Mental Wells

An examination of mental illness

Mental Wells

Purely by accident, I recently stumbled upon the best analogy for my mental illness that I have ever encountered. I was talking with my best friend, and my recent fall from stability had us both concerned and philosophical, and it led to the following.

I picture my mind as an infinite path. It never starts, and it never stops, but it’s undulating. It’s steep in places, and flat in others, and it’s winding its way through time. But it’s kinda like an escalator: the path itself moves, but the scenery around it is consistent.

The path is surrounded by wells. Deep pools of water that look tempting and cool, but get caught in them and we all know you’ll drown. There’s heaps of them: social anxiety well, climate change well, money well, quarter life crisis well.

Looming on both sides, with crumbling edges and a distinct downward slope into its murky, never ending water, is the Depression Well. While all the other wells are separate and distinct, they all flow into the Depression Well. I avoid it at all costs, because I’ve been found unresponsive on the edge of that well too many times. I try not to look at that one. I try not to even think about it. But because it’s on the path, and because any misstep could mean falling, I have to be aware of it. It has to be considered in all things, because it is a hazard, and I need to be careful. I spend my days picking through the path of life, trying to work out the safest way through the day without falling in and drowning. I swear to you, some days I’m crawling through a minefield just to get to my morning coffee.

I think mentally stable people own lots of covers for their wells. I think most people have little pools of anxiety and stress, but they pop the covers over them and stroll along the path worry-free. Occasionally a big gust of wind might knock a cover loose, and they’ll have to spend a bit of time putting it back, but usually their wells are safe.

I’ve only got one Well cover, and it’s not big enough to cover the whole of the Depression Well. I share it around between the other wells, depending on which ones are biggest and scariest that day. I figure that I always need to be careful of the big one, but if I can cover the next most pressing concern, it will make my trip through the day that little bit easier.

I don’t know if this will make sense to anyone but me, but I found comfort in it. I found it poignant and true, and things surrounding depression are so rarely either of those things.

With depression, every little thing is poignant, and then nothing is or will ever be again.

Read next: Never In the Cover of Night
Tessa Luen
See all posts by Tessa Luen