Depression feels like having a really thick blanket wrapped around you that is sopping wet. It's so heavy that it's hard to get up in the morning, it's hard to go about your daily life so you just want to lie under it for a while and build up the strength to get up and use the bathroom when you have to. It's so thick that when people try to help with a hug or a kind word, it's muffled and muted by the blanket and you can't really feel or hear what they're saying, only perceive the gesture. It's wet and cold, so even if you go out into the sun or spend time with people who normally help alleviate the cold and bitter things in your life, it just starts to dry the outside of the blanket. You still shiver underneath.
But the worst part of depression is being aware of it. Imagine that blanket wrapped around you; imagine knowing it's there and deciding to take it off. You remove the weight, the thickness, the damp cold from around your shoulders, and head out into the warmth of day for a moment. You can feel the breeze around you and for a second feel like things can go back to whatever you have called normal in your head for so long. But without warning the sun darts behind a cloud for a moment, or the wind brings a chill, or you see a face across the room, and suddenly realize you're wrapped up tighter than before. You can lie to yourself and say that you've gotten rid of it as many times as you want, but in reality you're just fighting through it for a period of time, pretending it isn't there, going through motions to feel like you are free of it.
When people ask me why I came to the conclusion that I'm an alcoholic, I wish I could explain to them what I just described. I want to help them understand why I want to go out for beers at the end of the week and unwind with my friends, but I can't even go to the bar with them. Because I can't explain that a few shots of liquor make the blanket feel warm and insulating for a moment, and surely a few more will make it better yet. Soon, you're fifteen or twenty drinks in and get the ultimate reward of no feeling and no memory. Numbing the body is a way to make it forget the burden it's carrying; feeling numb by choice is at least better than feeling nothing because you can't.
I want to end this with an uplifting anecdote about how having depression lets you help other people move on through difficult times in their lives which will pass. I want to end it with some encouragement for people who feel like me so that they can know that they aren't alone and that this is that "normal life" I mentioned earlier for many people around them. I want to go on and describe how depression hits all the other facets in my life and corrupts my ability to be close with my family, to be content with my job, to sustain a loving relationship with a girlfriend. But I know I only get a minute to capture people's attention before this becomes an exercise in masturbatory self-wallowing.
So let me end with this, depression sucks. It sucks the life out of me and it can suck the life out of the people around me when it hits hard. I want to withdraw away from people, but know I shouldn't. I want to spend time with them, but can't do it without being a sad sack of self-pity. Depression is an every day reality, but when it hits hardest it's an every second reality. When people understand that, just being around them helps make it easier. They don't have to do anything special or say anything magical. I have a big gross heavy thick wet blanket wrapped around me. Let's not pretend it isn't there. I'm learning how to keep it dry right now, next year maybe I can learn how to make it weigh less, and maybe someday, I can learn how to take it off for good.