about it, treat it, but sometimes it’s not enough.

Which brings me to the floor...pondering what could be my life force. Do I even have one? Well, I’m still here, so yes...but I don't feel like I have one.

So I just lay there, empty of tears, empty of everything.

The Grief Episode on The Well. Post continues...

Then, I don’t know how long—a minute, an eternity— I felt a warmth, like when you think of a person you want to see smiling at you. The warmth turned into an urge, a happy urge. I felt compelled to write this down and share with people, make it OK to talk about this stuff.

So I did. I wrote it down and am here, posting. Because it is OK to talk about this stuff.

That compulsion didn’t get me over depression, it didn’t solve it. It will come back, perhaps in a few hours, perhaps tomorrow.

But it made me care about something, and that got me off the floor.

This post originally appeared on Quora and was republished here with full permission.