This is story is a metaphor for how my depression has felt over the last few years. I explained it to my psychologist, and she said it helped her understand how I had been feeling. Maybe it will help you understand how you are feeling? I hope so.
My son is 3.5 and we watch movies together (it’s better than endless hours of Paw Patrol, I promise!) Over Christmas, we watched Smallfoot a few times, and really enjoyed it. It’s a story about a community of yetis who live at the top of a mountain (there’s obviously more to it, but I’m not going to get into it here). Their leader is called the Stone Keeper, because he keeps all of their laws written on small stones hung on a robe that he wears.
Now, when I rather spectacularly fell apart a few weeks ago, I kept thinking about the Stone Keeper’s robe. Because, you see, that’s how I felt. Let me explain.
Each stone on the robe represented something I had gone through. Each stone was small, and not too difficult to carry. Of course, they weighed more when I was younger, but as I got older they weren’t so bad. But each experience that caused me stress, anxiety or trauma was added to a stone and added to the robe. Each stone wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t deal with it.
But each stone of experience or trauma added weight to the robe I carried every single day.
In my experience, you don’t notice these gradual additions. You square your shoulders and you carry the robe of stones. Each small stone added does make it heavier, but it’s in such small increments that you don’t really feel it happening.
Over time, though, you feel heavier and heavier.
Over time, you start to feel like getting up is harder and harder. Getting simple things done, like folding laundry, tidying the house, doing small admin tasks — each one becomes something more than you can manage. Seeing people becomes almost impossible: what if they tell you something and expect you to help them carry their stone?! Adding someone else’s stone to your impossibly heavy robe is just too much to bear. So you retreat, hiding out at home, just getting by with the bear minimum of activities.
Then came the day the stones got too much.
The final stone for me was the biggest: the weight of my insomnia crashing down around me. And suddenly I realised that I’m not a 12-foot yeti, and carrying a robe of stones wasn’t actually possible. That robe was going to tumble me from the mountaintop and make my life impossible.
That’s how depression has felt for me. Like a robe full of the stones of my experiences, trauma, stress, anxiety that dragged on my body and mine every day, slowing me down and preventing me from living my life.
Therapy, my new antidepressants, and (thank goodness!!) some sleeping medication that doesn’t make me feel concussed, are helping me to lift the stones. More importantly, I need to address each one, see if it still serves me, throwing it off if it doesn’t. Let’s be real, although I carry a ton of these stones around, most of them are from so long ago, there’s no need to hold onto them anymore. But I didn’t know they were there, so I couldn’t get rid of them.
What I hope it that this metaphor, this analogy will help someone who is feeling the way I felt. But it’s also helped me become aware of the stones that have weighed on my everyday experience. Helped me to understand how it is the weight of these stones that makes my brain function the way that it does.
It’s tempting, when you are diagnosed with depression, to make it who you are.
But this analogy helps me to see that it is not my depression that is me. It is the weight of the stones I carry that is my depression. And if I can deal with them, if I can shuck off the weight of the robe (maybe keeping a few of the manageable and important ones) I might be able to regain my peace of mind.
I hope so.
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