Drowning in Sorrow

Lifeguards will tell you, if you ask, that drowning doesn’t look like you think it does. There’s no yelling, waving, or splashing—and if there is, it’s only for a brief moment that often gets mistaken for having fun.

Photography: Emir Ozsahin

Photography: Emir Ozsahin

Instead, a drowning person looks like they’re standing—they’re literally vertical in the water. Their hands are at their sides, trying to push themselves up by pushing the water down. If you look closely, you might see their lips surfacing now and again. They have only enough energy to exhale and inhale quickly. There’s nothing left with which to cry out.

When I first read a description of this, it seemed oddly familiar. Thankfully, I’ve never witnessed anyone drowning in a body of water. But I have seen more than a few drowning people walking the streets or sitting across from me during a client session.

Someone who’s drowning emotionally looks very much the same as someone drowning physically.

They look like they’re standing—but on the inside, they are curled in a fetal position. They’re not waving around in any obvious manner; their hands are at their sides, or doing normal everyday things. If you look closely, you might see the underlying despair just at the surface now and again. They have only enough energy to breathe and get through the day. There’s nothing left with which to cry out.

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