You know what the worst thing is about depression? That feeling of hopelessness, of helplessness, of feeling like there’s nothing you can do that will make any difference at all.
And it’s true. Nothing you can do can make any different at all — to your past.
Ultimately, when you’re depressed, you are mourning your past. You are reliving some part of your life, and all of the emotions that came with it. You are mourning what has already happened, and your inability to change it.
Depression feels like dying, like decay, like death is slowly spreading across your body, slowing you down and eating you up. It feels like you are paralysed, like you can’t move or escape. As if you’ve been drugged and your body is immobile but your mind is still awake to witness the horror. Rigor mortis sets in even as you watch helplessly, unable to shake it off, to make your skin tingle again to feel alive, awake, vivid.
And it’s okay that it feels that way — because the past cannot be changed and perhaps all you are doing is letting the emotions that you still have attached to it to be processed, to pass through you and to finally be released.
It is our wish as humans to be witnessed, to be acknowledged, to be seen and held and applauded, to receive a smile and a nod when we cross paths with another human.
But it isn’t really us that want to be seen — it’s our humanity, our emotions. They bubble up like a breath released by some creature hiding in the deep dark sea, and they want to rise all the way up to the surface where they can meet the horizon and touch the sky and finally be free.
By accepting our depression as it happens, and not suppressing it, we offer those bubbles exactly what they want — to be released, to become one with the vast sea of air, rather than being caught inside of us. The longer we hold them down, the pressure builds up, like a shaken up bottle of champagne. Eventually, they will burst open and spill over, a waste of potential precious shared moments. So it’s best to just give them what they want. And witness their rise up and their release into the air outside.
And breathe in fresh air. Let go of those stale pockets of air trapped in those bubbles. Breathe in the air that is around you right now. Return to the present moment. Fill yourself with live energy from the atmosphere around you, replace the old with the new.
When we release the residue of our past emotions, we make space for new experiences and feelings. For new input and stimulation. For new learning. For creativity.
We may not have control over the past, but by giving the past a proper release, we have control over our future. At least in how much space and capacity we have for it.
It took me 8 months to release 17 years worth of residual emotions. 8 painful months of feeling paralysed, inadequate, stuck, lost, helpless. At times, I felt like dying would be a better option, but then I realised, I didn’t want to die — I actually just felt a part of me dying. An old part that had not been seen, that longed to be witnessed for so long, that wanted to be held, and beholden. My parents came to visit me together, for the first time, and the little girl in me rose up to demand, where have you been? Why haven’t you been here? Why did you not witness me in the life I worked hard to create? She threw up her arms in abandon and demanded to be seen, to be held and to be acknowledged. She got angry for having been abandoned, for being left all alone. She just wanted to be taken care of, even if it wasn’t really possible anymore. But it was just what she wanted, like nothing else.
My parents weren’t equipped to give her what she wanted. And the adult in me struggled to give her what she wanted too. But no one else in my life could do it but me.
Eventually, I did. I told her it was okay that she felt the way she did, and she didn’t have to pretend she wasn’t hurting. It was okay that she was upset. She had a right to feel whatever she felt. And it wasn’t her fault that she was hurting. There was nothing wrong with her for feeling the way she felt. She felt hurt and she was perfectly justified to feel that way. She was not broken. She was not wrong. She was just normal. And normal people feel painful emotions sometimes.
Like a ghost that keeps haunting those it needs to warn the most, she evaporated as soon as she felt seen. And heard. And acknowledged. And held. And beholden.
And by giving that residual self the space she needed to rise up to the surface and dissolve into the air outside, I released myself. I took back my life — I stopped feeling paralysed and trapped, and I felt my energy return to my body. And I was finally able to move forward again, feeling free of the need to keep this part of me buried under the surface.
Whatever we experience in this life leaves a physical impression on our bodies, our emotions don’t just go away if we ignore them. They get lodged somewhere inside us, until something stirs them up again. And when they reemerge, we have an opportunity to clear what we were previously unable to deal with. Suppressing them back down is like giving up an entire section of your hard drive to a virus that takes up way more processing power than you can afford.
Depression may not be a desirable experience, but neither is going to the dentist. But if you ever lived in an environment that forced you to go into survival mode and skip addressing some of your emotions in the past, chances are you have some cavities to deal with.
It’s perfectly normal to have cavities. And depression. It’s perfectly normal to experience decay even while we are alive. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us, or that we are damaged. If anything, it means we are alive, and that the life we have is precious, fleeting, and worthy of witnessing. By everyone we cross paths with, but most of all, by our own selves.
Sometimes, life flies by us and we can’t deal with everything happening around us. Sometimes, experiences and emotions sink like the Titanic to the bottom of the sea, and it takes some crazy overzealous movie director to dive deep into the past to discover what had been forgotten and thought forever gone. But when those pieces of the past get dislodged, no matter how dark or grimy they’ve become, they must be allowed to float up to the surface. They must be allowed to be seen. To finally be free.
And when they stop being suppressed, we stop being depressed. As we float up, we get lighter, and when we breathe out that last sigh, we let go of what was dragging us down all along. By releasing our past, we can finally take our life back — and finally move forward.
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