falling into darkness: what depression feels like

I was miles away from home, my email, all the lists of To Do’s for the upcoming school year.  I was sitting on a beach under a lovely shade tree. There was just the right amount of breeze to keep us from sweating, but not to keep us out of the lake.  Both boys were happily splashing and digging holes with their daddy.

I was on a towel with my Diet Coke and a book I was ignoring.

And I could feel my head slipping. My world was starting to do that thing when you throw water on a painted canvas. The picture that was once realistic and lovely starts to look like it’s melting and distorting.

Everything started running together.

It came out of nowhere.

I mean, I knew I had been stressed out with thinking about school starting, taking on an adjunct position at the local community college last minute, and all the loose ends I had to tie up with social media campaigns and freelancing before I headed back to work full time. I knew that going on this vacation a week before all the madness started up was cutting it a little close.

But I also knew I was very much looking forward to it.

Cortney and I had been saying to each other repeatedly for a couple weeks, “Soon we will be on a break with no internet or lists. Soon it will be just family and fun.”

We arrived two days before. I didn’t feel the usual release of stress that happens after getting the car unloaded, grabbing a beer, and plopping down in a bag chair.  But I chalked that up to having one more mobile kid this year, having a LOT on my mind, and needing a night to just chill out.

I’m not sure what happened between arriving and sitting on that towel on the beach.

I wish I could pinpoint these things because then maybe I wouldn’t find myself in a delightful situation getting slammed in the face with the load of bricks that is depression.

My reality went wonky.

I didn’t want to do any of the fun things people suggested, but I did want to cry.

I didn’t want to be around anyone, but we were on vacation with my parents and both brothers and their families.

I started finding fault with everyone and everything they said and did.  The more I tried to just hurry up and get over it and “be happy,” the worse it got.

I tried to be positive and it made me more negative.

I tried to see that they were just jokes and humor people were using, but I ended up taking offense even quicker.

I tried to tell myself all the questions were because my family was interested in me and wanted to make conversation, but I couldn’t help feel like I was being judged and eye-rolled.

I tried to “get over it” or “not worry about it” as was suggested when I would mention my stresses, but instead I felt unheard and more anxious.

Within 48 hours of being home (which included some good sleep), I was pretty much passed it.

My falls into the depression pits aren’t as far of a fall or as frequent as they used to be before I started managing them with therapy, diet, exercise, and meds, but they are still disconcerting and exhausting when they do happen.

No matter how long I live with depression, I never see it coming. Sometimes I will have all the triggers, but the depression never shows up.  Sometimes I will have one tiny trigger and BOOM! Like a sack of bricks to the face.

But every time it starts to push me, it feels the same way and it starts with the feeling of falling and of my whole world melting and distorting.

I have copy of the Salvador Dali painting The Persistence of Memory in my classroom. Since I frequently lack words to describe what my brain does when depression hits, I think of this painting. It’s like my life slows down–but not in a good way. In the way that things start to bleed together out of slow motion in dreams. Images melt and droop. I become an almost unrecognizable lump of a grey creature in the middle of it all.  I can see myself from the outside, but I can’t help myself.

If I don’t allow myself to vanish…if I keep awake and don’t melt away…I come out of it.

At least I have every time so far.

And on the other side is always this:

2013-08-30 08.02.39And I promise myself that I will always fight to stay.


Do you have a story?  Natalie from Mommy of a Monster and I are sharing our stories. She is talking about crawling out of the pit of depression while I told what it’s like to fall into it. If you want to share with us, please join the link up below and let’s all support each other.


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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. I’m so glad we are sharing this my friend. I never can tell it’s coming until it’s upon me and too late. But I describe it as the energy seeping out of me like a leak in an old tire. Not the prettiest picture, but accurate.

    Love you.

    • I’ve always felt it was like being in a deep, very dark hole. Which, even though it is horrid and scary to be in, it is also familiar, so sometimes we are tempted to just stay there because it seems way too much hard work to fight our way out of it…. make any sense…?

