Depression in Play
Updated: Sep 21, 2021
The power of play can best be shared through story telling, an equally powerful mode of expression. This story is my narrative of a 5 year old boy's play time. The illustration is the work of an 8 year old girl. Children can often share things with a power that astounds. This story astounded me so much that I had to narrate it. I was blown away by the accurateness of this experience of depression through play.
A small figure stands strong and armed for battle. Giants fill the path that is his journey. He has been here before, but each time he faces an impasse like this, it seems stronger and more intense. The giants are familiar, yet they seem sudden and offensive in their arrival. It is wearing on him. All these visits. These giants are not wanted, yet they continue to intrude on his journey. These repeated encounters are depleting even his strongest resources and resolve.
This battle's magnitude is overwhelming. The giants enormous and seemingly endless. It is a terrifying experience and our hero is overcome with the need to hide... to escape from this constant engagement. He turns away from it all and runs frantically, maybe pulling in a trusted companion, and maybe not. He is searching for respite and it is difficult to see anything beyond this visceral need to get away.
He finds a hole and runs inside, but still he feels vulnerable. Exposed. He grasps for something to fill the voids. Something soft, but also dense; heavy. This stuffing is comforting in its weight and provides a sense of containment... Finally, he is held. He finds boards to offer further protection from the onslaught that is this battle. The boards create a boundary between him and the giants. This hole offers a way to disappear. To get away from it all. From this world that feels too much.
He retreats back deeper and deeper into the hole, trying to fill his soul in the same way that he has filled this hole. He doesn't know how he got quite so empty. How things escalated so rapidly. The world so recently felt lighter and more spacious. Now it is suffocating in its intensity.
To retreat is an urge so strong that he seeks the solace of the hole at every turn. It is not comfortable in the hole, but it is a pause. And this pause is essential for him. The most essential thing.
How he would like to stay here. To wait it out and re-enter his journey when the path is cleared of all these giants. These problems and challenges that have overwhelmed his world... again. But waiting is not an option afforded him.
Each morning a powerful force calls him out of the hole. He musters the strength to pull himself up and out, commanding this force as he once again faces the giants. These "ginormous" giants that are coming at him from every angle. He finds a small but trusted group of companions to join his force. They are more observers than participants though, watching as he faces each giant. Each problem. Each challenge.
He faces them one effort at a time. Bit by bit reducing them in size and then putting them to the test. Testing if they still overpower him or if he has finally surpassed them. If he finally takes up more space in this world than they do. If only he can create more space for himself... then maybe he can breathe again.
So this is his plight. Face the giants. Reduce them in size. Then test if it is finally enough. After much exhausting effort, he reaches his goal. He has taken control of the giants. They are small enough to be manageable and he has the momentum of success to inspire his command over them. He has created space. Sacred space. For breath. For joy. For being.
In this moment all is victorious, and even fun. He is able to play amongst the giants. He soothes himself with the comforting salve of his victory and shares this salve with his companions. They sit in this space together at last. A happy ending if the story ends here.
But as each day is ending the giants grow in number and strength once again. The world becomes intense and the onslaught returns.
He retreats back to the hole. The fear and dismay of this recurrence too much to bear. The tears of pain sting hot, turning to anger. He fights against those at his side. The blinding pain and anger know no friends. He lashes out without recognition or discernment. He desperately fights to push away the heaviness, all the while begging and pleading for someone to hold him and end this turmoil and suffering.