Can I ask you a question? When was the last time you hugged your friends, your family, your person?
I’m sorry if you find my query painful. I’m just trying to commiserate. I could use a hug.
I love the connection I feel when I hug one of my people. The way I can fold myself into the circular comfort of their embrace. How I can rest my heart close to another’s while our energy fields entangle. How a hug can warm me from within…
If I have learned anything from these past months, it is that even the most independent hermits (yours truly) need human touch. We are social creatures, and touch is an essential service when it comes to staying healthy. It is a cornerstone of how we communicate, how we create bonds and connections. To go without can be triggering for me — as human touch helps me keep my own personal demons at bay.
I am relatively new to San Francisco. I maintain deep — albeit distant — connections to my former life, and I count only a few friends in this new one. But before I dive headlong into the emotional rollercoaster that has been my quarantine experience, I should mention a detail that might help your frame of reference.
I moved to this city in the wake of a breakup. Telling my person that I couldn’t continue our journey together placed a strain on how I held my heart and left a void within my life. My situation certainly isn’t unique, nor is it extraordinary. But it’s important to understand that this was my baseline heading into 2020 — heartbreak doesn’t have a timeline and external forces combined with my personal life have objectively made this year my most trying to date.
Anyone even remotely in touch with our current dystopian news cycle is familiar with the details. First, the pandemic swept in, ushering in fear and confusion. Businesses were shut, people lost their jobs, and the virus became a political flashpoint. Then George Floyd was killed — and it became clear that while the entire world is grappling with a common enemy, the trauma we experience as individuals is not distributed evenly. It’s not even close.
I don’t think that you have to be an empath to feel the heaviness of all this. It is palpable. But for empathic creatures like myself, the additional weight often feels crushing and inescapable. This feeling has only been exacerbated by virtue of the fact that one of my most powerful coping mechanisms — human touch and personal connection — has been taken from me, along with any semblance of normality.
A very unexpected side effect of this sedentary lifestyle of forced solitude has opened the door for my demons.
Depression has been a constant companion since high school. At 35, I know her well. Thankfully, because of our history, I can typically feel around the edges of my darkest emotions without being absorbed by them. Also, therapy. But throughout this quarantine, I have found myself in the throes of grief and flirting dangerously with depression — oscillating from not feeling like I am doing enough to support my Black brothers and sisters to being terrified of leaving the apartment and inadvertently getting someone sick.
I understand how depression can warp my thoughts. Logic, however, doesn’t always rectify a grieving soul and an under-stimulated imagination. So, down the rabbit hole I went — drinking deeply from my poisonous thoughts, shrinking with each sip.
And for what? Why? I have so much to be grateful for! I still have a job, a home, and I am able to feed myself. That, in and of itself, should be enough, right? And on the surface, I know that I am beyond lucky — I have watched friends lose their jobs and my parents lose a friend.
But that’s the funny thing about depression, I can’t always logic it away. The thing is, I never know how words are going to settle within me, within the open wounds or dark caverns of my soul. And I was completely unaware of how much hurt still coursed through me. I thought that I had my demons under control. Turns out I was just avoiding them, burying them in busyness.
The thing is, I can never really outrun my troubles, my grief, my discomfort or pain. There are no distractions from myself and the narratives in my head. My deepest secrets keep bubbling up just when I thought I had successfully kept them from myself. I thought I had only carried the pain of my breakup with me to San Francisco. As it turns out, I had packed away every tragic moment only to be triggered by the overwhelming global tragedy that is unfolding around us daily.
Because of this, I have learned to dig deep. I lean into the things that I know I can control — my reactions, my routine, the media I consume, and how I talk to myself. I thought that I had already passed this test, the test of being self-reliant and independent. But this moment has turned out to be the most powerful teacher of all.
This grief, this deep pain is not only mine, it is ours and it needs our attention in order to heal. But perhaps the beauty in this is the inescapable truth that we are all deeply connected.
And while the soul soothing embrace of a hug still might be just out of reach for many of us, you can still hold the parts of you that ache and you can share your story in hopes that it touches someone else’s heart.
Uncertainty is often the forebearer of growth and I find myself growing in love, resilience, self-reliance, acceptance, and patience. I thought the call to San Francisco had come from an entity outside of myself. But really, the gentle “come find me” whisper was coming from within.
Sending so much love and the reminder that it is OK not to be OK.