Sometimes, the tide is rising and you have no idea. You are so busy with everything else in your life that you don’t see it creeping up to overwhelm you until – too late – you’re neck deep in water and struggling to stay afloat.
Sometimes you get caught in a storm surge. Sometimes, a tidal wave. Whilst these can be catastrophic, others are either caught up in them too, or can at least see them happening.
But I think the worst is a slowly building tide, coming in and up inevitably, pulled towards you by external forces over which you have no power. Even though you wish you did. Even though you act and think and pretend like you do. A tide that is personal, and often, invisible to others.
I got caught in the tide recently. I was drowning and didn’t know it. When I finally realised and my world broke down, when I stopped functioning completely and came to a standstill, when I let the waters overwhelm me and experienced the consequences… that’s when I saw it. Until that moment I had been clinging on to imaginary driftwood, pretending I could swim and trusting that all the measures I had put in place to stem the tide were working. But I hadn’t checked them. And I wasn’t swimming, I was being swept along by an inexorable current. The factors around me were building up and creeping in until I could no longer hold them back, consciously or otherwise.
Depression is a disease. But stress and exhaustion are just as debilitating. Sometimes our brains just can’t handle everything, and you know what, that’s okay. Our bodies and our brains aren’t meant to handle everything. I ignored my body’s signals that things weren’t right – constant headaches, fatigue, irritability, nausea, occasional apathy, aches and pains – until I completely couldn’t take any more and broke down into an emotional mess. That was the tide overwhelming me. That was the moment I looked up and saw how far out to sea I was.
I asked for help, and I got it.
I am not depressed today because I asked for that help, because I had a breakdown and I didn’t hide it. I was stressed and exhausted and overwhelmed, and I could very easily have let that disease get its black foot back in the door. But I am lucky to have family, friends and health professionals in place who help me when things fall apart.
Because things do fall apart.
Because that tide is as inevitable as the sun and moon.
You just have to know when it’s rising.
And if you can, build a boat to ride it out.
Are you or someone you know going through a tough time? You don’t have to go through it alone.
Have the conversation. Let someone know you care. It makes a difference.
If you, a friend or loved one is in crisis, call 24/7:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Line 1800 659 467
- Mensline 1300 789 978
- KidsHelpline 1800 551 800
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