Treading Water – my attempt to explain my mental health

You know when you go swimming with school and there’s that lesson where you have to swim with pyjamas on? The lesson where you learn to tread water and not die until help comes in case you fall in a canal or something? Picture this…

I feel like I’m constantly treading water. I mean life is a bit like that anyway isn’t it? Always a bit of effort. Though, where some people are in boats, I’m in the water. Always. Now if the water is calm, it’s fine. Takes minimal effort to keep my head above water, and feel the sun and interact with other people swimming or in boats.

Then storms hit. You can’t see anyone else, or the boats, or the sun, or anything. All you’re aware of is you and the fight you have. Riptides drag you around, pull you under, waves crash down on top of you and you struggle for breathe. To stay alive you constantly exert effort, kicking, fighting, just to to the same things you’ve been doing for weeks. Forget trying to do anything else. All your energy just goes on surviving.

Drowning is a slow death, apparently. A dragged out period of pure panic, with seemingly no way out, until eventually your body can’t take it anymore. So when I say I feel like I’m drowning, this is what I mean. I’m filled with panic, and dread, and can’t see a way out. A terrifying experience that I really don’t know if I’m going to survive. The fact I’ve survived previous times is little comfort, this is going to be the time. I’m exhausted.

Then for no reason the storm stops. You take what you think it going to be your final breathe and…you’re able to take another, and another.  You survived. God knows how but you did.

And just that like you’re pretty much fine again. Bit bruised and battered, most likely, but overall fine. Then over time you start to forget exactly how the storm felt. It’s not so much you forget about the storms, you’re just surprised every time they hit. Every. Single. Time. Similar to storms, they can come with little to no warning. Little hints here and there of the oncoming front,  but can often be missed, or mistaken as something else. Unlike storms, however, these aren’t quick intense flashes in the pan. They can last for weeks.

So that’s how it feel for me.

Remember, you’re worth the effort. We’re all mad here.

Katie B x

  • Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at
  • Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
  • PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
  • Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It doesn’t have a helpline, but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information.
  • Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
  • Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.

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