It wouldn’t matter if my street were alive or silent. No outside factors could set the tone for writing night to be uplifting or chaotic. I don’t feel like writing. I don’t feel like doing anything these days. Sitting down to put metaphorical pen to paper requires something inside me to generate content, and I’m not sure anything of value rests below the surface of my skin.
I long for one thing only: to feel like myself again. I want this depression to lift and free me to experience joy and inspiration. I want my thoughts to flow onto the page the way they used to every Tuesday night in a manner by which I could set my watch, so constant and dependable. But you can’t fast-forward your way out of depression. I’m learning that the hard way. The only way out of it is through it, it seems, continuing to hope the next day is better than the one before.
Every time I Google how to get out of depression, I find a blog post or article reminding me of the importance of physical activity. I still go to the gym nearly every day, and while my workouts aren’t legendary, I put in my time on the elliptical and sometimes muster the energy to hit some machines. During this period of my life, my time at Planet Fitness is what I look forward to most, not because of the exercise that’s supposed to boost my endorphins and give me natural good feelings, but because of Chuck, my gym mentor. I don’t really need a paid therapist when I have Chuck to listen and advise roughly five days a week. While I don’t doubt there are mental benefits to physical exercise, the relationship I have with Chuck is a more important constant to me. While my own internal dialogue is more like a monologue in recent weeks, I find hope in his council. He greets me with a smile and a hug, and he challenges me to take more steps… like writing this blog post.
In the last week, I’ve focused on completing tasks I assigned myself as actionable steps I could take out of this season of depression. Some goals are physical like eating right with cheat days and drinking water. Others are personal or mental like reading certain books. Since I lack the internal motivation to do things, I’ve simply started filling empty blocks of time with these tasks, figuring the least I can do is try and make myself a better person while I’m fighting my way back to happy and healthy. I committed myself to texting a friend every day, and after a few days, she sent me a text before I reached out. The intentionality of making contact with her, a focus on someone other than myself, resulted in building a relationship.
Not every adventure has been successful. My nieces graduated from pre-school last week, and while I sat with a smile, I didn’t feel the joy of the occasion like the others in attendance. I smiled and hugged them but couldn’t name pride or excitement. Last weekend, I went to Water Country, one of my favorite places. I thought that surely I would laugh and scream with glee when dropped from the top of Vanish Point, but even the thrills of the rides couldn’t stir any genuine emotions. At this stage, I’m not sure if it’s the depression or the anti-depressant medication that makes me largely numb, which is not a good set-up to try and write an inspiring post. Instead, I’m writing about this very thing: not being able to feel the good or the bad of everyday life. It’s like I’m perpetually bored from the inside out, and though I keep looking for fulfillment in external things, ultimately until what’s inside is right, I’m not going to find the emotional connections I’m looking for out there.
On Monday, I tackled a more difficult relational task. I met with someone with whom I used to be very close, someone who I wronged deeply. My actions led to the end of that relationship, and even on a good day, it’s hard to face someone you’ve hurt. I pushed aside the numbness and hoped my apology would be sincere despite the emptiness I sensed at my core. To my surprise, when sitting face to face with him, I felt the full weight of being sorry, and although it was painful, I realized what a gift he’d given me. I didn’t know how much I needed his forgiveness.
Feelings are tricky when you’re battling depression. You can’t trust them, and often they don’t come at all. Rather, life becomes a mental battlefield. I decide to wake up and go to work. I decide to drive two hours to meet an old friend and be forgiven. I decide to go to the gym and see Chuck. I decide to send a text message and check on a girlfriend. I don’t feel joy, but my feelings can’t be trusted. I don’t want to write, but maybe this boring journey through depression will mean something to a reader. I don’t feel like doing anything, but I do things anyway, and the results make life better to varied degrees. And maybe when I’m finally out of this depression, I’ll be a better person for it.