Does Your Inner Pain Affect How You Act?

I saw it up close.  I was living with someone who was suffering from depression, and what startled me was the dramatic difference among different moods s/he would embody.  For example, s/he would say s/he has felt awful forever.  But just a few days prior to that, s/he had a good day and was smiling and laughing.

When I’m feeling down, I, too, noticed that it was hard to remember what feeling good felt like.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget what it’s like to hope.  To trust that things will turn out all right.  To know that things haven’t been that way forever.

Depression is not you.

Depression is a different person.  The depressed you and the real you don’t recognize each other, let alone remember what being the other person is like.

This was such a revelation to me.  Before I would take what depression was saying for the face value and subsequently go through tailspins.  Now that I know this, as soon as I recognize that it’s the depression talking, I stop believing it.  At least not what it’s literally saying.  Whatever it says, whatever the reasons it brings up for why things are so wrong — I take it all in simply as a sign that this soul is feeling sick and is in pain.

It’s a bit like comforting a crying child.  A child makes a lot of ultimatums.  “I will NEVER have fun again!”  s/he may wail.  I believe that the ideal way to be with a crying child is to simply hold him/her.  Give him/her a big hug, tell him/her that I hear what s/he is saying.  I feel his/her pain, I understand what s/he is going through.  And that I love him/her, that I know it’s hard to believe when you’re in that state, but you will get better, after you’re done feeling that feeling.  Right now you’re not feeling yourself because of this pain you feel.  The pain will heal, if you pay attention to it and feel the feeling.

I’ve done it myself, though, it’s really tempting to tell a crying child that s/he shouldn’t feel that way.  As an adult you try to explain why whatever ways s/he is perceiving is wrong and s/he doesn’t have to be upset.  Or just get mad and say “snap out of it!  Stop the drama!”

But that creates this terrible condition for acceptance.  What we all desire is unconditional love.  And I am learning that unconditional means unconditionally accepting all feelings as valid, even if painful and uncomfortable.  I’ve done wrong before because I did not understand.  Now I want to tell the child I love him/her, including his/her hard feelings.

When I set out to write a song about personality change, I thought long and hard about how to approach it.  I knew it’s easy to come out preachy or syrupy or melodramatic.  I’m pretty selective when to use the “you” pronoun.  But ultimately I decided that I should approach it in the only way I can authentically, which is to have the “I” and “you” be me, addressing the depressed person.  The song is about the two of us, but I mostly describe what “I” is seeing, what “I” is feeling, and ultimately what “I” decided to say to the “you” person.  So this song is not an expression what mental health crisis feels like.  It’s about what it’s like to witness it.  And believe me, it’s hard and confusing, one moment the person says one thing but the next day s/he says something else.  But the “I” is trying to hang on to what’s important, and not get sucked in and get distracted by the pain-driven shifts.

I’m talking about my song “Can You Love a Landmine?”

Can You Love a Landmine?

Dance lightly where you’re going
You don’t wanna go off
Nor live in fear of paralysis

Cheap shots of horror movies
Pervade your psyche
Shades turn to dimmer matte in your iris

Like haikus too long
About pills too oblong
Will we obey this mad compass gone wrong

Can’t straighten
Can’t straighten

One velvet cheerleader
Turned un-yoga teacher
Only thing constant are the changes

Prison of loose security
Rife for detonation
Well-meaning wall to fend off hands to

Drown me inside
The role play suicide
Flood me in your torn open heart

And see what remains

Can’t straighten
Can’t straighten

Round and round, oh merry go round
Lost, not found, can’t really hang around
Gnashing sound of this merry go round
Spinning around till we wash up all drowned

Like haikus too long
About those pills too strong
Sea sick vertigo of soul
Made you forget your whole
But you’re not gone

Grab a sharp knife
Cut off my kite
Slash me inside your torn open heart

And see what falls through

Shut out my sights
Gut my insides
Still will not love those twisted mines
But I do, you

Will you?

Written by Ari Koinuma
Mastering by
Photo credit: Omar Franco “Lonely Ant”