Anatomy of the Deep Well of Depression
Notice in the diagram the two individuals standing beside the well, holding on to what looks to be a rope extending to the bottom of the well. These individuals symbolize the resources available to help us in this disorder. These might be those closest to us, like family members or friends, or they could be peer support or health professionals. The rope the two individuals in the picture have gripped in hand symbolize them reaching out to us.
Now notice the opposite end of the rope at the bottom of the well, floating on the surface of the water. The rope is within reach of the person treading the dark water of despair.
The purpose of the rope of support
The rope is a support mechanism that serves two distinct purposes: Firstly, the rope the supporters in this disorder is holding is there for you to reach for, to help you escape the water and grip on to the first wrung on the ladder. Secondly, the rope serves as a safety line that is there to grasp onto whenever you feel you may be losing grip on that first wrung.
The effectiveness of the rope of support is conditional on a single choice: you either choose in your disorder to reach for the rope, or you choose to not reach for it. This choice is critical because I believe that until you make that proactive choice to reach for the rope, your journey toward healing in this disorder cannot begin.
The conscious act of reaching for the rope is symbolic of what I call the defibrillator moment in depression. It is that critical point in your disorder when you truly realize you are sick and that you need help. In the figurative sense, it is when the man in the water pulls his head out of the water of despair in a whiplash motion and reaches for the rope of support, holding on with all his strength. With the rope gripped tightly in hand, his supporters can help pull him out of the water and up to the first rung on the ladder of liberation.
The limitation of the rope of support
It is important to acknowledge in this figurative context, a very important limitation with respect to the rope of support: your supporters cannot pull you all the way up and out of the deep well of depression. In other words, they cannot do the work for you in terms of you healing in this disorder.
For those who have not lived with depression, this limiting condition can be a considerable cause of frustration for supporters. They cannot understand why this person won’t simply just hold on to the rope so they can pull him out of his depressed state, or in other words, why they won’t let them “fix” him. This lack of understanding speaks to a bigger challenge: society’s lack of understanding in respect to mental illness, to its stigma.
Part of the frustration that stems from this lack of understanding is due to the complexity of the disorder. In the figurative context, a person struggling with depressive symptoms is tired and weakened from mental oppression caused by the merciless strikes by the piranha of depression. He may listen to his supporters and try to grasp on to the rope from time to time, but he lacks the mental and physical strength to hold on long enough for his supporters to pull him to the surface. This means that to depend on his supporters to “fix” his mental state, the man in the figurative deep well of depression will let go of the rope and plunge back into the dark water of despair.
Speaking from my own experience healing in this disorder, the man in the figurative deep well of depression has to be responsible for his own mental health, and proactive in overcoming depressive symptoms.