“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.”
– Andrew Solomon, Depression, the Secret We Share
I’m often left forcing my own feelings. I mean that I rarely feel the way that I want to feel, and I’m almost always thinking of how to just feel better. Strangely enough, it never works. Most days slip by very quickly, and at the end of the day I’m lying in bed feeling poor and stressed because I somehow wasted all day not feeling correctly. I was too sad, or too lonely, or too indifferent.
These feelings carry into every single moment. The past few months I’ve climbed mountains, wandered unknown streets, met new people, and still I feel like I’ve done nothing. Which isn’t to say I don’t have feelings. I have an unreasonable amount of feelings; none of them fill me. So 2014 ended, and I can only look back and reflect on how I didn’t appreciate it enough, and it will forever look like an empty, wasted year, piled on top of the years left over from an empty, wasted life. I just want to feel some fullness. I just want to love the day. I’m not okay.
So I’m on a hike—I’m hiking up to Lake Colchuck. I’m with my friends Sam and Kevin. The land is beautiful. Mountains peek down at us through the trees. The sun is out, and the sky is blue, and we’re young and we’re active and I’m not fucking enjoying it and I can’t figure out why.
When we get to the top of the trail, Lake Colchuck is a frozen and strange teal blue. The mountains are glorious, distant, snowy. Green pine trees cling to rocks. The sun is gleaming on the mountains so they look delicately painted. And I’m just frustrated to be surrounded by it all and not know what to do with it. I moved to Washington for these views—I want to feel them and love them. But I’m not. So I walk down to the edge of the lake. It’s well below freezing. I strip my clothes off and stand naked and red and look around. It occurs to me that I might be depressed.
Fullness feels like a distant memory. I know how it should feel. God, I can remember those feelings. Sometimes I get so close to feeling okay, and my heart finally feels like it’s lifting. Never all the way. That weight, so physical, is always there. I feel it now.
I had a dream once where I could see all my sadness suspended in my body like bright orbs. With my hands I reached in and pulled each one out. As I let each orb go, my heart actually lightened. And when I woke I felt healed. I think I was, briefly. I knew it would all come back though, heavy, heavy, the same way we know the sun will rise. It’s not weakness, knowing it would come back. The sun always rises.
I’m with my family on Christmas morning: mom, dad, brother, and sister. I’m in love with my family, so it’s odd to be with them and feel terrible and alone. When loved ones are all gathered in a room, the air itself is filled with a kind of warm loveliness. Now, it’s as if I can see that in the air and can’t breathe it in. I keep looking at my brother with his wife and daughters, and my sister with her husband and son. I could see the separations of new families forming, and future Christmases where I picked a family to be with. I feel a pathetic kind of aloneness. People had found my siblings. I wonder if it’s my depression that keeps someone from finding me. I know it can make me jealous, quiet, bitter. I know.
God, it’s a selfish state of mind. Christmas morning and I was staring at walls, thinking about myself, mourning my love life like I do every other day. So I try to force feelings of contentment and togetherness, so I can be with my family just for a moment before I fly back to Seattle. And I can’t.