The Benefits of Treading Water

I’ve written a little before about depression metaphors. Once I hear one that feels right, I tend to stick to a metaphor as if it were true. They’re not true, and I think it’s really important to shop around.

The cliff metaphor seemed appropriate when I was first diagnosed. It captures that idea that you can face a lot of difficulty and still be ok, you can still be on top of the mountain, plodding along. And then something terrible happens in your life or in your brain and suddenly it feels like you’ve fallen. You can no longer even struggle, or you can but it won’t do any good. You’re over the cliff and it feels impossible to help yourself.

Nowadays my favorite metaphor for what I’m dealing with is treading water. It’s constant, it’s difficult, it’s exhausting. Continuing to tread doesn’t feel like it’s making me stronger. It’s just wearing me down.

In those rare moments when I realize that I’m more comfortable than usual, I imagine that the floor has risen, that I’m standing for a bit. I can rest.

The metaphor helps me to recognize those moments and to try to stay in them, to take note of them and try to make them happen again. If I were at the bottom of a cliff I’d be telling myself, Yeah, you might be a little better now, but you are still categorically at the bottom of a fucking cliff!

For me, treading water is less all-or-nothing, and it encourages me to rest whenever I find that I can.

What metaphors do you love or hate? Click the title of this post to comment below, or email me at depressionwhoneedsit@gmail.com. Thanks!

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