16 Quotes That Deftly Describe Depression And Despair

I’ve lived with depression, despair and anxiety for forever. Since forever I’ve tried to describe (they asked me to!) what it “feels” like to be depressed to the mentally “healthy” people in my life and I’ve never felt that I’ve succeeded. How I envy their incapacity to understand.

If you can relate, I’ve curated a list of what I consider to be the best descriptions I’ve come across over the years. Feel free to borrow them the next time you wanna share what life is like for you.    

Illustration by Anna Macht

Illustration by Anna Macht

1. “It’s like mourning the death of someone you once loved--you. When you look in the mirror you see only dead eyes. There is no spark. No joy. No hope. You wonder how you will manage to exist another day.”

- Anon

2. “Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure, but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends, but hate socializing. It’s wanting to be alone, but not wanting to be lonely. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzingly numb.”

- Anon

3. “That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious—and it compounds daily—making it impossible to ever see the end. That fog is like a cage without a key.”

- Elizabeth Wurtzel Prozac Nation

4. “Depression makes you feel like you're an actor playing you--one that's always forced to smile.” - Anon

5.  “The fatigue I’ve gathered year after year and stored inside now heaves a muted cry of helplessness. Nothing but fatigue, rounding my shoulders, heavier than ever on this late autumn day with a useless sun, a world of unforgiving disasters. So many struggles and tragedies, so much sorrow and egotism in this dark, in this rotting century of hate.”

—Emil Dorian

Illustration by Anna Macht

Illustration by Anna Macht

6. “I don't want to see anyone. I lie in the bedroom with the curtains drawn and nothingness washing over me like a sluggish wave…. I have done something wrong, something so huge I can't even see it, something that's drowning me.”

― Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye

7. “Being depressed is all your emotions taken away from you--apart from negative ones like sadness, anxiety and fear.”

- Anon

8. “The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

– David Foster Wallace

9. “Depression is like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch it where it hurts. It’s always there, though.”

– Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot

10. “In depression you become, in your head, two-dimensional – like a drawing rather than a living, breathing creature. You cannot conjure your actual personality, which you can remember only vaguely, in a theoretical sense. You live in, or close to, a state of perpetual fear, although you are not sure what it is you are afraid of. “ - Tim Lott

Illustration by Anna Macht

Illustration by Anna Macht

11. “Slipping into depression feels like falling down a dark bottomless shaft, wondering if and when your fall will ever be caught. And as you look back to where you fell from--which is where you know you need to get back to--you can see it receding further into the distance, the proverbial light becoming dimmer and dimmer, while the shaft into which you are falling becomes deeper, darker, and all the more enveloping.”

- Anon 

12. “Losing your life is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing is to lose your reason for living.”

― Jo Nesbo 

13. “Despair is a cruel companion. It robs you of everything; especially the choices that still lie within your control.” - Brownell Landrum

15. “Despair is anger with no place to go.” - Mignon McLaughlin

 16. “But what we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.”

- George Eliot

Article by VERVE Founder & CFO (Chief Feminist Operative) Anna Quick-Palmer

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