After many years of swimming, the word depth is the 12 feet between the surface and the bottom of the pool. I can remember when I first started swimming how much that depth terrified me. While others sailed quickly to the bottom and back, I could barely accomplish the same feat without my lungs burning, desperate to take another breath, hoping I’d make it to the surface in time. The depth was painful, it was frightening. As time passed and I grew more comfortable in the water, the depth became easier, my lungs adapted to accommodate more air. To seem my age, I voyaged down to the bottom more often, but it still made me uneasy. The water has always made me uneasy.
Depth is emotional, too.
Depth is panic. Depth is looking above you, squinting to catch a glimpse of the surface, kicking with all your might and praying to God that you’ll break the surface in time. Depth is that feeling you get when the darkness sets in and you feel like you can’t breathe in the space you’re given. Depth is desperately fleeing your apartment to wander the city, trying to catch your breath, trying to calm the beating pulse of your heart and to silence those panicked voices in your mind. Depth is drowning in your own thoughts, except these thoughts aren’t your own, but they are in your brain and you can’t control them. Depth is trying not to cry when it feels like you just can’t take it anymore, even if you’re not entirely sure what it is.
For me, depth is my depression. It’s the feeling of wanting to give up. Yet no matter how many times I find myself 12 feet under, with the weight of the world and the water on my shoulders, I still manage to find a way to kick, to pull, and to come back to the surface. I hope that every struggle, which takes mere seconds but feels like years, it making my lungs stronger so I can keep surfacing time and time again. But in the back of my mind, I worry that someday, the depth will be too deep and my legs won’t work fast enough, the kicks won’t be hard enough, and I’ll never make it to the top again. I worry that every single struggle to make it to the top will have been for nothing. I worry that I’ll finally drown. But if there is one thing that I have learned about my depth, it is that you should never give up. The feeling of taking that first breath is always worth it, as is everything and everyone who waits for me above the water. And that is why I just keep swimming.
As soon as I saw today’s Daily Post, I immediately thought of the quote that has always had so much meaning to me – Just keep swimming. Competitive swimming was the one thing that I always felt saved me from my depression, and it’s also the most useful metaphor I’ve found for explaining depression. Writing this post brought back so many emotions, but I really hope it helps someone else find the voice that being in the depth takes away from us.