I was listening to a wellness presentation the other day, and they were talking about the human connection, the connection, and lack thereof. How are we making ourselves available to the people that are important to us? Instead of reaching out and making a phone call, are you sending a text instead? Instead of mailing a letter, are you posting on Facebook or Instagram? Regardless of your introvert/extrovert personality, are you connecting with people on a personal level? Especially with everything we are facing in our world right now, have you learned just how important human connection is during this time? Have you felt low and not realized it?
Diving in a little more, I have been thinking about the meaning of depression lately. I never really understood the term, although I have heard it over and over my entire life. Depression and suicide have been present on both sides of my family, so the discussions of both terms were always present growing up, yet I still never understood what being “depressed” meant. However, I have seen the many faces of it, and I can say it always looks different.
Skipping forward to the last few years, I think I finally realize what it is and what it feels like.
Here is how I see it, one day it is here in all of its glory, like a veil of darkness with its weight so heavy you can’t seem to lift it off your shoulders, and then the next day you don’t feel it; the sky is clear, you feel light and smile for no reason and can’t remember why the day before the world looked so dark. Thinking hard on my last few years and the coming and going of these feelings through moves, isolation, and lack of human contact, it all boils down to…connection.
Before I moved to Italy four years ago, I had so much human connection that a moment of silence was almost an impossible dream. I worked in the customer service industry, had coworkers and venders and residents around me all day. I came home to busy babies and a chatty husband. Weeknights and weekends were filled with non-stop socializing.
Moving to Italy allowed time to stand still, to start over. I had to learn to sit with silence and stillness. I had growing boys that were finding their independence, which allowed more time in my day. A husband devoted to his career and, most the time, was able to get his chatting out with his coworkers. I had a few great friends, but definitely not endless social events like I was used to. I lived in a village that spoke a language I did not understand and lived in a culture much different than mine. I was surrounded by silence and lots of solitude. Many days I felt so alone; well, I was alone. But more isolated because I didn’t even have people to have one casual conversation with. I went weeks without talking to anyone else but the kids and Pete. When I did visit the local markets or out to a cafe, I would just use hand gestures and facial expressions because Lord knows my Italian was at the elementary level (don’t worry, after a year or so I improved slightly, at least enough to order food). I remember not wanting to talk to friends and family back home about how I was feeling. In that shame, I realized for the first time in my life what depression felt like. So I think we just need to put some light on this subject, the subject of depression. Especially in this time of self-isolation (as if the social media era wasn’t enough, we live in. Nothing is as it seems people. Yes, there are these wonderful, beautiful, grateful moments we live out. But there are these shitty, down, ugly, dark ones too… and that is OK!!! It is OK to feel that also and not be ashamed of it. We don’t have to be OK all the time. And for shit’s sake, we damn sure don’t have to pretend that it is all rainbows and butterflies right… because we all know it is not!
And though there was a time of feeling deep despair for me in Italy, I am completely and utterly grateful for that time in life. I LOVE the life that I have lived and the choices that I have made. I am thankful I had that time to become comfortable being alone. I am grateful that now I have a clearer understanding of how depression sneaks into our lives. I was able to FEEL sadness, loneliness, and fear. Life allowed me time to slow down enough to sit in those feelings and give them light and understanding. It allowed me time to reflect on what truly matters. Whether it is the people you give your time to, where your energy goes, or how you are taking care of yourself. I absolutely feel like that time prepared me for the solitude our world is feeling now—the disconnect of all that is comfortable.
So moral of the story… Connect. Reach out to those that mean the most. Don’t just send a text. Give someone your ear, your voice, your heart. Someone out there needs you!