By Gordon Corsetti, Skyland Trail Graduate
The numbness caused by depression is rarely discussed because that degree of isolation is deeply unnerving. It is telling that one of the worst things we can do to a human is to lock them in a room with minimal interaction for an indeterminate amount of time. The effects of solitary confinement on the brain are shocking. From messing up circadian rhythms to an increased fear response, prolonged isolation damages the body and the mind.
Depression is solitary confinement even while the body is free to move. Emotions feel less distinct and it becomes increasingly difficult to feel a connection with other people. I liken explaining depression to explaining the colors of a rainbow to a dog. Most people can get a vague idea of what I describe, but there is color and contrast that only becomes visible through lived experience.
The challenge is how to educate people about a topic that requires diving into dark and unforgiving psychological waters. I cannot ethically give anyone depression, which leaves me trying to explain the unexplainable. Well, here I go:
Imagine yourself in your bedroom. The door to the rest of the house and the windows to the outside world are open, and you have no desire to leave. You like your bedroom, it’s comfortable. But soon, things change.
The light dims. Sounds are muffled. There is a distinct lack of temperature so you do not feel hot or cold. Naturally, you are displeased with whatever is going on in your bedroom and you stand up to leave, but the door is gone. Now, more concerned, you go to one of the windows and find it locked. In fact, all the windows are locked and no amount of effort can force them open.
You feel uneasy, trapped in what was once a familiar and comfortable space. You cannot explain what is happening to yourself, and there is no means for you to communicate with anyone outside your room.
Light turns to darkness, and though your eyes are open you cannot see anything.
Sound goes mute, and though you strain to listen, there is nothing to hear.
The temperature stabilizes to the exact temperature of your body, and you feel no difference between the air and your skin.
Gravity disappears, and you have nothing to push against. In this zero-G environment, you are stuck.
This once comfortable bedroom is now a prison. You feel nothing because there is nothing to feel. You see nothing because there is nothing to see. You hear nothing because there is nothing to hear.
All you have are your thoughts.
How long do you think you would last before you wanted this experience to end?
Emotional tunnel vision and the numbness that accompanies the constriction is not a willful attempt to shield oneself from the world. It is a prison within the mind that gradually separates a person from everything they once felt and held dear.
This post was penned by Gordon Corsetti. Gordon, a Skyland Trail alumnus, is an author, public speaker, and advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness; writing regularly on his website mentallyagile.com. He collected various tools in the pursuit of his permanent recovery from depression and anxiety. Gordon writes about philosophy, and different modes of thought that he experiments with to refine his perspective on life. He speaks to the uniquely human ability to change our minds and shows how to use tools to accomplish that change.