Keep living until you feel alive again
“You will feel better than this. Maybe not yet. But you will. You just keep living, until you’re alive again.”
I heard this quote the other day* and it struck a chord with me. The words were spoken on an episode of Call the Midwife** by one of the nuns who was offering comfort to a young woman who had just lost her boyfriend and was going away to grieve.
On one hand, it spoke to me because of my own experiences with grief. I could actually understand what the nun was saying and I knew her words to be true. After all, in those early weeks and months of widowhood, when the world was closing in on me, I had two choices: Keep living, or curl up in a darkened room and die. (I admit that I wanted to do the latter most days!)
And I did keep living and I did feel better and eventually I felt alive again. (Importantly, I stopped wishing I wasn’t!***)
When I heard those words spoken the other day, I no longer needed the comforting words to help me overcome my grief—which is only a faint shadow in my life now, often hidden from the brightness of life. But I realised that I did need the comforting words to help me overcome my sadness.
Yes, my sadness. Well, it’s not really sadness so much as feelings of stress, loneliness, and (self-imposed) isolation.
You see, several things have happened over the past year that I have yet to fully cope with (in part because I’ve been avoiding them). But my refusal (or inability; I don’t know) to deal with these things means that I’m holding onto these bad things and they’re haunting my dreams. And they’re haunting my waking hours, too.
From letters that brought up memories of long-past, un-dealt-with pain to heartbreaking endings I wish I could rekindle to hurtful realisations about other aspects of life, I have been pushing down my emotions in the hopes of forgetting them and moving on.
Only doing that has actually meant that I am walking around with this constant low-level feeling of stress and sadness.
And that stress and sadness means I am sulking instead of living.
And that sulking means that I am not actually enjoying life or the world around me.
But I’ve been trying to enjoy life and the world around me.
And I’ve been trying to do that because I honestly do believe that the way to really and truly start living and enjoying life and the world around me is to actually participate in it.
There is a part of me that wants to stay home and hide away from everyone I know so that I don’t experience further hurt. There is a part of me that wants to avoid everyone so that I don’t have to risk any more pain.
But, thankfully, there is a bigger part of me that tells that cowardly and silly “self-isolation” part of me to get off the couch and live life.
And now that I have that quote so fresh in my mind, I keep reminding myself that the best way to stop sulking is to start living. And, eventually, I will be so busy living my life and enjoying the world around me that I’ll forget about the sadness and I will feel truly happy and alive again.
I’m looking forward to that day, I really am!
(Don’t worry—I really am working to get out more and to do real things with real people. And it’s helping.)
[Note: I am not suffering from depression. My sadness is very much tied to specific events and is about my inability to cope with them at the moment. I think the problem is that the big “negative” events all happened around the same time—and also at the time that I was dealing with the extreme stress of my UK visas which had to take precedence in the “worry about this” queue. But I’m starting to sort them out now. So that’s good.]
* From Call the Midwife, BBC, aired on 9 February 2014.
** I can’t believe that I’ve been watching this show, let alone quoting from it. I blame my sister-in-law who insisted we watch the Christmas episode when I was down for the holidays.
*** Not in a suicidal way, but in a common grief-filled way of just wanting to be with the spouse you lost, rather than feeling the very real pain of grief.