The Waves and the Winter

By Sara Kellar

Sometimes the edge serves as more than a friend than you thought it would be

And the pages you write in your journal each night are your only release

And the mask you put on it’s like words in a song but there’s more to be seen

And the failures you see don’t seem failures to me here at all

Depression came in waves for me. It was a numb feeling that started just below my stomach and spread to every part of me. It swelled with strength before it faded away. It was an uncomfortable tug pulling me back and forth, an ebb and flow that left me feeling hollow in the midst of it and like I could breathe again in the aftermath. The waves would cover me for weeks or months or any time span in between. Sometimes it was a shallow feeling of a lack of purpose—What is the point, anyway? — that left me with questions I couldn’t answer. That’s what the longest period of depression in my life was like: so many questions, never enough answers.

My worst bout of depression, the one that plunged me the deepest below the wave, wasn’t my longest struggle with it—it was actually one of the shorter ones. But it brought me down deeper than I’d even been before and have been since.

“Oh I’m begging you, no

There’s more life left to go

Oh I’m begging you, please

‘Cause I, I don’t want you to leave”

Nobody really talks about self-harm here in my part of the backwoods of Canada. Depression is slowly getting its day, yes, but self-harm is like the cousin that nobody talks about. It’s like we can admit that people get depressed, that it does happen, but self-harm is another thing entirely.

It was winter. I was doing my best to wade through heart-crushing disappointment and loneliness. That ever-present void, just below my stomach, was back asking the same questions it had asked before. It served to be a volatile combination, but I tried to find my way through the wave back to the sunshine, back to fresh air. But one night it all came to a head.

The questions came straight from the void: What would happen if I hurt myself? Would I feel better?

I started to cry.

“Alone as you walk through a crowd and it’s awkward like nobody sees

And you can’t help but wonder would anyone come after you if you leave

So a pain grows inside and that fear comes alive like you’ll never be free

But there’s no pain you feel that I know love can’t heal here at all”

I live right about in the middle of North America, where summers are indescribably beautiful and winters are cold and long. Winters are so long that, by the end of them, we are no longer marveling at their beauty and stillness; we just want the cold and the snow to go away. We’re always ready for spring by March, though it doesn’t often come to stay until April.

The winter that the void of my depression surprised me was an average winter weather-wise, but it was turmoil for me. That turmoil led to first-time thoughts of self-harm, which then led to sobs that felt like they were being pulled from my soul. That shocked me out of the void and back into the fresh air. I couldn’t contain my grief and told my mentor when I saw her two days later, but she was the only one I told. I didn’t tell my mom until a year later, my dad until almost two years had passed. I struggled through that winter, and it was long, but spring did come.

The tilt of the earth, the force of the sun, the change in circumstances—they all defeat the snow and the cold. Winter cannot stand in the face of them.

“Oh I’m begging you, no

There’s more life left to go

Oh I’m begging you, please

‘Cause I, I don’t want you to leave me

To leave me here on my own

There’s nothing to run from, no

There’s nothing but fear inside you

Oh I just hope I can find you

And tell you that I know you’ll smile again”

Just like winter, my depression was defeated, and I haven’t had thoughts of self-harm since. I couldn’t tell you in what specific instance the battle was won. After all, how do you know that a wave is retreating until it’s already gone? How can we know what sent it, and how can we know what pulls it down and stops it? All waves eventually reach their end, though; even wave pools don’t run twenty-four/seven. The sun always comes up after a night of darkness, even though some nights seem longer than others. Depression is like those things; it sometimes feels like an eternity when we’re in the midst of them, but they cannot endure. They cannot last. They will be defeated.

The spring always melts the winter.

“Oh I’m begging you, no

More life left to go

Oh I’m begging you, please

‘Cause I don’t want you to leave”

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Comments (20)

  1. Anonymous

    So beautifully written. As a mom to a daughter who self-harms, I struggle daily with understanding, compassion, and the need to fix her and make her pain go away. We’re way in the backwoods of Canada, too, and no, people just don’t talk. Nor do people understand, even those closest to people who self-harm. We try, we really do, and wish more than anything that we could promise you that you’d never have to go through it again. We keep thinking that if we just had the right words, it would be all better. Thank you for helping me get one step closer to getting it, and I wish you … well, goodness, and wholeness and calm waters.

