The Metaphorical Brain Beach

A Walk Along The Metaphorical Beach

As part of world mental health day I’d like to take you on a trip to the beach.

It’s not just any old beach though. This is a special beach.

This is the metaphorical beach that I am going to use to represent the mind and try and explain what it’s like living with anxiety and depression.

Stick with it, it’s an easy read. I’ve even gathered some pictures to help ease the journey for you.

Ok. Let me begin.

Imagine this sandy beach is the mind at birth. Warm, unencumbered and a nice place to be.


You can roam it freely without fear of stubbing a toe or stepping in anything weird.

The years pass as you begin to grow and develop. Life happens.

Along with the warm sands now you notice a few pebbles on your beach.


They don’t really change the way you roam the beach and it is still a good place to go.

A few years later and the pebbles have multiplied.


You’re not sure why or how but you begin to notice their presence on the beach, especially when you step on a particularly pointy one.

Listen, don’t think about the pebbles. They’ll be washed away by the tide soon.

You continue to walk the beach everyday for years to come, generally trying to ignore the mounting piles of pebbles until one day you start to find that there are now patches of beach and patches of pebbles.


You try planning your walk around these mini hurdles so that you can keep to the soft warm sandy bits.

The tide will be in soon. They’ll all be gone then. Don’t think about the pebbles, just leave them there and make it to a sandy bit, ok?

You can see the cleansing tide, but it’s still a way off. You hope that it will come soon as it’s been a while since the cold stoney pebbles were last washed away and are beginning to make your daily walk uncomfortable and no longer the pleasure that it once was.


One day, years after you first set foot on this beach, you arrive to discover that the only warm sandy bits are behind a beach made of pebbles.


Where did the cleansing tide get too?! Why didn’t it clear the stoney, cold barrier that stands between you and the soft warm sand?!

Wait? Is it me or is it further away than before?


So now, you can’t make it to the comfort of the warm sand and that cleansing tide is creeping further away.

Its ok, you’ve got a plan. Ignore the pebbles. Turn your back on the hope of reaching the sand and try the grassy dunes.

They’re just off the beach so not far. You can go wait there while the beach sorts itself out.



They’re there too!

You turn back to the beach thinking that it didn’t look that far over the pebbles to the warm sand.

You can make it, right?



The pebbles have become little rocks and they are everywhere.

Ok, the pebbles on the grass didn’t look that intimidating. You’ll try those again.

You turn around.


What?! But… How…

You, my friend, are trapped.

There is no way forward and no way back.

There is no sand anymore.

It’s futile but if you let it continue, the pebbles will cover you soon!

This is the day you realise you have a problem and it’s not going away.

What next?

Click page number 2 below to find out. 

38 thoughts on “A Walk Along The Metaphorical Beach

  1. What a fantastic way to describe the feelings – literally ‘stuck between a rock and a hard place’. I’ve suffered depression in the past and there are times where you feel you’ll never feel better. There are so many external things that can hurt us but there’s nothing so destructive to us than our own minds. We ‘know’ how to hurt ourselves the most. You’re doing a fantastic thing in raising money and more importantly awareness John, thank you. I really enjoyed meeting you and attending the class at Katy Sue Designs and your Donald Trump choir boy lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Did you you ever think of the pebbles being something wonderful? Made by thousands of tides, going in and out. They are beautiful and come in different sizes, different colours, different patterns, different shapes. Not two of them are alike. Every one has its own story about how it got there and where it came from and how long it will stay there before it will be washed away.


    • In the context of this editorial, and my attempts to show people what it is like with a growing mental health difficulty, it was hard to put the pebbles in a positive role as they represented the trials and tribulations of life sullying the golden warm sands of happiness.
      I do agree that each has it’s own story and can offer ways in which to work with it and use it and in hindsight, this would perhaps have helped me avoid the consequences of ignoring the pebbles in the first place. Hopefully others will read this and see that and look after their own mental health earlier on and so avoid the consequences of ignoring the pebbles.


