When you grow up in a house plagued by depression, you learn a thing or two about futility. My mother wouldn’t get out of bed, would take long naps at random stretches of the day, would not feel like cooking or going anywhere or even talking to anyone some days. And as I grew older, I came to understand why. I plotted ways to avoid school (though I ended up always going anyway, I didn’t have a choice). I’d keep to myself, I’d get lost in books, I wouldn’t tell anyone what was wrong because I didn’t want to burden them and anyway, if I didn’t have the answers, how or why could they? Sometimes, I begin writing, or working, or going to the gym, and I stop halfway through and have to ask myself what the point is.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like there is any.
This is not just depression talking. I know that now. Tons of healthy friends have also confided in me that they feel like things are hopeless at various times in their lives, and they come to me, the one who knows a little about hopelessness, I guess, for tricks. For help. For advice on how to cope.
And honestly, I have to look at them and tell them about what my mother did, with staying in bed all day. Sometimes, you have to feel it. Sometimes you have to acknowledge it. Sometimes, you have to admit that you’re in over your head.
Because, you see, sometimes, life is going to feel impossible. Nobody ever said it wouldn’t. That’s one of the inevitabilities of being alive, of being a human, of having dreams and goals and aspirations and plans: no matter where or what or how things fall on the scale of hard knocks and bad luck and challenges faced, some things are going to feel absolutely impossible. Insurmountable. Sometimes, it will feel pointless to even try.
And I mean this in the grand scope of things, whether it’s depression or finding a job or moving on after a breakup or losing weight or even something as simple as forgiving yourself for making a mistake. For asking a silly question. For not doing well at work that month. And one thing spirals into another, and eventually, it all feels like you’re staring uphill at something that knows that you’ll never be able to defeat it. We’re all our own worst enemies that way, sometimes. We have it in ourselves to talk ourselves out of anything, whether or not we’ve tried to begin with.
So what do you do?
It’s so easy to say that we should rally, to say that we should find it in ourselves, to say that we should dig deep and hold on and face our issues head on so that we can emerge victorious, stronger, wiser, braver — all the things that the fables promise to the underdogs who don’t run away from the things that terrify them. And it’s noble advice, to be sure, and it’s inspiring to read the stories of other people who have overcome whatever lot life handed them, to hope that somewhere deep within us is the same sort of grit and mettle, but sometimes it feels like those sorts of rising-from-the-ashes stories are for other people, stronger people, smarter people, people who knew how to get out of whatever funk they were in.
But the truth of it is, nobody knows all the time. Nobody always knows what’s going to work.
And it’s that uncertainty that makes actually succeeding that much better. Even if it seems impossible. Especially if it feels like it is.
Because sometimes, it’s going to feel ridiculous to even try. You have to, though, if only to prove yourself wrong. If only to see what you have in you. But like all things, success often comes slowly at first.
So you take baby steps. You tell yourself you’re going to get out of bed today. (My mother would always get out of bed eventually, if even just for her kids.) That you’ll get showered, that you’ll get dressed, that you’ll put together a list of things you could do, that you’ll call a friend or your mom or anyone, really, and talk things through as far as you can talk them. That you’ll put your phone away for a little bit and try to stop dwelling — if you can, I know this is a lofty prescriptive — and find some other way to occupy your time. Even for an hour. Even for five minutes. And then you dive in a little at a time, coming up for air when you need to, taking a break when you feel like you can’t handle it anymore, trying to stay patient with yourself for not getting it — whatever it is, anyway — on the first or the third or the 87th time.
You see, you have to be stubborn. At the very least, you can be that. That’s not always the worst thing you could ever be.
And if it weren’t for the lessons we learned on the eighth or 18th or 58th go-around, that would be one more thing we’d still have to learn, one more lesson, one more adjustment made to the plan, one more puzzle piece we wouldn’t even know was lost. I know, that sounds idealistic, and sometimes it feels like if it honestly takes 58 times for you to try to get something right and still, you fail, maybe you should try something else. And maybe, you should. But maybe, just maybe, that voice that really wants whatever it is that you’re chasing after might tell you to dig in and hold on and just try. You know, for fun. To see what will happen.
After all, you never know. There’s an infinite amount of ways to do an infinite amount of things, but you don’t have to dream that big to achieve them. But what you can do — though sometimes, this too might feel the slightest bit impossible, and you are not alone in this because I have had those days, too, and will continue to have those days sometimes, as will everyone else in the history of forever – is just get out of of bed, and try.