  2. thanks for sharing Katie. For me, an outsider looking in, it’s hard to know what to say or how to comfort. I’m one of those people who would probably suggest “come on, let’s go do something fun.” but I know that isn’t always helpful. The painting is a good way to help me understand. xo.

  3. I am so glad you don’t let yourself melt away, that you see what is on the other side. How wonderful that you are sharing what this feels like for you; I really think that it will be so helpful – both for those who experience it, and those that want to help and support them.

  4. The falling is so hard. For me it is like falling into a pit, or being inside a tube, where I can see and hear everything, but I can’t feel anything. And I hate it so much when people say, “just be happy. You have so much to be happy about.” Yeah. I get that. And I wish it were that easy. I’m so glad the tide turned quickly for you this time.

    • I am SO the same. It is so easy for others to say ‘Your life is perfect, just do it”. Yeah yeah, sounds SO damn easy… I wish

  5. I have literally been in a mild *but soul sucking* depression since last summer. I come out of it briefly and feel Okay, feel Good, feel alive and then I’m right back in a place where I hate myself and can nothing good about my life, I haven’t felt worthwhile in a really long time.

    I am glad that you and Natalie are doing this, maybe it will give me the courage to write about how I’ve been feeling.

    I am just so glad that you are in the world and willing to share your stories with us. I feel so lucky to know you.

  6. Thank you for sharing. I hope that this helps others understand what’s happening when their loved one acts in a way that is confusing. I hope that they realize that it takes more than a “snap out of it” to get life moving again. Love to you.

  7. I think it is so important to be open about it. I’m glad you came out of it. I’m sorry that your break wasn’t a real break for you.

  8. It’s so good that you’re able to admit this out loud- so many people are shamed by feeling like they SHOULD just “get over it.” Which is totally not a thing.

    Middle Of The Night Panic Attack Girl

  9. Mine always feels like drowning. I’ll be treading water and then I feel like I can’t stay above it. And I never see it coming. But I too keep fighting to stay, to swim back up to my family. It’s so hard though. I have some old posts where I talked about this that I might dig up to link up.

  10. So glad you and Natalie teamed up for this. Not glad that you feel your family doesn’t understand. I can’t imagine. I’ve never dealt with depression like this, and it’s important we all try to understand what our loved ones are going through.

    Also this line: “And I promise myself that I will always fight to stay.” Perfect.

  11. I wrote about depression in my memoir so I won’t rewrite the story, but you described it well. I’ve been on medication for 20 years now (!) and it’s mostly managed, but there are the days or weeks or (occasional) months slumps that I fall into.

  12. Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what it feels like. And that feeling of seeing yourself, knowing that you’re not reacting appropriately but can’t do anything about it? Awful.

  13. Yep. I know that feeling. Been there, but am so grateful that I’m better at catching it before I really fall. And so glad you are too. xx

  14. Katie, thank you for writing this, for sharing your experience. You give depression a timely and needed voice. Love you. xo

  15. I wish I could write better thank goodness for people like you who can describe it so well. Especially the part it smacking you in the face like a bag of bricks. I always feel like saying to my brain “well that was rude I was just doing my thing and now I am all a flutter” You know that saying before you speak think is it T the truth H is it helpful I inspiring N necessary K Kind. Sometimes I have to say after I Think let’s RE THINK am I being truthful, kind etc to myself.

  16. Oh friend…
    It never needs a reason.
    It’s an asshole like that.
    The fact that you can feel and recognize that distinct shift so you can act upon it, is awesome. It really is. And you know what you need to do.
    does it make it suck less that it even happened?
    Hell no.
    But like you said, you always get out of it and that’s what you need to remember. xoxo


  1. […] it, and thought it would be interesting to share both ends of the pendulum; Katie is talking about falling into a depression and I’m sharing what it feels like to come out of a depression. Talking about this still […]

  2. […] I read them my post about depression. […]