Inside the Gray

By Cat CalabreseDecember 8, 2014

A new dress hung on the door of my closet, staring at me. The stilettos were waiting for me in their box. My hair was freshly washed. The evening hadn’t even started, but my makeup was already smudged. Even the waterproof mascara was struggling to hold on as tears filled my eyes and fell down my cheeks. The more I tried to stop them, the more that seemed to arrive, and I sat helplessly on my bedroom floor. I’d like to tell you there was some big important moment that led me here. That there was a breakup or death or some unutterable loss that was responsible for how I felt. I’d like to tell you that, but I can’t. 

The autumn sun touched the skyscrapers so beautifully that Pittsburgh sparkled. An unseasonably warm breeze whipped my hair around, and brilliant colors snowed down; red, gold, and orange leaves danced in the air as another year of college began. But I couldn’t see it; I couldn’t feel it. I walked numbly to my room, fell onto the bed, and began to sob. I’d like to tell you that something terrible had happened, that I’d failed a test or I was homesick. Something. Anything that would make sense. I’d like to tell you that moments such as these are few and far between. I’d like to tell you that, but I can’t. 

The reason for these moments is simple and complicated at the same time: I am living with depression. That truth is just five little words, yet it’s painful to write and difficult to see staring back at me. When I was sixteen, everything changed. And at the time, I thought it changed for the worse. Feelings of hopelessness, desperation, anger, and confusion quickly became my most frequent visitors. I thought I was only allotted a certain number of tears to cry; I was wrong. For reasons that are still not entirely clear to me, depression hit me like a giant wave crashing against the shore. And just like the tide, the wave receded and then returned, thousands of times over. And here I am now, eight years later and still oftentimes caught in depression’s wave. Although I am a much stronger swimmer than I was in those dark years, sometimes I still feel as though I am drowning. Some day I think that I’ll never see the shore again. 

Sometimes it seems as though it is impossible for someone who hasn’t experienced depression to ever have the hopes of truly understanding its depth and its effect. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard variations of the following:

“You have the perfect life. What could you have to be depressed about?”

“It’s just a bad day. Tomorrow will be better.”

“Can’t you just, you know, feel better?”

“Can’t you just get over it?”

To me, these types of questions are not only hurtful, but they are also incredibly ignorant. Some of this lack of understanding is only natural; if you’ve never felt depression’s weight, how could you think it was anything other than just a case of the blues? Even after eight years, I myself have struggled to articulate what depression feels like. Only now am I beginning to put words to it.  

In my darkest moments, life can seem utterly and irreversibly masked by a gray lens. Colors and sounds, people and objects, love and hope, all seem to be dulled. The beauty of life is muted, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t remove the lens. The pain is within; it’s in my soul, in my heart. With every breath, it’s there. 

Depression is like the pulling sensation you get when you’re driving away from someone you love, and your instincts are screaming at you to turn the car around.

It’s like the moment that comes after waking up, after those few precious moments when you don’t yet recall how much it hurts. 

But ironically, depression also feels like hope to me. When the wave recedes, I see an unbreakable light that seeps through the clouds and reminds me that somewhere out there is something better. That’s because I know that my eyes aren’t the reason I see gray. It’s my depression. It is part of me, but we are not one and the same. Maybe one day all of this will be completely in the past, and maybe it won’t. Maybe the gray-colored lens will always be waiting for me. But I’ve accepted it, and more than that, I’m at peace with it. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone struggles to paint their canvases a different picture. But for those of you who feel depression’s pain like I do, know you’re not alone. Know that amidst all of the hurtful questions, there are people who know exactly how you feel and who understand how permanent it can seem. I know that our lives have beauty. We are here on purpose. We are not the gray. I know there is light behind the lens.

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Comments (29)

  1. K

    This is beautiful. I’ve never heard something so unexplainable explained as gracefully as this.

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    1. Catherine

      Thank you so much for what you said, I’m so glad this helped. I’m honored that you took the time to read my words. I wish you all the best.

      Reply  |  
  2. Jacqueline

    It helps knowing your struggles with depression are very similar to my own. I am now in that “unbreakable light” and although I slip into the waves of depression they are shorter each time. I am learning to change the way I think about myself. I see the beauty in myself and the beauty in life. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  3. Angie

    Thank you for sharing your story. It helps me to understand a little better how my brother was feeling before he died. Thank you so so very much!

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  4. GC

    Very brave to write. I can totally relate. I am just a little older than you but I had a similar experience with mine getting really bad around that same age (16\17). I agree with Jacqueline if you accept it somehow more and more and yourself the ‘waves’ do seem to be less overwhelming and shorter each time. That is my hope for you. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. Anonymous

    Great article, beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply  |  
  6. The Ms. Stanley

    Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  7. Princess

    I’ve struggled this past few weeks a lot with this, I just haven’t been myself. but it’s not like a permanent depression, or something I feel every waking moment. It just comes here and there….mostly at night when I’m alone and thinking too much. But my Faith keeps me strong, and I know I’ll overcome it. But for now it’s great to see posts like this, so that I know I’m not alone

    Reply  |  
  8. j9duckpunk

    Well said. It is exactly how depression feels. We just have to live with it

    Reply  |  
  9. Kaitlyn

    I’ve suffered through many of the same feelings as you, and knowing that I’m not alone is such a relief. Thank you for your beautifully written story.