    Reply  |  
    1. Amy

      Dear Anonymous,
      I hope things get better with your daughter, but I would kindly and lovingly like to point out something. Coming from someone who used to self-harm. She doesn’t — we don’t– need to be fixed. We need to heal. She is not broken in the sense of fixing. She’s hurting and needs healing. Trying to “fix” someone can become part of the problem.
      With all my love,

      Reply  |  
    2. A

      Seeing your comment is wonderful. It gives me hope for future generations of parents and with my own journey as a parent.

      Reply  |  
    3. Megan

      As a kid who really needed a mom to care, thank you. She may not let you in now but continue to love her and be patient with her. She’ll grow to appreciate it and let her walls down with you. Moms like you give me so much hope.

      Reply  |  
  2. Kurt Koenig

    I needed this so much, thank you <3

    Reply  |  
  3. midnightshope

    I really needed this tonight….

    Reply  |  
  4. midnightshope

    I really needed this tonight

    Reply  |  
  5. margaret

    “so many questions, never enough answers.” amen and amen. thank you for your words – our collective solidarity will make all the difference in the end.

    Reply  |  
  6. Court

    Beautifully written.
    You’ve taken how so many of us feel and put into real tangible words. I live in the U.S and I can tell you that self harm is not something that is openly talked about anywhere. I really hope that changes soon….

    Reply  |  
  7. SW

    Thank you for writing this. I began self-harming at 19 after my father died unexpectedly, and did it almost every day until I was around 23/24, and I still have relapses now and then (I’m 27 now). Almost everyone I know, knows about my battle with depression, but very few know about my battle with self-harm. No one in my family knows, not even my mother, and probably never will. The reason for that is exactly what you wrote about here: society still views self-harm as this taboo, shameful thing that should never be discussed. Self-harm was, and still is, such a significant part of my life, and is part of the reason I am who I am today, and it makes me sad that I can’t share that with society, and talk about my experiences, without being judged and shamed for it.

    Reply  |  
  8. Amy

    Thank you for writing this. I am currently experiencing a wave. I pray it does not last long.

    Reply  |  
  9. savyi

    I’m not sure why this got to me the way it did, but I stated crying while reading it. It really is a beautiful piece of writing, and everything in it felt so close..

    Reply  |  
  10. Heaven

    Dear Sara,
    Thank you. Thank you for writing so candidly on depression and self harm. Thank you for voicing what has so long been words I have tired to say but never knew how. But also talking about the hope, the hope that sometimes we can’t see. As someone who has struggled with self harm, someone who has struggled with depression, and someone hoping for when the sun breaks- I appreciate how honest you were. I’ve struggled with self harm for six years now, (I’m now 21) and to see a story of someone beating it- it’s good to see.
    Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  11. *Jake*

    This comment could not be shared due to the nature of the message.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with us.

      TWLOHA is not a 24-hour helpline, nor are we trained mental health professionals. TWLOHA hopes to serve as a bridge to help.

      If this is an emergency or if you need immediate help, please call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to the LifeLine Crisis Chat at“. We also have a list of local resources and support groups on our FIND HELP page. Please know that we also respond to every email we receive at

      Reply  |  
      1. *Jake*

        Thank you and sorry!!!

        Reply  |  

    Thank you for your words. It makes me feel so good to know that I’m not the only one who self-harms. I did it a lot to myself… Your words meant a lot to me, even if I don’t know you. Nobody understand until they’re in the same situation. Thank you! xoxo

    Reply  |  
  13. Nia

    This is so beautiful, nobody talks about self harm enough, they brush it under the carpet as if they don’t talk about it that it doesn’t happen, but it does, and I think it needs to be talked about more and taken seriously xxxx

    Reply  |  
  14. anonumousss

    I understand somewhat of what ur saying but in the same instince u had to figure it out yourself as do I everyday I try to stop myself but its like how do u do it if u feel alone and people act like ur not even there but u really are how do u go on if u feel like ur the only one in the world with this what people call a problem

    Reply  |  
  15. Chrys

    I also live in that part of Canada, and this is so poingant and real for me. I’ve treaded muddy waters and been rocked by the turbulent waves of depression through the darkest of winters, many years almost drowning, but we somehow hold on until spring. thank you for sharing. <3

    Reply  |  
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