Personal Stories

How Depression is Like the Common Cold

by Samantha Stell

I once wondered why depression, among many other things, was referred to as a “mental illness,” as if it’s a cold or the flu. But eventually it started to make sense. The ache I feel in my chest, the head spinning, the shortening of breath. I feel sick.

Down to my very core I feel ill. And it’s not just in my mind. It’s throughout my entire body, from my head to the tips of my toes. So I wrap myself in a blanket and lay in bed waiting for the sickness to end — waiting to feel better. And I do, for a little bit.

Then, the dark depressive thoughts come swooshing back in, and I feel ill all over again. There is no amount of soup or sleep that will cure this feeling. You don’t realize how underappreciated breathing is until you have a cold, and your nose is stuffed, and all you want to do is be able to take a deep breath. That’s what it feels like to have depression. I just want to be able to breathe again. I just want to feel okay.

I find some comfort in knowing I am not the only one that gets "sick." I know that there are millions of others out there that are also affected in some way by mental illness, whether that be anxiety or depression like myself, or the tons of other conditions s that are out there. I have always been very open with my battles because I know I am not alone.

Knowing that there are other people out there who want help and guidance, but they can't find the strength to reach out and ask for help, is terrifying. I think the first step is coming to terms with it; realizing you are not alone and you can treat it.

If we just take the proper steps to caring for ourselves, just as we would do when we have a common cold, we can learn to manage our illness. Whatever care looks like to you — a bubble bath, your favorite comfort food, or talking with a loved one — you should prioritize it.

Therapy has helped me in more ways than I can explain. It's hard and daunting, but I think there's comfort in knowing that one day we will all be able to breathe again.