Falling up the stairs

Falling up the stairs

I recently had a client who had struggled with chronic depression for many months and was even hospitalized for it. She once described her depression like a “quicksand”. 

Once depression got a hold of her it began to suck her in. The harder she tried to get out of her depression the more hopelessly stuck she felt. She eventually learned that the trick to dealing with her depression, just like getting out of quicksand was not to struggle but also to not give up.

Instead, she learned to make slow movements toward the solid ground and when available you accept an extended hand to help pull you out. After all, “depression like quicksand” is a real thing and not something you can ignore away.  It is also not a sign of mental weakness and no one should ever feel they have to tough their depression out on their own.

For a long time, the solid ground seemed unreachable for my client because she couldn’t see how to get to it and was too ashamed to ask for help. It was her aunt who also had a history of depression who told her, her secret.  She said dealing with depression was like “falling up the stairs.” She noted that we have all done this before. We start to go up a set of stairs when suddenly we catch our foot and fall forward. Each step up had been progressing before we tripped but even when we trip and fall we always land a few steps further “up the stairs.”   

She also noted that despite all of us tripping up the stairs numerous times in our life we never give up, turn around and go back down the stairs?  Instead, we stand back up and continue climbing the stairs. Maybe a little slower, maybe a little more consciously but always upward and every time we make it to the top.

My client took her aunt’s words to heart and began tackling her depression one day at a time, one struggle at a time.  She began to ask for help from her psychiatrist, her clinician, and her aunt.  She began to get out of bed even when she didn’t feel like it, moved when she felt like standing still. When she felt like isolating she made herself be around others and found that doing something for someone else helped her feel better. It was not easy and sometimes it felt impossible, but every time things got really bad she reminded herself that was just her falling up the stairs. 

Larry Blackwell LCSW, AADC

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