“How can you be depressed when you’re in such a beautiful place?” a friend asked me a couple weeks ago when I, on this adventure, confessed to a despairing sadness.
I knew it wasn’t logical. But that’s how depression works. That’s how illness works. It doesn’t care if you’re at work, onstage, on vacation, in the magical city of Atlantis riding a pegasus unicorn farting rainbows while eating a bacon cheeseburger. It shows up when it shows up.
I was on the phone with another friend of mine last Friday, telling him that I’d had a really rough morning, and I told him about how emotional lows have been showing up in the middle of this beautiful 2-month, cross-country walkabout with my big hairy best friend. He related and talked about how the crashes come pretty hard after the good things happen. Told me he’d had some epically great news, was on top of the world, and within hours fell devastatingly deep into the darkness. For no good reason.
I’m a great problem solver. I’m fine with showing up and figuring things out when I get there. It’s how I’ve traveled the world. It’s how I’m on this grand adventure and doing just fine. I’m rational. Read this blog I wrote about it. I even have fun with it.
Except sometimes, I’m not that version of me, and I’m super vulnerable to meeting a crisis with devastation.
The next morning, Saturday, I was struggling some, still, and I was trying really hard to be OK, to do the self-care, to take my time, to feel peace, to be excited about the adventure ahead. I recognized this and also recognized something I’ve learned about myself on this trip — that this is when I am vulnerable. When I’m really trying super hard to be OK, that’s when I can be emotionally derailed by a hangnail. Has this ever happened to you in a relationship? Not just a romantic one, but any relationship? Business? Friendship? When you’re trying super hard to do everything right and something doesn’t go right, despite all your best efforts, it’s awful, right? That’s how it is when I’m trying super hard simply to be OK.
I knew I was vulnerable, but I immediately forgot this new knowledge the moment the thing happened. It was a bit of a heartbreaking moment, actually, and I totally came apart. I couldn’t rationalize my way out of it. I couldn’t draw upon my life experience of crap happening and work through the moment. I had no plan. I sat on my motel bed and cried like a child.
Later I had to come back and remind myself of the vulnerability factor. Only so I could cut myself some slack. I can be really hard on myself for being thin-skinned. (Because I totally am.)
I went back to work fending off the hurt and depression (which actually does come with a reason sometimes), because I was in a beautiful place.
I called the same friend who’d said before, “How can you be depressed when you’re in such a beautiful place?” This time, she told me she understood. That this question of hers was why she was afraid to go to the beach. Because she didn’t want to go there and be depressed. So I guess, all along, she was asking herself.
Sometimes we have a reason to be sad. Sometimes it just shows up. Sometimes we can wrangle the sadness, and sometimes our efforts set us up to fall deeper into that hole.
I don’t have an answer to her question. I don’t have a comprehensive, comprehensible explanation of depression. All I have is … Just go to the beach.