TW: depression brought on by loss and/or violence.
I’d like to take a moment today to say something a bit personal. This is something I increasingly don’t like to do in this space, as I prefer to remain more in the background and let the voices of those sharing their stories take center-stage. However, knowing that some of the people who read our blog and follow our work are struggling with the same or similar things that I am, I decided to post this publicly.
This is something I wrote this week that’s as much for others who are hurting as it is for myself: it’s called “Keep Going,” and it’s about living in the dance of contradictions that is the aftermath of loss and violence. It’s about looking for all the love and light still left in the world in spite of those experiences that have made it easy to believe there is none left. It’s about how we find reasons to make living worthwhile, together, just because we keep going.
Much love to Alice for letting me use and interpret her words to write this post. She along with many others have helped me keep going for many years.
I’m not going to lie: the past week, in spite of all the wonderful things that have happened and all of the wonderful people I am privileged to have in my life, has been incredibly difficult.
I struggled to understand how I could simultaneously feel so happy and yet so sad, sad enough I had crying fits lasting several hours for several days and could not eat a real meal for a solid week, until I realized something: this is the all-too-familiar dance of living in the aftermath of loss and violence.
Sometimes there’s a trigger. Sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes I just crash from the weight of my experience and the weight of trying to integrate it in a healthy way into my daily existence. People say time makes everything easier, but I haven’t necessarily found that to be the case – in fact, I’ve sometimes found the passage of time to be a terrifying, distressing concept that elicits an episode of sobbing for days at the drop of a hat. People say, “You’ve gotten through it before and you will again,” but that’s not an easy tunnel to see the light out of while you’re in it. However, this past week, one person in my life said two words that did help that I wanted to share with you:
Keep going, because although I can’t guarantee you’ll ever feel “better” about the things that have happened to you, the burden you carry will eventually lessen if you are able to notice all the light and love still left in the world.
Keep going, because once you start to notice all the light and love still left in the world, you might just realize that you are a source of light and love for someone who needs it, even if they won’t tell you.
Keep going, because light and love and reasons to live can be found in all kinds of unexpected places. There are people out there who are full of love and have an infinite amount of it to give, who give freely and selflessly without wanting something in return.
Keep going, because the world is brighter with you in it and would be darker if you weren’t. I know that to be true even if we’ve never spoken personally, even if we’ve interacted before and come to the conclusion that we don’t like each other. You matter. Your life matters.
Keep going, because even if you struggle with hardship, loss, the aftermath of violence, or depression, you are alive, and you should be. For those of us who feel guilty over the fact that we survived when others in our lives, or others in our position, did not, it’s nearly impossible not to question why it was so, and it’s something we can really beat ourselves up over. I don’t like the idea of surviving “for a reason,” but if you survived, I’m glad you did. I wish those who didn’t survive had, but it would be MORE painful, not less, if you had died with them.
Keep going, because we can be simultaneously healing and hurting, happy and sad, mourning and moving forward, brave and fearful, pained and pressing on – and to exist in this state of contradictions doesn’t mean we are broken, or not trying hard enough to move forward. It means we are human. It means something, somewhere along the way, tried to extinguish the warmth of our soul and failed, but left an irreversible impact all the same, one that still hurts and sometimes quite a bit.
Keep going, because it will be worth it. You will find ways to make living, even living with the weight of the painful things you’ve experienced, worthwhile.
I don’t believe in never crying. I believe in crying together. I also don’t believe in only letting people see or share stories of resilience, of strength, of overcoming adversity, of healing to the point where the loss or the violence rarely impacts you again on the level it once did. I believe, and I always have believed, in the power of the human story. I’ve built an entire project around that belief and included that phrase in every letter I’ve ever sent about it. I speak openly, and I share my reality, however sad or messy or painful it may be, because I am aware of the power in owning my truth. Because I know that there are people in my life who are experiencing similar pains, and whether or not speaking out is important to them, it’s easier to feel you can be honest if someone else has done so first.
So I’m not going to lie: I’m struggling, and at the moment, quite a bit. I’ve struggled with the things I’ve experienced for a long time and I can’t imagine there will ever come a time where I don’t struggle, or where I don’t cry. But I’m going to keep going and continue looking for all that love and light in the world that I have seen time and time again through the people who have invited me into their lives, if only briefly.
I can’t promise that everything will be okay – not to myself and not to anyone who may be reading. I can promise, however, that we are loved, that the lives we lead are important, that there is much still to love in the world, and that we will find ways to make living worthwhile in spite of our bad days – or bad weeks.