“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.

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Wouldn’t it be great if I could post a witty response and with a word of famous author’s quote, help you feel again? I wish I could. I wish feeling again was that simple but it’s not and it never will be. But the fight is worthwhile. Though you may feel it, you are not alone.

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    I read this a while ago and I keep coming back to it over and over again, feeling something change inside, not in a way that makes it all better or makes me or my life all that different, but helping me get to a new understanding of what it means to be okay with what it is now, whatever it may be.

    “Nothing makes sense until we understand that experience does not accumulate like money, or memory, or like years and frailties. Instead, it is presented to us by a God who is not under any obligation to the past except in His eternal, freely given constancy…Therefore, we have no way to reconcile its elements because they are what we are given out of no necessity at all except God’s grace in sustaining us as creatures we can recognize as ourselves.

    So joy can be joy and sorrow can be sorrow, with neither of them casting either light or shadow on the other.”

    Lila, Marilynne Robinson

    Reply
  3. Avatar

    Sweet Will. Having just gone through my own dark night of the soul, I can attest that there are no easy fixes to any of this.

    But dear, wise friends gave me good counsel: to be still and quiet as much as possible; to be kind to myself; to simplify my life; and to sit with and in the pain or the unfeeling or the anxiety or the depression and just notice it–get comfortable with it without trying to feel differently. There is nothing, absolutely nothing selfish about taking care of ourselves and just letting ourselves BE–no pressure and no expectations. Therapy, too. That’s been a lifesaver for me.

    Thanks for sharing. These are good, honest words.

    Reply
  4. Avatar

    As always, love your honesty, Will. Thank you for sharing something so vulnerable with everyone.

    Reply

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