Training for the marathon I ran back in January had me in great physical shape, though I was completely bent out of shape emotionally by depression. Before I ran my marathon, I was struggling with a lot of hurt triggered by the fact that most of my close friends here in Taipei were not going to be at my race (you can read more about that experience here). A friend asked me if it was possible for my friends to run the marathon with me. All they could do was they are already doing in their hearts: supporting me and cheering me on.
Those words were hard to hear then, but every time I think about what she said to me, her words make more sense. There are some things in this life one simply must do alone.
In the words of Walt Whitman: “Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you, you must travel it yourself.”
(Those words are actually from a longer piece that I recorded and shared here.)
It’s a difficult line in general, I feel, to draw between what you must face alone and when you need the help of others. Many times, I’ve found myself depending too much on others; and other times I completely resist them, refusing help and isolating myself in my problems. And most of the time, I fail at communicating what I need, leaving others completely in the dark about my whereabouts and weaknesses. It always only hurts me in the end.
Unless, I’m writing one of these posts, it’s almost like I can never get the spontaneous expression of negative emotion right. Whatever I say or do comes out wrong, I don’t get a response; I have no idea what people are thinking. It makes me wonder where space for expressing negative emotion is, as it seems to be lost in my life right now. I either can’t get it out, or it comes out the wrong way. This further confuses the role other people have in my emotional journey.
I’m discovering this to be the most difficult part of the healing process for me, especially in terms of rising above memories that threaten to drag me down. Every part of a memory – the people, the place, the event, the mood – represents a very dark and painful time for me. I find myself needing other people to help me through that, to be a part of making it new. It’s like going back to the place where you first met your ex-boyfriend. Or the restaurant where you celebrated the birthday of a close friend who’s now gone. Or the last place you saw your grandmother. These experiences bring a pain that should also bring closure. But I’m going back to these places alone.
I’m going back to these places alone because I was the only one who was depressed. I’m going back to these places alone because no one else has any vividly damaging memory of it. I’m going back to these places alone because the people who are part of it don’t even realize they had also become demons in my head. I’m going back to these places alone because there is no one else to go there with me.
That’s how it feels. It feels like I need to go back to these memories and fight them alone. And maybe that’s exactly what I need to do.
If you’re reading this and you’ve been depressed before, you probably understand the difficulty of explaining to someone that you’re depressed, even though happiness surrounds you. It doesn’t make sense to the person on the outside of you. It’s something you find yourself facing alone.
So perhaps this is one of those things I must deal with alone. No one else can run my marathon with me.