Sometimes, I don’t know where it comes from. It pulls me down. It pulls me up. It pulls me to the left. It pulls me to the right. I’m dragged to the top of the water, where the sun throws a level of warmth halfway across a solar system to power the internal furnace at my molecular core. I’m dragged down to the deep, where the blue loses all light, and the tilted darkness looks like some wasteland from an 80’s horror flick. I have no control. Not a single shred of it. I want it. I want it like air to breathe. My lungs are full.
I might as well be a broken compass pointing in every direction. I might as well be a newborn butterfly trying out its wings. I’m powerless.
Recently, while trying to understand the unpredictability of my depression, I hit upon a metaphor for it that really resonated for me. Sometimes, when the sadness rears up like some dark wave at the center of a gale, writing and metaphor are the only thing keeping me afloat. Applying monsters, images, and similes to this living void hanging between my shoulders is the only way to breathe. I don’t even need to find an answer. Just looking. Just searching. Knowing that I’m at least trying to solve my problems is 90% of the cure. The journey is always the strongest antidote.
The metaphor that made a bunch of sense to me about the uncontrollable and irregular magnetism of depression was that of a hooked fish in water. Imagine yourself as something formidable. A Northern Pike or Muskie come to my mind. Here in Minnesota, these are the beastly predators stalking about our murk-water lakes. They’re streamlined and patterned like fighter jets, and have huge jaws with teeth hanging out like the orcs from Middle Earth. You’re cruising around looking for something to eat, the most primitive need you have besides the urge to reproduce.
You see a silver shred of a minnow dangling in the dark. You dash up to it, and bite down with those layered teeth, who line up like eager soldiers during a popular war. Something bites back into the flesh around your teeth. Suddenly, you’re being wrenched horizontally, diagonally, and vertically by some phantom force. You’ve lost control. The hook inside of your mouth pulls you wherever it wants. You’re no longer powering your mind according to your thoughts.
Getting hooked like a fish in water is no better metaphor for how uncontrollable depression can feel.
You think your safe. You think your going to be okay. You bite down into things in life. Love, family, your job, school, children, all of it. The hook is always there. In fact, you can never get rid of it. You can change how hard it pulls, or how far you’re willing to let it take you, but it’ll never be dislodged from your jaw. It might as well be an extra appendage. A third arm, eye, or leg.
However, the hook is not an anchor.
How do you not sink to the bottom of the lake knowing you’re marked for life by a treble hook? How do you not float to the surface and get filleted to pieces by society and its cruelties?
It’s simple, you acknowledge the hook.
Once you come to grips with this other power inside your reactor. Once you operate knowing that you’re always going to be a little out of control. Once you accept that you have more than one center of gravity.
You’re going to realize you’re actually blessed.
You’re lucky to have this black hole inside of you, because it’ll make you see things for what they truly are in this superficial world of ours. Life is full of bait to hide the hook. Sometimes you’ll miss it. There will be moments where depression pulls you when it shouldn’t. When my children were born I was overcome with depression because up to that point I realized I had never been myself, and I didn’t want them to grow up thinking they should hide their identity like me. It should’ve been the happiest day of my life, and it was in many ways, but there was also the hook. This is the nature of the force.
This is depression.
When you can only see the sadness for its abnormalities and not its blessings. When you relate more to the cosmic whirlwind of a vacuous void eating stars and munching light. Remember, you’re hooked, but you’re not caught.