You’ve had one, ergo you can empathize with the other. Let me explain how that works…
Being very sad is like falling into the shallow end of the pool. It sucks. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s squishy, and you’re going to be bitchy about it for a while. You may have to toss your new shoes, and that will leave you frustrated and disappointed. Your phone is probably screwed, and it’s going to be pretty damn inconvenient until you can afford to replace it. But things will dry, you’ll get new shoes, and you’ll carry on.
Being depressed is like being locked in steerage on the Titanic. You can feel the ship tremble. You can hear water rushing in. You know it’s only a matter of time. You hang on to an overhead pipe with both hands as tightly as you can, knowing it’s coming. Has to be coming. Coming to drown you. And then one little trickle hits your foot, one icy cold bite, and you scream so loud no one can hear you. No one is coming to rescue you. No one even notices you’re unaccounted for.
But you do your damnedest to hold on. And the water keeps taking more and more of you into its icy embrace, and you can’t even cry. You can’t even feel. It’s right there. It’s only water. You know how to swim. You were a lifeguard, for fuck’s sake. But all you can do is watch as it rises, until it steals your breath with arms of icy steel wrapped around your lungs.
Of course you know it’s only water. But you can kick and cry and scream and fight and swim with everything you’ve got and it won’t matter, because depression has locked you in. Locked you in so that no matter which way you try, any escape route leads to deeper, colder water. And now, you’re numb. You’ve become so accustomed to the pain that you simply float above it, so overwhelmed by the agony that you’re left unable to feel. But that doesn’t stop the steady progress of rising liquid suffocation.
The water laps at your chin, and you remain strangely calm. You know that, any moment now, it will be easier to just dunk your head and fill your lungs with water – before the water gets a chance to do it for you. No one would ever know: did she die struggling to escape, or did she just give up?
Your brain invents conversations of passengers who made it to a lifeboat. Who were given the ability to flee. Their voices linger in the rapidly shrinking void that rations the air you have left to breathe. If you had been more like them, you might have survived. If you had been more like them, you would never have been down here in the first place.
Below the surface, a frigid current pierces your skin with a hundred thousand stinging needles full of hydrochloric acid. You freeze; you burn. Anyone glancing back will see you treading water and think you will be fine if you can just get to the exit. If you can just hold on a little longer, it will somehow be ok.
But this is the Titanic. It is not going to be ok. You may have a temporary reprieve as the ship heaves her final breach of the Atlantic and breaks in two. You may find your head temporarily above water. For a split second, you may catch sight of a constellation suspended in the fabric of the night.
But this is still the Titanic. You are still locked in. The black, icy depths are waiting for you. And you are going to suffer until you can’t suffer any more.