  3. Hope this encourages others to recognise where they are on the mental wellbeing spectrum. Most of us know when we physically need an MOT or to get a nighle looked a before we are in crises. Thanks for encouraging everyone to talk and raise awareness.
    One very important point that has already been mentioned, if you are trying a talking therapy and its not working for you, it is VERY ok to say so even though you may feel like it is you failing. Talking may still be the way forward but with a different therapist. It may be tempting to think talking isn’t the answer but like with physical health, the first pill may not work but you would be prepared to try another rather than dismiss all pills. And don’t worry about hurting the therapists feelings. They won’t feel rejected as they understand the need for a good match and they will be someone else’s perfect fit.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have spent great chunks of my life trying to battle through the pebbles, spending time in hospital and many years in therapy. Depression is a misunderstood and debilitating illness. I do like your description of it and hope that you continue to find warm, comforting sand.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow what a great way of talking about it I have had depression on and off all my life since about 11 years old The last bout started in 2012 where I was alomst sectioned luckily I found help but not in the conventional way as the NHS mental health service I think needs a lot of improving. I wouldn’t say I am over the last bout but lets say my beach has more sand than pebbles xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you John x that has to be the most insiteful ( if that is a word? ) way I have ever read of describing this debilitating illness. It is something I have struggled with for years, and at one point following an abusive relationship which sapped my self esteem to a point it was impossible to function, I too seeked professional help. It was amazing how just talking over a period of weeks with this lady that I got strong again. It does work, though only if you get the right person. I still struggle, but nothing like as bad as I was then.
    You are so inspiring doing this challenge, John. It must be very hard at times to keep going, but remember so many people, many like me who have never met you, are rooting for you. X

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great analogy and description of your illness and journey to recovery John. Having been one of life’s achievers, copers and problem solvers, it was a real shock to me to have an episode of work related stress a few years ago, so whilst I don’t suffer with anxiety or depression, I can really understand turning a corner and finding a huge bolder that you can’t get around! Professional counselling really helped, and I now give back by being a volunteer mental health befriender, and I find that crafting really helps me focus on the here and now and relax. Good luck with your fundraising, Susan x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Since my granddaughter was stillborn 6 years ago the panic attacks I’ve suffered with for 32 years (started in an abusive marriage and struggled with solo as was afraid of losing my children after my divorce) have stopped effecting all my life I no longer feel I have to fight them every day but have realised I have got into a comfortable rut which has got so deep I have to jump to see over the edge. I just avoid things that are panic inducing unless I have no choice. Got to admit on my rocky beach I keep climbing on top to admire the view and tell myself I didn’t want to paddle in the sea anyway. I have so many physical health worries right now (I’m under 3 departments at the hospital) that I don’t feel like fighting to check out the other physical and mental challenges. I’ll be 55 in just over a week and see more agile 80 year olds. *sigh*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lynne, it sounds like your pebble beach has become quite full. I can’t profess to empathise with your entire situation but can say that each of those things is a pebble. Each pebble can be lifted and moved independently. In short, don’t look at the beach and instead treat each pebble as its own thing. It will take time but it is much more manageable that way.
      I wish you all the best in your journey and hope you physical ailments are cleared soon.


    • This is one thing that people often don’t see about mental health; it is communicable like a cold. The ailments of one can transfer to another. Just remember that you are two people and that you must take care of your own mental health as well as that of your son who I am sure appreciates your commitment and strength immeasurably.


  9. That’s a beautiful explanation John, so hard for us to explain how we feel, but you’ve done it. My pebbles seem to arrive in a storm just when my beach is clearing, but I’m getting better at forecasting the weather. Love and Hugs to you, you’re doing fantastically. :) :) :)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. John this is a very easy yet powerful explanation to those that are lucky enough to have sandy beaches to walk on every day. I’m lucky in that although my sandy beach gets covered in pebbles & rocks in the run up to winter I know that there will be a spring tide that will wash the majority of the stones away, especially the biggest ones. Also I have a wonderful family & friends that help me clear some of the biggest ones when I come across them.
    May your beach remain mostly sandy & your rock hammer never dull. Sending much love xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. how strange you should post this my bill has dementia and yesterday he said he felt like he was surrounded my stones on a beach and couldn’t get out, how very strange lots of love john on your journey xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. That’s exactly how it feels and your description of pebbles sand and sea gives a really good analogy. I am a visual sort of person so images are a powerful tool. It is scary to acknowleldge that you need help to get back to the person you used to be but it’s also the first step on the road to recovery. Thank you for sharing that, I’m sure, like me, it will ring true for many and be a stepping stone to a brighter future. You are doing a brilliant job bringing this subject out into the open……you have a gift for sharing both personally and professionally. Karen x

    Liked by 1 person

  13. That is by far the best description of this illness i’very read so far. It is REALLY difficult to put into words what it’s like dealing with anxiety and depression. It’s the anxiety that affects me the most……5hose pebbles just refuse to budge!

    Great post John. Keep creating and stick with your journey. You are doing a fantastic job xx

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Keep creating, John! To paraphrase from my own book, QUILTING TO SOOTHE THE SOUL, ‘Let the work of your hands ease the stresses in your heart.’ Your work is beautiful in whatever medium you choose. Keep smiling and working each day.

    Liked by 1 person

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