The Rogue Wave of Depression

I went to a maritime school, full of future ocean-going mariners. I wasn’t among the ocean-goers though. Don’t get me wrong, I love being on the water, but I care more about observing ocean wildlife than driving the boat, and I care about both more than being down in the engine room. There is nothing wrong with those tracks, they are full of their own rewards, it just wasn’t for me. I’m off track (lack of navigational skills, another reason why I wasn’t keen on driving the boat). Let me start over.

I went to a maritime school. Even though I wasn’t interested in going to sea as a deck officer on a big ship, I learned enough to know the importance of training and planning. The sea can be unforgiving if you don’t have a plan, especially if you encounter rough seas.

Yet running into rough seas is expected. You have weather reports and weather instruments that can tell you what to expect. However, far more dangerous is a rogue wave.

Rogue waves are solitary waves. They might start in the middle of the ocean because of a disturbance on the surface of the sea or because of seismic activity, then the wind catches it and pushes it thousands of miles. Then, on a clear blue day, a ship can be swamped by a rogue wave out of the blue (the movie The Perfect Storm offers a good depiction of this phenomenon). And the mariners who didn’t plan for waves have themselves and anything else that might be unsecured on deck thrown around and potentially washed overboard. Smaller boats might even be capsized by these waves.

And depression feels very much like that. I can work with my therapist and the people in my life who support me on plans to manage my mental illness. Yet out of nowhere the rogue wave of depression can knock me on my ass and all my plans seem to go overboard.

I am currently on the backside of a rogue depression wave. Despite all I talk about forgiving yourself for not being okay, it seems extra difficult to do while I am trying to regain my bearings. I am just trying to just get my feet back under me as the plans I have once again seemed to fail at preventing my depression from returning.

Yet like an experienced sailor, I learn from these rogue waves. I know they will pass. I know the boat will right itself again. And when it does, I can get back to planning for the next wave. Because my depression isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but I can learn how to batten down the hatches better so that next time isn’t as rough. And I hope that for you too. I hope that for all of us who sail the stormy seas of mental illness.

And as always, thanks for reading.

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