When the Monster Returns


I have mentioned in the past that I would like to start throwing out a couple of mental health posts on a semi-regular basis. This is going to be one such attempt. I guess you can say I’ve been inspired these past two weeks, so let’s see if I can do this without making a mess of things, shall we?

So. You go about your days, living your life, enjoying the company of friends, being productive-ish with your art, not hating work any more than usual, finding pleasure in the little things in life. Then something happens. Maybe something huge, maybe something that would objectively be considered small. Maybe you mess up at work. Maybe something you’d planned didn’t work out quite as you expected. Maybe your eyeliner broke in the morning and your whole routine for the day got fucked up. And then an old, much too familiar feeling starts bubbling up somewhere inside you.

I don’t know how it manifests for other people. Everyone experiences things differently. For me, it often seeps in first as inexplicable anger, a fiery rage over nothing in particular that especially flares up at things I cannot change and am powerless to do anything about. Sometimes the familiar feeling of numbness creeps in to replace the anger, and then I don’t even feel anger or sadness, or anything at all. I just kind… of space out. Exist. I hate that stage, more than any of the others. Anger is better, really. Anger is powerful, you can use it for something, you can be fueled by it, move forward, move at all.

You may have guessed; I’m talking about when depression unexpectedly returns to you after having been buried deep somewhere for a brief or long period of time. Unfortunately, I don’t have much advise to offer. If I had solved the mystery of depression, I probably wouldn’t need to write about it. But I have noticed something through the years; reading about how other people experience depression is incredibly helpful. It makes you see that you’re not alone, even if other people experience and deal with it differently than you, even if they can’t tell you how to fix it. It’s just nice to know that you’ve got company. So here we go.


Physical Manifestation of Depression

A lot of people who have never dealt with depression seem to have a hard time understanding that it isn’t just your mind that gets messed up. It isn’t just that you have bad or sad or upsetting thoughts that refuse to leave you alone, or that you become super-sensitive to every little thing because your brain loses the ability to filter out what is truly earth-shattering from the everyday things that just feel like they are. And yes, depression does do those things to your head.

But it’s not just in our heads, is it? Depression is also something physical; we can feel it inside our bodies, something that should be there but that we can’t point at and tell a doctor “cut this bit out”. Maybe you feel it differently, but for me, the physical feeling of depression goes a little something like this;

There’s a little grey monster that lives in my stomach. For fun, my mental image of this monster is that it’s really, really cute, even though the feeling of it isn’t. Anyway, the monster is always there, but it sleeps a lot, and when it sleeps, it’s the perfect companion. It doesn’t require much attention, just the occasional acknowledgment that it’s there so it doesn’t stir too often and ruins your day, but it’s relatively low-maintenance when it sleeps.

Then it wakes up. It stretches, it yawns, it moves around a little bit to stretch its legs and re-familiarize itself with its surroundings. Then it gets hungry. It opens its adorable mouth, gapes wide, and clamps down with its adorable little teeth on the inside of your stomach where it starts to suck at your intestines, sucking out the delicious taste of your mental energy and your ability to deal with things.

This is what the physical presence of depression feels like. Something biting, chewing and sucking at the inside of your stomach. And that fucking hurts. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt too bad and you can still move around, get things done, but sometimes it hurts so fucking bad that standing up, or even turning around on the bed, feels like it might tear apart your insides.

This monster, by the way, is part of why it’s so painful when people tell you to just “be happy” or “get over it” or “cheer up” or whatever useless crap people who have no idea tend to throw at something they don’t understand. Because even if you can force your mind into a better, healthier place (and I actually believe that is possible; I’ve done it before, it is difficult and painful as fuck, but it’s not impossible), you can’t just turn off a physical feeling. You can’t tell the monster to stop chewing anymore than you can tell your tooth to stop aching or your toe to stop screaming after you stub it. In those two examples, you need to either see a professional, or to wait it out. Which leads me nicely on to my next point.


Outside Help Isn’t Always an Option, but If It Is; Take It

You go to the dentist if your tooth hurts. You go to the emergency room if you’ve broken your arm. You go to therapy when a monster is eating up your intestines. Now, therapy isn’t for everyone. It sure as fuck wasn’t for me; I hated it so intensely that I cannot even put it into words. But that was mainly because of my therapist. Yet despite him, I still went, for one hour, every fucking Friday. Because not doing it when I knew it offered me something, would feel just as stupid as walking around with a broken arm without going to a doctor. Financially, therapy is crippling. Emotionally, it’s draining (especially because I was the worst patient ever and 43 sessions in, I had to quit – but I still recommend it to people who have the option). Time-wise, my bosses didn’t love me being gone for two hours every week.

It’s hard. But it’s a safety-net. It’s accountability. When you know you’ll have to sit in front of your therapist and tell them if you did something stupid that week, you might think twice about doing that stupid thing in the first place. Or at the very least, if you do that stupid thing, you might get a chance to explain why you did it, or why you thought a certain way or had a particular feeling after a particular event. And that’s useful, even if you hate every minute of it as it moves with the speed of a freaking snail.

Another helpful tool is medication. I’ve been on all kinds of medication in the past; for depression, for sleeping-problems, and especially for anxiety.  For complicated reasons, I didn’t allow myself to take pills for a long time, but now I’m back on SSRIs because not doing it was becoming more dangerous than the alternative. I truly believe a little chemical help is useful, and it’s also really cute to have the mental image of the pill being a snack you throw down your throat to the monster. It makes the monster very happy, and it might give your insides a break from being chewed on. After a while, it might even help the monster lose the taste for your intestines all together.

My point is; depression is inside of you, but that doesn’t mean that you’re the only one who can work against it. You’re allowed to lean on outside help, whether it’s therapy, the support of friends and family, or some very helpful pills. Or all of the above. The point is, it so often feels like we’re totally alone in this, and some of us might like it that way; some of us might even find that fighting on our own is a better option, that the only way out is through and we do that better alone. But that’s not for everybody; if you can reach out, reach out.


I’m not quite sure what my point or goal was with this post. I guess I just needed to write it; I needed to explain what the physical shape of depression looks like when it comes back into your life. Or mine, at least. Maybe I needed to prove to myself that even though things aren’t ideal right now, I have been a lot worse and I’m actually doing pretty freaking great given the circumstances, and I’m proud of that.

If someone out there reads this and finds it somehow helpful – even if it’s only helpful because you disagree with me and realize you feel all this totally differently – then I guess that’s my point. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that my therapist once tried to insist that verbally talking about it is more useful than writing about it, and I delight in proving him wrong 🙂 

Either way, thanks for sticking around, and if I managed to offend or piss anyone off by something I said, then… Well, then that would be kind of exciting, wouldn’t it? I’ve never managed to piss anyone off on this blog so far. Not that I’m trying, but you know. Blog milestones. Anyway, I wish you the strength to deal with whatever monsters are roaming inside of you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel to write.


Rain S.

2 thoughts on “When the Monster Returns

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