Written by Media Responses, Writing

Depression is a Dead Fish


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These are the best posts about depression I’ve read yet. I stumbled upon Hyberbole and a Half by Allie Brosh whilst googling depression (such fun!) but you’ll likely recognize her hilariously crude drawings from the depths of the interwebs. From my search, I found her posts, Adventures in Depression and Depression Part Two.

Brosh applies her trademark cartoons to write about depression with the qualities I admire most – honesty and humor. What I think is particularly remarkable about her posts are her accessible metaphors. She breaks through the muddle that is depression and she says everything I didn’t know I wanted said until I read it. For instance, she likens depression to a child who has lost interest in their toys.

“I remember being endlessly entertained by the adventures of my toys…but as I grew older it became harder and harder to access that expansive imaginary space that made my toys fun… I could no longer connect to my toys in a way that allowed me to participate in the experience. Depression feels almost exactly like that, except about everything.”

EXACTLY and any adult has likely gone through a similar transition and so Brosh is making depression relatable. I also loved her description of depressed life as, “an empty room or… an unbearably repetitive noise.”

Her hope that, “the whole thing would spontaneously work itself out” also resonated with me. I remember whirlpooling into an abyss of depression and only taking any action to appease the people in my life who for some strange reason were not as apathetic about my wellbeing as I was. Depression robs you of the ability to see a solution, even if action is obvious to those around you, so you simply hope it will just go away.

Which brings me to how well Brosh tackles the difficulties a depressed person faces when trying to interact with other, non-depressed people (A.K.A aliens.) What I find to be her most profound insight has to do with fish (of the dead variety.) She talks about the frustration of trying to communicate the indifference of depression to people who have the nerve to be remotely interested in life. She says,

“It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead they offer to help you look for your fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared… You’re maybe just looking for someone to say ‘sorry about how dead your fish are.’”

She also discusses the sheer awkwardness of asking for help. As she says, “there’s definitely no way to ask for help casually.” I remember being alarmed when I told a close friend about my suicidal thoughts and she burst in the tears. That was not what I meant to do. I felt like an alien anthropologist studying the patterns of human emotion. I knew I didn’t want to upset her but I was so used to my blackhole thoughts that it was hard to understand what exactly she was so upset about.

Then, Brosh faces a hard truth about a depressed person’s relationship with their loved ones. She says, “I noticed myself wishing nothing loved me so I wouldn’t feel obligated to keep existing.” As twisted and ungrateful as that may seem, life becomes so unbearable for someone who is depressed, that it feels like love is simply holding them back from the inevitable. I remember being furious when my dad came to visit me mid-downward spiral and had the audacity to try and help me. I pushed him away because I was trying to protect him. I wasn’t trying to take my family to hell with me.

Brosh made me feel understood in a way that no other writer about depression has. All I wanted was to not hurt anyone but of course it’s painful to watch someone forfeit on life. I felt guilt about my disconnect and felt so much relief knowing someone else has felt it too. That maybe it wasn’t my fault. If you are suffering with depression or want to understand someone who is, I encourage you to read these posts. Maybe it will bring you relief too.

ALSO, spoiler alert, the end of Depression Part Two will give you a new appreciation for corn kernels. So, if depression isn’t really your thing (questioning why you’d be reading this post exactly?) at least read it for that!!

Photo by Ben Ostrower on Unsplash