Let me paint a portrait for you. Currently, I am writing this column to the tune of “It’s Alright” by Mother Mother. For the past week, I’ve been exclusively kept alive by Premier Protein shakes, FITCRUNCH bars, a blue raspberry disposable frother, and maybe a poke bowl or two. I’m nauseous, my hair looks like garbage, I could cry in a heartbeat, and my daily wardrobe looks like I’m doing an amazing Seth Rogen impression.
In short, I’m fucking depressed. Like the kind of depression that makes you waste your time, where listening to music and eating feels like work. Like the kind of depression that makes you lose weight, like the kind of depression that makes you feel like you don’t know how to love because you’re so dead inside.
About a week ago was when life started to feel like work, and before I knew it, I was numb to everything. All the things that would normally give me a dopamine hit, whether it was hanging out with friends, painting or cooking, felt like nothing. I was indifferent to everything, including the biggest external source of dopamine in my life, which is my wonderful boyfriend, the guitar player.
Naturally, when I realized that I didn’t even feel anything for the guitarist, I panicked. “Was I wrong about us being soul mates?” “Why am I ruining this relationship?” “What is wrong with me?” “I know I love him; Why don’t I feel anything?
I immediately fell into a spiral of depression and anxiety. I sat in the tobacco store parking lot for an hour before my shift trying to unravel the twisted mess that was my psyche. Then, I realized that it wasn’t just the guy with the guitar that I felt indifferent to, but everyone. My mom, my brother, friends and family whom I have loved dearly for years all felt like distant echoes of long lost sensations carved into the frozen cavern that was, at that moment, my heart.
That’s when I knew he was depressed. I went home to the guy with the guitar and told him everything. As I stared at the ceiling too afraid to make eye contact, I rambled on why I felt like such a terrible person and how nothing felt real. He just looked at me with his warm and understanding eyes, nodding and letting me release all these thoughts that had been troubling me for days. When I finished talking, he told me that he understood and that he had felt this way before. He said there was nothing wrong with me, I’m not a terrible person and he believed me when I said I know I love him, I just don’t feel like it right now. Then he gave me the tightest hug I’ve ever received in my life, and for that brief moment, I felt like someone had put a defibrillator in my chest.
At that moment, I felt my heart beating again. I felt a loving warmth run through my veins, thawing me out and reminding me of what it feels like to be alive. That’s when I had this epiphany. I realized that even if love doesn’t feel like it’s there, it still is.
Maybe it’s because you’re depressed, or maybe you feel like you shouldn’t love this or that person, or you’re angry at someone who hurt you, but love still exists in that space. In fact, more often than not, it’s a more powerful kind of love because it comes without the benefits of all those happy feelings we tend to associate with being in love. If I know one thing for certain in life, it’s that all forms of love are valid, not just the forms we regularly validate.
That crush you had on that boy in your high school English class, that’s a form of love. That barista at the coffee shop who always brightens your day because they put extra foam on your cappuccino, that’s a form of love. That situation that only lasted a month but took you a year to get over it, was also a form of love.
Love is not exclusively this super happy feeling, sun, rice at a wedding, happily ever after. It’s so much more than that, and the fact that we try to condense it into a box with a bunch of criteria is actually our own anxious effort to protect ourselves from the pain and vulnerability that love can sometimes bring.
For once, this column is not about giving advice, it’s not about a solution, and it’s certainly not about how I have all the answers, because I don’t. It’s about validating yourself and however love for you expresses itself, within you and around you.
If you feel depressed, angry, sad, despondent or abandoned, know that there is still love there. It can be hard to find, and I would implore you to seek therapy if those feelings are lingering, but if you take a moment and look for the love that is there and validate it like Guitar Boy did for me, I promise. you will feel a little better.
I want to close with a quote from one of my favorite movies. The movie is called “Collateral Beauty,” and it’s the saddest movie I’ve ever seen, but in the best possible way. The film revolves around a man, Howard, after he loses his six-year-old daughter to cancer. In his pain, Howard writes a letter to the entities that are Love, Death, and Time, and they respond and help him through his pain.
In one scene, Howard is arguing with the person who represents love: he yells at him because he once believed in love. The love was in his daughter’s laughter and her trust in him as his father, but it was taken from him in the form of a crushing diagnosis and very little time. After he ends his grieving tirade, Love looks at him and says, “I’m in on this. I am the darkness and the light. I am the sun and the storm. Yes, you are right, I was there in her laughter, but now I am also here in your pain. I am the reason for everything.”
Love is in all things, even the painful or numb parts of life. It’s valid, whether it’s the echoes of love within the smog that is depression or the hate that occurs after a person is hurt. It exists in the crushes we had as children and the soul mates we found as adults. It is as much in the pain, anguish, and hate as it is in the smiles and warm hugs. If you take nothing else from this column, take this: the love you feel today, tomorrow and yesterday, is valid and will always be valid.