It's Touching

I have been moving towards depression since Thanksgiving. I had a lot planned, and in hind sight, did too much over that holiday. The combination of ripping and running and not carving out much quiet time left me feeling untethered. And I remember thinking, “Uh oh, what about Christmas?” I typically love this time of the year:  the lights, decorating the tree with special ornaments who are like old friends, the music, the cookies, traditions with my little family…I don’t really feel like doing much of any of those things this year. And since college, I can easily get melancholy around the holidays. After admitting to myself that I was getting depressed last Sunday, I cried for most of the morning and then reached out to a few friends. One went on a walk with me that afternoon and two others made dinner plans with me for later in the week. I am a psychotherapist after all, I know I have to force myself to think and behave differently if I want an unpleasant experience I’m going through to change.

About 15 years ago, I went to see a documentary at The Manor Theater here in Charlotte. It was about two friends and avid mountain climbers telling their harrowing story of an excursion gone awry. There is a part in the film where one of the climbers, Joe, who has been badly injured and has fallen deep into a crevasse, makes an agonizing decision. He realizes that his only option is to try and go down further into the hole he is in to find a way out, which ultimately saves his life. I can still remember how my stomach dropped as I watched the actor play out this scene, and it makes the hair on the back of my neck rise just thinking about it now.

I thought of this film when my ex and I broke up last fall and watched it again. At first I could not find the documentary because I had remembered the title as “Into the Void,” when in fact it is called “Touching the Void.” My mind has fused this documentary with the incorrect title and I have to look it up almost every time because I cannot get it right.

Pardon the pun, but there is a deeper meaning all tangled up in this for me. There are multiple themes that point to my deepest wounds:  emptiness, voids, being all alone, hurt, and fear, wanting to give up. The story is literally propped with all of these images, and the only way out is having to, as this climber did, face them.

But the true star of the show is hope. It is about wanting to live, about finding what’s on the other end, not about going into the fear itself. Touching on but not going into fear or “the void.” And that is the crux of the matter. It’s okay, essential, to understand and have compassion for my feelings. But when it comes to fear, the goal is ultimately to look for the light and life that eventually peaks out at the end of the tunnel and move despite the intensity of feeling.