Pulling myself out of bed this morning was painful. When I was washing my face, I avoided making eye contact with my self. My limbs feel weak. My thoughts are racing. Tears are forming. My wrists are tingling, a typical sign that I'm about to face some sort of crash. Given that I'm leaving tomorrow for a long weekend away from my friends, my partner, my home, I'm not particularly surprised. I've envisioned my trip to Gethsemani as a mountain experience, a chance to re-engage myself, to re-encounter God. My sixth sense tells me this might be a valley experience. In my life, while I experience God on the mountain, my experiences with her are more powerful in the valley. I see God in times of joy, but I feel her—her proximity, her embrace, her affection—in times of pain.
From the time I started experiencing symptoms of major depression, there's been a sense of peace that comes with those symptoms. Crying. Anxiousness. Desires to cause self-harm. For many, these symptoms and others are virtually unbearable. I on the other hand find them comforting, familiar. I know them well, and have for several years. As usual, I have a hard time translating my thoughts on and feelings about depression into words—at least words that explain why I'm okay with my depression.
Enter one of my favorite TV shows, Smash. Monday's episode, "The Song," included a performance by Jennifer Hudson. Of all the music I've ever loved, ever listened to, this song expresses how I feel better than I ever could:
They say nothing lasts forever Well, I wish that that were true 'Cause this aching in my heart won't go away They sing, "Ev'rything must change", They say that time will see you through Well I've listened and I've waited for that day
But I wake up with this anger And the pain won't let me be And the smile I share Is only there for show If I hang on to this heartache Then my soul will not be free So I keep trying But I just cannot let go
I can't let go Oh, I need it to remind me I can't let go Oh, I just repeat the past And though your arms are saying yes I feel my heart keep saying no I want to love you But I can't let go
I have to live through bad beginnings And I've seen unhappy ends So I close the book Before the story starts I'm just a witness to my lifetime And I'm a stranger to my friends I'm a trafficker Of broke and damaged hearts
Now, you ask me to start over But it's easier said than done 'Cause the memories are strong when they arise And when heartache comes a-callin' I won't even try to run 'Cause it's all that makes me know that I'm alive
I can't let go Oh, I need it to remind me I can't let go Oh, I just repeat the past And though your arms are saying yes I feel my heart keep saying no I want to love you I want to love you Oh, I want to love you But I can't let go
No, I can't let go Won't you help me? Help me to let go
I'm not sure if I'll ever really be able to let go of the pain I feel most days. Yes, I experience joy and happiness. Yes, these things bring me fulfillment. But depression, whether in label or in manifestations, truly does make me feel alive. It reminds me that I can't live on my own. I need God, my faith, my friends and family, and even the total stranger to live. My depression is a gateway to connection. I've tried hiding it, putting on the face, but doing so only leads to superficial relationships. When I'm honest, when I'm vulnerable and not simply transparent, then my connection to the world and to those around me is strengthened.
I really have no clue what this weekend holds for me or for those who will share the time and space with me. This much I know: over the past several months, I've lost myself in labels, in perfectionism, in duties and responsibilities, in relationships. But I have not lost myself in God, mostly because I don't know how to. There's so much baggage, so much past, so many unanswered questions. After a while, I simply stopped asking them, regardless of how desperately I wanted them answered. I've never really been able to let God love me. I have a hard time letting others love me. And I certainly have never had a holistic love for myself—I love parts of me, but not me as a whole person.
If you think of it, if you're willing, say a prayer, send some positive energy, or simply think a happy thought for me, for the brothers of Gethsemani, and for the others with whom I'll be sharing the weekend. We all have different specific reasons for making this journey, but my guess is that each of us has something we need to release, to surrender, to let go.