It’s been a while, but I’m back to posting Your Story entries again, starting with this one from Olivia Berrier over at Often Clueless, Always Shoeless. This is her take on the battle with depression and what it feels like to go through it.
Keeper of the Coins
I’ve spent a fair bit of time battling the depression monster.
It’s not an uncommon thing, but the very nature of it feels so isolating. Among all of the physical and emotional aches that come with depression, for me the worst one is the inability to communicate exactly how it feels.
I’ve tried. I’ve spent many hours with extremely patient friends throwing out metaphor after metaphor, as if I might somehow be cured if I could only find the right words.
I can’t say that writing about my depression cured me, but it definitely helped. I also don’t think that I ever found those perfect words, but I did find some words, and I’d like to share them.
I’d never say ‘this is what depression is,’ but this is what depression (or a small part of it) is to me. If this passage speaks to your particular struggle as well, then I hope having a metaphor will be armor for you like it was for me.
If this isn’t what your monster looks like, then I hope someday you’ll try to find some words of your own. Even if they aren’t perfect. An indirect light is infinitely brighter than total darkness.
My metaphor for the unpredictable daily fatigue of depression:
Every day she began with an energy allowance. The tiny silk purse was returned to her every morning, some days with few coins and some days with even fewer. But never more than that, and never as much as she wished she had to get through the day.
At first, she was guarded and sparing with her coins, trying to ration them out so she might not be completely broke by the day’s end. She only succeeded in this goal once or twice, and after that she decided it wasn’t worth the effort because the extra coin was never added to the next day’s purse. It was just lost forever, unspent.
Some activities cost more than others, and—as is always the way—the more expensive ones were the things she wanted most to do. Yes, she could exercise today, but only if she spent her entire purse on that one activity, and spend the rest of the day on the streets moaning and crying and waiting for the blessed daybreak when she would receive another allowance. And was it really worth it?
But at times, the alternative hardly seemed better. She could spread her coins out, choosing only low-cost activities so that she could buy enough to fill her day. She stayed off the dismal streets, but in the end that was her only accomplishment. The enjoyment from the cheaper activities was tepid, at best. And while tepidity was better than the cold, she longed for true, honest heat that only came from fulfilling usages of her time.
She tried using her money to make more, as biblical parables suggested would be prudent, but all of her investments failed her dismally. She would look at the empty purse at the end of the day, and lament that she had nothing to show for it, not even tepid memories of lackluster activities.
As she received her ration from the hooded, shadowy figure, she asked him what she might do to be worthy of a more substantial allowance. She asked in earnest, but the keeper of coins was either deaf, mute, or completely uninterested. He gave no reply, not even to her binary question of whether it was even possible to earn more coins.
Approaching the problem differently, she started keeping detailed notes on how much she received each day, and what activities she had done the day before. This act of recording cost her coins and gave her no happiness in return, but this was one investment that she felt sure would pay off in time.
One day, her purse was larger than usual, and she eagerly looked back through the book to see what her purchases on the previous day had been.
It had been an expensive item: talking on the phone with a friend. Ultimately, she had run out of coins early that day to balance the larger purchase of the morning, but maybe the coin keeper had liked that? Maybe it was waiting to see that she would spend her money on worthy activities, and when she did she would be rewarded.
Without hesitation, she spent her entire large allowance on the most expensive purchases she could think of; things she hadn’t dared to attempt even on her best days, but it would be worth it. For the rest of the day, as she shivered on the streets with an empty purse, she reminded herself that it would be even fuller tomorrow than it was today. Curling up on the frozen sidewalk, she let that thought be her blanket as she drifted off to sleep.
Then morning came, and she stood in line to offer her purse again, proud and shaky from yesterday’s activities. She held her hand out with a smile, ready to receive the weighty purse back, but when the keeper of coins dropped it into her hand, it was horrifyingly light. Peering inside, she saw the smallest ration she had ever been given. Even with the blandest of activities, she would still be spending half the day or more in the elements.
“I don’t understand,” she said, looking at the faceless hood. “You rewarded me last time. Why would you punish me now for doing the same thing?”
The keeper stood there, unmoving, calmly waiting for the next dawn when he would fulfill his duty yet again.
“Just tell me what I have to do!” she cried at him, tears stinging her eyes. “Tell me how I can earn more coins and I’ll do it. I’ll do anything! Just tell me!”
But he only held out one skeletal hand, palm open, beckoning with his fingers. She was crying. Crying came with a price, and it was an expensive activity. With ice in her stomach, she opened the purse and took out almost all of the coins and handed them over, and then she shuffled off to find one more tepid activity before she would be banished back into the cold.