In honour of a winter that is very slowly coming to an end, I wanted to write a post that I’ve been meaning to write since Christmas.
This winter I realized that there are many similarities between an ice storm and depression. I’ve lived through a few nasty ice storms, both in real life and metaphorically.
An ice storm is steady persistent rain that occurs on a winter day when the temperature hovers around the freezing point. After weeks of cold, subzero temperatures, it can seem like a bit of relief. But then the ice starts to accumulate.
Slowly but surely, ice begins to form on tree branches, telephone wires, and other vulnerable things. It is the same with depression. What may first have been a thin protective layer slowly thickens.
At first it is beautiful. The sparkling ice on the trees looks like crystal in a winter wonderland. In the same way, many people with depression form beautiful masks that they show the world. It makes it difficult to realize the underlying dangers.
But centimetre by centimetre, inch by inch, the ice on each branch thickens as more and more storms rain down upon the trees.
Some trees weather the storm well. They balance the ice without apparent difficulty, staying straight and strong. But most trees slowly become weighed down. Branches begin to bend under the weight. Depression can also strikes like this. Stress after stress and trauma after trauma accumulates. You keep your mask fixed as best you can, but struggle under more and more burdens.
The danger to the trees is hidden under a sparkly facade. In the same way, the mask of a depressed person makes it seem like everything is okay.
Then comes the crisis. In an ice storm, most trees do one of two things: they bend or they crack. Sometimes you can stay strong for a long time, bend with the pressures life throws at you. But there comes a point where the weight becomes too much. Like the branches, you may crack and experience a major depressive breakdown.
When the cracks start, they are fierce and startling. A branch, coated in ice thicker and heavier than itself, snaps under the heavy strain. It is pure destruction. There is nothing the tree can do. The burdens are just too heavy.
A major depressive breakdown can seem just as inevitable, the immediate impact on a person’s life just as destructive.
But seasons change and life goes on. Freed of its icy burdens, in spring a tree regrows. It may have lost some branches and others may be forever changed. But the tree continues on in its new shape and form.
It may take longer than one season, but I think that depressed people can also find their way free of their burdens.
I was fascinated by the ice storm and it’s effects. I was very curious about which trees weathered the storm best. The softwoods bent dramatically under the weight, while the hardwoods snapped most strongly. It seemed to be woods that were strong yet flexible that were able to meet the storm and hold their own.
Spring is arriving and I’m shedding my layers of ice. I hope now to nurture that combination of strength and flexibility that will allow me to weather any new storms.