    Reply  |  
  10. Stacy

    Like everyone else, thank you for sharing. I have battled for over 20 years and I will tell you this….every time you give your testimony a bit more of your heart will pull from that miserable pit. Then one day it will hit you that you are no longer swimming but instead, dancing to your song. Healing does takes place, so continue to share this to help others learn to dance!

    Reply  |  
  11. Kelly

    I’ve been struggling with how to explain how it feels when you have a what I call “depression attacks”. I have been struggling to find the right words.

    Reply  |  
  12. Aidyn Sevilla

    Oh, this is perfect! And so incredibly useful! Thank you for writing and sharing htis!

    Reply  |  
  13. Mary

    You are helping so many and we all say “THANK YOU”

    Reply  |  
  14. Sam Campbell

    This post popped up in my newsfeed as I was curled up in bed, recovering from a breakdown that I had just had over inexplicable anxiety and insecurity. I had never read something that so clearly explained how I have felt for years. This helped me accept what I deal with regularly, and look forward with hope. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  15. Susie

    I lay here in bed this morning, not quite ready to start my day. You took me all the way back to the beginning of my journey with depression. Just like you, my life changed forever as i was diagnosed at 15 with depression and anxiety. Your words had me reflect on the past 13 years. Tears of helplessness, exhaustion, dispare, hurt, loneliness. These feelings so deep into your heart and soul. For so long ive been fighting these feelings. On those grey days I want to give up. I hate myself for feeling this way. I want to be normal but im broken. But someone i admire recently told me “ITS OK. Its ok to FEEL. Its ok to just BE.” This spoke volumes as so many people dont understand or choose NOT to understand. I still cry. My heart, body, and soul still hurt. But when i do i carry those words with me as they seem more comforting. And eventually those tears turn into hope. Thank you for your words.

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  16. Becca

    I really love this post as I totally identify with it. But I’ve never been able to understand how someone can see any good coming from something so dark. The only things that keep me alive are my siblings and a hope that one day this will all be over.

    Reply  |  
  17. Anonymous

    I was so moved by your blog. I have struggled with depression for many years. Most of the time I am hopeful and happy these days. Once the realization hits you that you don’t have to feel sad all the time and accept that this disease, this medical condition can be treated. I hope you have allowed yourself to try medication because it has literally saved my life. I have heard people say they don’t feel like themselves on medication. Accepting that medication allows you to become yourself is a key mind shift.

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  18. Anonymous

    I have been dealing with depression and anxiety for ten years. What you have written here is poetry. I thank you so much for writing this. This writing of yours is so beautiful and genuine and has really put my mindset onto a blog page. Amazing! Thank you!

    Reply  |  
  19. CJ

    This gave me hope and courage to stay strong.

    Reply  |  
  20. Maria Citarella

    i am speechless after reading this.

    Reply  |  
  21. September10

    Reading this felt like everything I’ve ever wanted to say but I’ve never been able to find the words. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  22. Amanda

    You wrote something so dark and tangled into something poetic and clear. I also have never felt more understood until reading this, thank you!

    Reply  |  
  23. Isoëlle

    this post explainde everything that could never be explained. that feeling those thoughts. i never in my whole entire life felt so understood. you just explained exactly how i feel. it’s a relief knowing I’m not the only one.

    Reply  |  
  24. Mark

    My wife of twelve years suffers from depression and I have had a hard time understanding it. Your words help me understand as well as I can. I love her with all that I am. Together we will work through the grey. Thank you.

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  25. Kristin

    Thanks for your beautiful words, Catherine. My lens acts like a layer of fog, clouding and blurring the edges of the outside world. I live in fear of the foggy days, but the point is that I – and you – live. Stay strong and keep sharing your story.

    Reply  |  
  26. AnnieHn

    I literally have never heard such truth in my whole life. For a long time, I’ve felt the burden of depression, that “gray lens” as you say. I can’t begin to describe what this little text means to me. I always thought I was alone in this world, a dried leaf in the wind, up until the moment I discovered this site. And I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have understood now that there are people who feel the same way and who aren’t ashamed to talk about it. All I ever needed was a kind ear, a person to whom I could reveal the truth about myself. I am depressed. I am caught up in this web and it is horrible, tears stream down my face whenever I am alone. And people tend to be quite insensitive about it, they can’t possibly comprehend the haunting thoughts of a depressed person. That’s why I’ve always kept it to myself even though I was screaming on the inside for someone to wake me up from this nightmare.
    Anyhow, it pleases me to finally open up. Thanks TWLOHA, this means a lot to me and to many others too.

    Reply  |  
  27. Melissa

    Thank you so much for sharing Catherine. You have described something that is difficult to explain to people, and turned it into this beautiful poetry that’s so eloquently written. I’ve struggled with depression since I was around the same age as you, it was extremely hard to cope with, especially with all the other stressors in my life that was accumulating it and making my life worse at the time. Lately, I’ve been headed down the same road again, I just try to take it one day at a time but it’s really comforting to know I’m not alone and someone else understands what I’m going through. These feelings of loneliness, guilt, shame, helplessness, despair, and that sinking feeling in my chest, came rushing back to me and then they overpower me but afterwards I start doing something that I enjoy like writing poetry and remember there is hope and this isn’t apart of me.

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  28. Sophie

    Thank you for putting an explanation to what i’ve been feeling for so long. I can identify a lot with people saying “just get over it” or “you’ll feel better tomorrow” and it makes me so happy knowing that i’m not alone in this

    Reply  |  
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