When did we stop admitting to the intimacy of pain?
Often times I find myself in conversations with others about all the good that is going on in their lives. The positive, the hopeful, the wonderful success of their present in spite of their grief, their pain, their anger and their struggles – whatever those may be.
I am finding it more and more that people do not believe in the success of pain and the rise after the fall as much as they believe in always being on the rise. So I ask again: when did we stop admitting to the intimacy of pain?
Pain is an intimate journey.
It allows you to feel, to hurt, to burn inside without seeing a flame because it is a different type of fire – it is dark. It burns but you can’t see it, it is a silent killer, and can suffocate you at the core.
But pain is intimate, it is a closeness to ourselves we can only feel as a result of this pain. Pain shows us our vulnerabilities, our soft spots, our weaknesses and our faults. All which make us human, all which make us question who the fuck we actually are. And so that’s where I’m at.
I started writing this idea months ago, and I couldn’t come up with the words. But the more I learn about what it means to hurt, and what it means to get through it, the more I recognize the intimacy of a journey that began with a lonely feeling instead.
My therapist once asked me if I feel that depression is a spiritual journey.
I looked at him very confused, a little frustrated that he hadn’t really heard what I was saying for the last half hour. At the time I was very depressed, so I said no.
There’s nothing spiritual about feeling isolated by your own mind and wondering why the outside world feels like it is at all odds with you. All I could think is that this guy is being a complete optimist right now, and I find nothing optimistic about this. But now that I’m not depressed and I see that place as a dark hole, I realize depression was my most spiritual journey yet.
So let me explain. We associate intimacy with a closeness to others. But there’s something to be said about the closeness we feel with ourselves in moments where we are all we have.
I think there’s something very beautiful about the other side of depression. And I am not ignorant that this disease takes lives, I am fully aware of that. But for those of us who experience a journey that does allow us to come out the other end, you realize that at your darkest you needed one thing more than anything else – yourself.
Since I love a good metaphor, this is how I’m going to explain the spiritual journey of depression. If you’ve ever seen Cast Away with Tom Hanks, this guy ends up on a remote island alone, fighting for his life. In the end, after some time, he makes it out alive.
Imagine depression as being a person on an island, placed there against your own will, fighting for your life. You are alone in this. You can survive the crash if you learn how to use your resources. So you make do with what you got. You go around the island, finding water to boil, fishing for dinner, hunting for lunch, whatever it is, you’re doing it regardless of the fact that you’ve never done it before.
You’re not sure how it’s going to work out, but you’re taking hits left and right for the sake of saving your life.
After some time on the island, you start to get better at your day to day tasks, but they’ve become burdensome because no matter how well you do it, because the truth of the matter doesn’t change. You’re stuck on this island until you find your opportunity to leave.
But finally, if and when you do get the opportunity for a change, opportunity to see it through, you better be ready to take it. So when that helicopter is flying above, or that boat floats by, you have to work quick to take that opportunity and get that help, because you never know when it will come again.
So that’s how I can describe depression. Depression is like that island, and you can’t fight it, you can’t beat it, you cannot escape it; you can only work with it until you are relieved in some way. That boat and that helicopter cannot come on command, they are symbols of opportunity, and you taking the jump and the leap to help yourself when given the chance, when faced with opportunity to do so.
That opportunity doesn’t just need to be therapy or mediation, although it can be. That opportunity can be many, and it can be a culmination of your hobbies, your workouts, your reading, your time alone, your adventures, a new place, a new job; it means that a combination of taking care of yourself in all those opportunities can help alleviate the depression.
And just imagine this, when you’re on that boat and you’re looking back at the shore line of the island, or in that helicopter looking down, there is only ONE person who saw it all with you. There was only one person who got you through, taught you the skills you needed to survive, and experienced the intimacy of the pain with you – and that person is you. You can look in the mirror and say I did it. There’s a strength you now have because it’s only yours, something only you got to do, and only you got to do alone.
So yes, looking back I would say that the intimacy of pain is a journey and depression is spiritual. Through it all you had one person who made the difference, and one person who learned how to light the fire that ultimately would save your life.
Depression is you against the world, you against your mind, and if you come out of it alive, you’d be surprised by how happy and alive the memory of it makes you feel. You’d be surprised with what an intimate journey it was.