On Tunnels and Overused Metaphors

If life is like a box of chocolates, then depression is like a tunnel.

It’s all encompassing, surrounding you, suffocating you. It doesn’t let in any light. There’s no helpful exit points. The only way out is to keep going, right to the end and out into the sunlight.

I usually hate trite metaphors and comparisons about mental health: because everyone experiences it differently. But today I sat on a bus and went through a real tunnel, and realized that the feeling I’d been carrying with me the last few weeks was the same as the feeling I got the moment the bus emerged from the tunnel and into the light.

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I feel like I am coming out of a very long, dark tunnel that had swallowed me whole for most of the last two years – and perhaps longer. I feel lighter. Freer. I don’t know if this is an interlude or an intermission or a pause or any other kind of metaphor you want to use. I know this probably isn’t the end of what will be a lifelong struggle with mental health and my brain not being trustworthy and my heart not being whole, but for now, it is what it is.

I am planning for the future again, beyond ‘will I have the energy for that thing tomorrow.’ I am working and saving again, instead of buying things to fill the ache. I am eating healthier, but without punishing myself for occasional treats. I have exams but for the first time I am not a messy wreck of nerves or just numb, exhausted and crammed with facts that will slide out of my head the moment I am done. I am looking forward to going back to the gym when my exams are over.

I am not perfect and I am not entirely well. I still get anxious about the smallest of social interactions. I still have all my issues, bundled up and spilling out. But for the first time in a long time, I am not entirely unwell either. I am not consumed by my angst and regrets and fears.

How did I get here? How did I survive (for now)? All I did was keep walking through the tunnel, one step at a time. There’s so many things in life you just have to walk through – grief and sickness and periods of doubt. Walking through may sound easy but it  isn’t and it wasn’t. But I just kept walking through the tunnel until I emerged into the sunlight and could look up and around, rather than at my feet carefully taking one step at a time.

I just walked through the tunnel.

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