Writing Sample: An Allegory of Depression

Imagine you are in a room. This room is all there is; all of existence. Within it is you and two rather large magnets. All you know is that you have to push these two magnets together, so that the same poles are touching, not the opposing ones. Well, if we recall anything about magnets it’s that similar poles hate touching. But you’ve got to! Why? Well because that’s just what you do. You’re born, you force the magnets together, you die. That makes people happy!

Anyway, so you go to push these magnets together. But they’re heavy and worse yet, the poles are forcing each other away. After a little blood, sweat and tears, you manage to get the two north poles to touch, and you’re satisfied. But keeping them together is kind of tiresome. How does anybody keep these things from flying apart? And what’s the point anyhow? This seems like a lot of work for a really unsatisfying payoff. But you do it because you know that its what others do to stay happy.

It’s fine, you tell yourself, I can just take breaks every now and again, or talk myself into trying harder.

Some time passes and your arms are quite tired now, so you let go. The poles shoot apart and come to rest on opposite sides of the room with dull thuds. Honestly, you feel much better now. Letting the magnets just do their thing is comfortable. You go to a corner of the room and catch some sleep. You dream of the blocks touching. When you awake, you push them back together, and let them fly apart again. You keep doing this, each time letting them stay apart longer and longer. But something curious is happening. You can feel the room growing colder, the lights dimming the longer they remain apart. Will they go out completely? Will the room begin to freeze over? You grow anxious; you know you have to keep these magnets together now, or else. After some thought, you realize tears are coming to your eyes. You’ve just realized how difficult this is going to be. Life will just be a struggle to keep these two magnets touching. To keep them from their natural state of being. To push against nature.

So you do. You hold them together and the lights glow brighter, and the warmth comes back. For a while you feel better, and almost forget the consequences of letting the magnets go. Months go by, and still you hold these two blocks together. Your arms ache, your legs ache, your back pops every time you twist. You don’t feel better anymore; satisfaction no longer comes from these blocks’ contact. Every inch of your body is fatigued. Yet you continue on with your task, not because you enjoy it or because it satisfies you, but because to not complete this mundane task would mean the end of you.

Why are you holding on to these things?

Why is it that life is just… this?

Are other people satisfied by keeping these blocks together?

Do they have help? Does having help make it a happier task?

Even if they did, what happens when their friends or family get tired of holding their blocks for them? You’ll grow weary once again, and have to let go just long enough for the cold to creep in. You’ll be begging for help, but everybody will think you’re weak for not being able to keep your own blocks together. They’ll whisper that you’re just a burden when you’re not around. They’ll be frustrated with you constantly, but nobody can understand why it’s so hard for you. You don’t even know why it’s so hard. Nobody else seems to have this problem! You’re useless!

But. You. Just. Can’t.

Sure you have those short spurts of energy, but your body weakens quickly, limbs become heavy. The room is frigid now, and you can see your breath. You walk over to the blocks, but you just don’t have the strength to hold them together anymore. Try as you might, the forces repelling them are stronger than your own arms. You just aren’t cut out for this. You sink to the floor against the wall, the room barely lit, as though by a waning candle. You know you need to get back to work, but it feels so good to relax. It’s the first time in ages you’ve felt okay again; at peace. Peace, you think, peace would be nice. And so sit, you sleep. You allow the light to go out.