On President’s Day the kids and I went to see the movie Warm Bodies. Without giving away the plot, it is essentially a zombie love story. That may sound silly, but it was a funny, tender, poignant film. (I’m serious!) Much to my children’s embarrassed dismay, by the end of it I was wiping away tears. (No really, I’m serious.) While it was incredibly sweet and the message of what was required to stop being a zombie and be human once more was one I found moving, what got to me was that the real love story was not just between two people but with the whole idea of being human in the first place. Part of what happened to the people who became zombies was that they lost their ability to remember their humanness. What starts them on the road to being human once more is remembering.
I also think that the reason I became emotional at a zombie movie, no matter how well done, is that, well, these days I feel a little like a zombie. No, I haven’t joined the ranks of the literal walking dead. But I do feel like I shuffle around trying my best to look okay and act okay and be okay. But I’m not okay. I am depressed. Being depressed is tough, but what’s even tougher for me is admitting it. I am, though. I am depressed.
At first glance, you probably wouldn’t think it. I function. I don’t lie in bed all day, crying, watching bad television and eating ice cream out of the carton. I get dressed. I drive my kids to school. I go to work. I laugh and joke with my parishioners. I manage to stand up in the pulpit and preach. I fulfill my duties and obligations. My house, although it could be much cleaner and more organized, is not a complete pit. I still exercise on a regular basis and I try not to overeat.
But on the inside, and often on the outside, I can be an emotional mess. I’m sad. I’m lonely. I’m angry. I’m confused. I’m lost. I’m scared. The fear is the worst because it leads to so many other anxieties. Anxieties about my kids, money, work, the future, the list goes on and on. I am depressed. But I don’t want to be. I know. Who does? But I don’t want to be so badly that I try to force myself into a happiness that isn’t real.
When I was a kid I loved to make a rubber band gun out of my thumb and forefinger. If I could place the rubber band at the right point around both fingers, pull my thumb backwards so the tension on the rubber band was just so, then when I let the sucker go it would fly across the room. I think that’s what forcing happiness is like. I’m the rubber band and when I push myself to stretch into a fake happiness I can only go so far. When I can’t stretch one more inch, I fly back the other way so hard and with such velocity that I feel worse than before.
The truth is I don’t want to be depressed. I don’t want to be sad and scared and all those other supposedly negative emotions. But I also know that I’m not doing myself, or the people who love me, any favors by denying their existence. My emotional struggle is an inevitable consequence of going through trauma. And leaving a marriage, leaving a life, even when it was my decision, my choice to do so, is traumatic. I know this. I just don’t want to feel it.
Brene Brown, in her viral TED talk about vulnerability and wholehearted living, says that one of the struggles people have with being vulnerable is that it often comes with intense feelings. When we’re grieving or sad or depressed we feel vulnerable. It’s uncomfortable, but rather than accepting the discomfort, we try to numb the emotions we don’t like. I don’t like feeling sad, so I’ll do anything I can to numb the sadness. But as Brown says, we can’t “selectively numb.” If we numb the stuff we don’t like, we also numb what we do. We can’t numb sadness without also numbing joy.
I’ve spent a large part of my adult life trying to numb, in one way or another. I don’t want to do that anymore. I can’t. So I acknowledge my depression. Yet even as I say that, I also have to say this. I cling to my stubborn belief that there is more awaiting me than this. I won’t give into the fear I have when things seem especially dark that this is it…forever. I’m doing my best to have a little faith. I know I should say faith in God, but I think the one I really need to have more faith in is me. I am more than just the sadness that seems to envelope me right now. I have courage. It took a heck of a lot of courage just to get to this point. I have joy and passion and love. Right now I feel like I’m a depressed zombie most of the time, but I remember. I remember what it feels like to be me.