anxiety · depression · describing · mental illness · sufferer

Series of Tunnels

I was talking with a friend the other day about life and how things were going. This friend knows that I struggle a lot with depressive episodes and anxiety and general stuff. I’ve been doing so well for ages but recently, I’ve begun to struggle again. I had an anxiety attack, by myself in public; I’ve not an anxiety attack in a very long time. I’ve entered another low spell in my life, which is just what I need before my assessed show week for my degree.

As my friend and I were talking, she used a metaphor that I’ve never considered before to describe depression. You’ll hear the phrase ‘there’s a light at the end of the tunnel’ but what does that mean?

My friend began to describe life as a series of tunnels.

Sometimes, you’re in the open air. You can see everything, you can hear the world around you. The smells, the colours, the people. It’s wonderful, you can engage with everything going on around you. Sometimes being outside can be a little bit grey but you’re still outside, it can be raining or a storm can be blowing…but it doesn’t stop you from facing the day.

Other times you can be in a tunnel. But you’re in a tunnel where you can see the other end, you can see the light. You know that you’ll make it through. You know that everything is dark at the moment, but light will come. Whether it comes quickly or takes a little while. You cruise through the tunnel waiting for the light to come but you don’t stop heading towards it, you keep driving towards it and at some point you’ll make it into the open air.

But then you can be in a tunnel that is pitch black. You can’t see the light at the end, there are no other cars coming towards you or behind you. You’re all alone. It’s too scary to keep going, so you try going backwards but that has disastrous consequences – you just stop. You stop in the middle of the tunnel not knowing where to turn or what to do.

Or you’re in this multi-storey tunnel. One day you’re in one tunnel, cruising along happily seeing the light and then something happens and you’re in a different tunnel, you can still see the light but it’s farther away. The tunnels pile up on top of each other and it gets darker and heavier and everything seems to be closing in around you. Sometimes, you can get out of a tunnel so it becomes lighter. Other times you can’t.

All of a sudden, another car passes by. Its front lights are on, lighting the way. It calls to you to follow it out of the tunnel, the driver wants to help you. Do you follow the car or stay in the tunnel?

The driver of the other car gets out of their car, they walk over to you and ask if you’re okay. You say you’re stuck in this tunnel and they say they often got stuck in the same tunnel as you. They called upon their friends to help them, they called upon God. Who are you going to call upon?

A tunnel doesn’t last forever, and other car drivers want to help you. There is always a light at the end, even if it does seem far away. Right now, I’m stuck in a tunnel and it’s starting to become darker and heavier. People are calling out to me trying to help but I can’t accept it. I put on a brave face saying I can do it, I can get out of the tunnel. I say I’m fine. One day, I’ll get out of the tunnel. I’ll follow another car, someone will get into my car or I’ll feel God with me.

 I just thought that I had to share this image with you, that it might help describe depression to those of you who don’t have it or don’t know someone with it. But depression is different for everyone, and when my friend told me this metaphor it really helped to describe it. So, who are you going to call to get out of the tunnel?

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