I woke up this morning feeling really happy. I had a really good Saturday – standing [intense] yoga and brunch date with friends, caught up with a co-worker and etched out our plan of action for today, finally had time to get groceries, and danced my butt off at the Waldorf in a lightning-bolt and fur collar inspired outfit while sipping cocktails from a coconut. So I rolled out of bed with a [hung-over] smile on my face, wrote the draft of a blog inspired by a talk that my friend and I had over brunch the other day, and set off to work to put in a solid day and a half because tomorrow is my birthday and I have the day off.
As I stood in line at Our Town, I glanced over my shoulder and saw a lady from my building. She lives on my floor, so initially my interactions with her were surface level as we said our hellos and stood in the elevator together. She always had a vacancy behind her eyes that I wondered about. As time went on, she opened up to me about her ongoing plight with depression and mania. Today, she looked extra sad – her eyes were very empty and the energy she was emanating pierced my heart from across the room. So after I grabbed my coffee I went over to check in on her and so it began…
My neighbor has spent the last 27 years battling depression. A constant cycle of being too sad to move, to feel, to do anything. And right now it was at its depth of sadness. She told me about how hard it is to live every day. To spend your day just wanting the minutes to go by because you are in so much pain, but you can’t move or do anything really except to be in pain. Yet at the same time, you don’t want the time to go by because you know that at the end of the day you’ll take your sleeping pills that will knock you out, only to have to wake up in the morning and feel the pain again. She told me about how she just wants to die. How she doesn’t understand the point of a life where all she is, is in pain and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. She spoke about how even after the depression cycles out after 4-6 months’ time, and she starts to feel “normal” and like she’s getting back on track, 3 months tops will pass and then the depression hits again. And so the cycle repeats. She asks me, “what’s the point to living a life, where all you are is sad? In pain? Hopeless? Hurting?” She just wants to die but at the same time she can’t kill herself because her boyfriend is out of town and his stuff is in her apartment and he doesn’t have a key… and if she killed herself now he couldn’t get his stuff and he wouldn’t be there to take care of her cat. But she’s so tired of being in pain. “What’s the point?” she asks.
What is the point? I don’t know what to say. There is nothing for me to say other than the truth – which is that I am so, so, so, so, sorry that she is in all this pain. I ask her what she needs from me right now and she says that me just being here is plenty. And so I continue to sit on the floor of the coffee store and just listen to her, and hold her hand as she cries, and give her a tissue that I had thankfully shoved into the breast pocket of my hobo jacket that morning. What more is there to do other than to hold space for her to express her feelings and visualize opening my heart so that I can try to absorb and clear some of the sadness that is within her. My heart breaks as I just try to be present and not shut down from opening myself to feeling her pain.
I know that this is not about me. But at the same time, I’m an actor in this play and situations like this just fuck with me and my sense of the world. The Universe is such a beautiful place. The flowers, the rain, the smile of a baby… all these simple joys and here is someone who is in so much pain that is outside of her control… and try as she might, even if she momentarily notices the beauty of the sunrise, she’s still going back into the abyss. There’s children in Africa who cry day in and day out for morsels of food that will never hit their belly. And here we are. Here I am. In my hobo jacket with the remnants of a grin left over from the fun of yesterday and the promise of today. I don’t know how to make sense of it all.
So I tell her, I tell her that she is so brave. So brave to live day in and day out with this pain. So brave to face the world every day and to find reasons to smile – even if for just a second. I also suggest that she start carrying around a little notebook in which she can write down the instances that she does feel happiness – like when she volunteers – so that she can eventually build up an arsenal of things that she can try to reach to when she has the energy to try to find a momentary reprieve from the pain. I remind her of something she had told me in a previous encounter – about how she thought that maybe people who suffer from depression are chosen by God to be the keepers of this negative energy that is stuck on earth and has nowhere to go. I don’t know. I just don’t know. All I know is that she is so brave. And so I eventually walk her to her church and proceed on my way to my office. I’m too sad to cry. Too sad to feel much of anything other than feel the pang of the bleeding of my heart. And I am oh so humbled. So I walk and just look at the beauty and mystery of the plants and the trees and the birds flying. And I call my mom and dad. There’s so much light and so much dark in the world. And it’s so hard to make sense of it all. Maybe the best we can do is just be there for one other. The re-love-ution is [part of] the answer. Because we all feel. We all breathe. And we’re all just beings of Light doing the best we can with the cards that we’ve been dealt – and god does it feel good to be validated and loved, especially when all you want to do is curl up and cry.