“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” ~T.H. WhiteThe Once and Future King

Depression is a sly disease. It hides out within for sometimes months and years at a time making a brief appearance every now and again (just enough to shake things up for the beholder), and then disappears as quickly as it appeared, making one question if it was ever there in the first place.

It’s a master of disguises, never appearing in the same form for too long, in an attempt to confuse and deceive those who experience it. Depression transforms itself into waves — of anger, sadness, sleepless nights, anxiety, lethargy and more. It holds you under for  small amounts of time leaving you choking and gasping for breath when you emerge. On days the seas of depression are calm, one struggles to stay afloat, treading the water’s surface, feeling it circle you like a school of sharks, brushing against the tips of your toes, giving forewarning that it can pull you under at a moments notice. And still, when it finally does manage to zap all your strength and pull you back under, it often hits you out of the blue, as if that small warning, that small nip at your big toe, never existed.

The worst trait of this sinister character is its ability to lie in wait for extremely long periods of time, awaiting the perfect moment to strike and throw you off balance. It’s sly and evil, and seems to know when you are most vulnerable. For those of us who have the ability and strength, we try to fight it, overpower it with sheer will. We deny it, we explain it away, and we make excuses. But in the end, the devastation it leaves in its wake, is too much for even the strongest of us to deny.

Some choose to deal with it alone, and those are the most severe cases. These people wander lost and helpless as if controlled by a higher power, and those who have experienced depression know who and what that higher power is. The lucky ones spend the rest of their lives in a fog, a gray haze of despair, unable to form any real connections, any true relationships. Others take matters into their own hands, and destroy themselves before the depression destroys them.

Those who choose to seek help may do so in the form of another, someone who can listen, and sort through the debris; someone who can teach them how to swim. But sometimes that isn’t enough! Some need the assistance of a life raft, a buoy or just a good old-fashioned bubble. The flotation devices come with names like Prozac, Celexa, Wellbutrin, Paxil, and Zoloft to name a few. But as anyone who has learned to swim, or watched a loved one learn to swim, those flotation devices can give one a false sense of security, and with it a false sense of confidence in their ability to swim. At these times, the sinking takes one totally by surprise, and the depression grasps hold of his or her ankles trying desperately to take them to the depths of that maudlin sea.

So what do we do? Give up and go home to curl up on our sofa, and disassociate from those around us for a while. Sometimes. Cry, sob, rant, yell and scream? That sometimes works, too.

But if you live on the edge of depression like me, those solutions are only temporary, and then the only choice you have is to pull yourself up, and learn from the situation. You talk to others, you blog, you research and you find out the best way for YOU to battle this beast. I’m still searching and I’m still learning everyday what makes this monster inside of me tick. Some days are more difficult than others for this former All-American swimmer to figure out how to keep her head above water and swim again.

Thankfully, I have family and friends who are willing to grab my hand and share their knowledge of the waters with me. They hold out their own life rafts and welcome me aboard, and I gladly except. Then I thank them for knowing all my faults and weaknesses, loving me through and through, and then pushing me to swim anyway.