Last night, I watched Before Sunrise and Before Sunset back-to-back. By the end of the second movie, I was in tears. Because I am single and pre-menstrual and because I don’t believe in romantic love the way I did when I was 21 and in love with the man I would marry and later divorce. Because I felt sick and tired and depressed. Going to bed, I felt so bad that I asked for a sign to be given to me in my dreams.
I dreamt that somebody close to me admitted that she was feeling depressed for the first time. I told her that I still get depressed sometimes. I described it as a heavy feeling that weighs down upon you. I confessed that I get frightened when I feel like that because I’m scared that I’ll be the way I was before. Because I once suffered from depression and because it “ruined my life a few times”. I then told her that it’s just a feeling and it will drift on by so long as you don’t put a label on it. And then I woke up.
This morning, as I walked in the sunshine, I felt strong. Not because I was feeling a bit better. But because it’s okay to feel “bad”. Because we’re all only human. I passed other people and realised that they also feel down occasionally. To quote an R.E.M. song: “Everybody hurts sometimes”. We just aren’t comfortable with letting people into our pain and suffering. We all feel hopeless and purposeless and beaten down. We all go through hard times. We get dumped, we lose our jobs, we struggle to pay the bills, we feel lonely, we wonder what the point of life is, and how we’re going to cope.
But they are the days when we don’t leave the house. When we cancel plans to meet friends. Or when we hide behind makeup and alcohol and busy schedules. When we put our best foot forward and hope nobody will notice that we’re terrified or grief-stricken or worn out. We see other people smile and laugh. We look on as they post the best possible version of themselves on Facebook. What we fail to realise is that they too are hurting. They too worry that they don’t know what all of this is about. They too wish they felt more connected, more positive, more sure of themselves.
Our humanness is what binds us together. We are not alone. We all feel sad at times. We have the same fears and worries and regrets. We have the same longings and resentments and insecurities. We just don’t show them. We think people will only accept us or like us or love us if we are perfect. If we look well and feel well and keep on achieving. But all it takes is for one of us to admit that we’re not so perfect after all.
I set up a Positive Living group this year. Some of the people in the class presume that I’m doing well all of the time. But they don’t see me first thing in the morning, tired and makeup-free. They don’t see me as I weep in front of Ethan Hawke movies. They don’t see me cranky and weak in the days coming up to my period. They certainly didn’t see me when I left my husband or when I fought with a family member or when I bitched about a co-worker. And they didn’t see me when I hated myself and lost all confidence. They see me now, having come through all that, trying to pass on some tips to live a happier, more positive life.
I do believe that we should stay present and do things to make ourselves feel better, so we don’t dwell too long in our suffering. But I want everyone to realise that even the most successful, positive, energetic people have off days. And that is okay. Once we acknowledge this, we will feel more compassion for our fellow human beings. We will feel more connected, more normal, and more at ease with the wide spectrum of human emotions. And we will know that we are never alone.
So, the next time you’re feeling down or fearful or fed up, let a loved one in. Let them in when you’re tired, when you’re feeling fat and ugly, and when you can’t stop crying. Not only will you feel better but you’ll be giving that person license to show you that they’re not “perfect” either.