BY REBECCA DAVIDSON-MORA
In this piece, Rebecca Davidson-Mora artfully examines her relationship with mental health, and provides a message of hope.
When I was small, I would walk home from school on a very windy day praying that the wind would use my oversized backpack as a sail, and I would float as if I was swimming through air right to my doorstep. I wished to be light, to achieve what no one else physically could. I stayed planted on the suburban sidewalk but mentally, I reached for air.
I’m reading this book called The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Milan Kundra states that “the heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes men to be lighter than air to soar into heights and take leave of the earth and his earthly being, they become half real.”
The absence of burden is something we don’t realize as children, and in my case, even as a young adult. As we grow older, slowly the world weighs us, sinks us into the ground. Around twelve or thirteen, the lightness that had occupied my imagination slowly faded. Life became very real. It almost felt like my lack of burden was responsible for the onslaught of it later in life. Life began to teach me the constant struggle between lightness and heaviness. When I was diagnosed with depression, I did not understand what I was being told. It was just a label to me, a name to give my sadness, a way to justify it all and wrap it in a pretty package that is easy to define. As I grew older, I realized that it is easier to put what we cannot understand into black and white, sad and happy. Heavy and light.
When someone is sad from external forces such as circumstances or events, we say they have justified sadness. It is acceptable for them to be sad, because they are sad in an earthly way. Grounded. When you are alone shaking from perceived threats or sadness, you reach a state in which you have exhausted all your tears, all your anger and all your energy. Both physically and mentally, you have nothing left to give. It is in this moment that your body reaches a state of lightness. You cannot remember why you are sad, only that you are. You stare at the wall, out the window, unmoving until some external force weighs you down again and you are brought back into your room. This is less acceptable. It was then that my mother hauled me to the doctor and wondered what was happening to her child. My happiness worked the same way. I would experience intense, almost delirious joy, the kind of joy that makes you feel invincible. I also experienced grounded happiness, the kind that comes from a warm hug or the smell of my mother’s kitchen. I experienced life like a teeter totter, artfully attempting to balance my life between extremes. Attempting to balance sad and happy, heavy and light.
Doctors prescribe medication to alleviate these struggles. Those who leave gravity are prescribed drugs or self-medicate because at some point in their lives, someone told them that making yourself into a human sail is silly, that jumping in puddles is immature, that they must think about their future, the economy, jobs, and careers. And these external pressures weigh down on the sensitive psyche and become overwhelming. To make it less so, the pills are laid on the table for you to consume. That is not to say that medication can’t be helpful. Personally, I have been on and off of Zoloft for almost 4 years now. But there was a time in my life when ideas that challenged the walls of the classroom were no longer endearing, and when my dreams were deemed unrealistic and unattainable. It is when these things began to creep into my consciousness that I was led me to believe I needed to conform to some universal standard. It was then that I became unhappy.
I have been told I am sick, that I am easily overwhelmed, that I need to stop burdening myself with things out of my control. But I am a feather living in a concrete world. I grew up being taught to weigh myself down. The people who teach you this, to weigh yourself down, do not understand that you need both lightness and burden. They do not understand the struggle of those who feel deeply. For the higher you float, the farther you have to crash. But you are not sick if you plummet from the sky. It is those people who will write, paint, make plays and movies and music that speak to you. They will challenge you and make you feel what it is like to be unbearably light and uncomfortably heavy. They suffer but they will also experience life for what it is.
The world we live in is the place that makes you sick. Some of us are not meant to be grounded and some of us are not meant to be light. Whichever way you experience life is your normal. You may have weeks where you stare at the wall; you may have weeks where you are literally the happiest person on earth. You may take medication in times of sadness, and you may not – it does not matter. I want to emphasize what was emphasized to me; somewhere, some little girl is jumping in puddles and creating worlds that we cannot begin to comprehend in her imagination.
One day, she will stand up in a classroom and say something radical, one day, she’ll begin to see the cracks in her world, and someone will tell her vision is blurred. But she is seeing everything. She may get overwhelmed and she may get sad simply for no reason. She may feel she doesn’t fit, that she sees the world differently. She will see those who suffer in the shadows. She will be compassionate and loving and intelligent. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her, and absolutely nothing wrong with you.