These kinds of stories take a severe amount of vulnerability, and I am beyond privileged to be able to share a part of Josh’s story on my blog today. Josh is a 30-something, living in Downtown Denver. Developer. Consultant. Designer. Traveler. He blogs occasionally, but mostly, you can find him on Twitter.
In July of 2008, my wife Jen and I walked into Jack Quinn’s-our favorite Irish pub-for late afternoon beers. It had been a particularly surreal day on the heels of a particularly difficult few weeks. I don’t really remember what we talked about or for how long, but if I were to make a guess it was probably about the future.
We often talked about our future‚ where we wanted to be, how we’d get there, how long it would take, why it seemed harder for us than for some other people. But this time we were talking about a very different future. I frequently have visions of an awesome future where I can fly super fast, where Snooki isn’t allowed on TV, sugar makes you skinny and the TSA exists only to help you get to your plane faster. Carrots are still poisonous in my futures, by the way, just like real life, but this wasn’t the day for that kind of future.
Instead we talked about friendship. We talked about change. We talked about what the next phase of our lives would look like. How often would we see each other? Would we talk? What would change? You see, on this warm July day, drinking cold beer in an empty pub, we were discussing life after “together.” Only moments earlier we had signed papers effectively ending five years-to the week-of marriage. After seven years of being a couple, we would no longer be Josh and Jen.
That day sits in my mind, one of my most poignant memories. But it’s not the saddest day of my life-not by a longshot. No, that day came about a month later … and then the next day … and then the next day …
For a while every day was, almost comically, the the worst day of my life. But I guess depression will do that to you. It also makes you a little crazy. There was one especially bad day where I cried. I mean … I crriiied. I don’t know for how long. But you know the kind. I cried so long and so hard that it actually started to feel good. To the point where I didn’t actually want it to stop, so as soon as I felt a bit of relief I would dig deeper into my pain, inexplicably picking at any potential open wound, just so I could cry a little more. At one point I actually got up and walked to the bathroom just to see myself cry. I’ll say that again. I got up … and walked … to the fucking mirror … in some hyper-sad, unconvinced, bizarro state of self-loathing narcissism … to watch myself cry. Are you kidding me?
(Don’t pretend you haven’t done it.)
Of course in those times you replay in your mind every conceivable scene that might have possibly led you up to this point. Every wrong word. Every right word that was taken wrong. Every missed opportunity. Every misunderstanding. Every unspoken or forsaken “I’m sorry.” And every mistake … oh, the mistakes. You beat yourself up, and then you do it again.
That lasted for six months or so. It was another six before I started to really feel normal again. Of course some days were better than others, and the best days were the ones where I was with my friends, distracted and, with any luck‚ laughing.
But eventually, even though that part of your life will always be with you, the pain lifts for good. Days have color again, and life becomes life again. The future seems possible. And, perhaps most freeing, clarity returns to your mind. Looking back from this new vantage point you start to realize a few things. And those realizations will start to redefine the rest of your life.
Of course, what you go through is intensely personal, but for me the first thing I had to realize was that I was not a horrible person. I already felt like a failure, but for better or worse I was raised in a conservative, Christian home, and that adds a whole new dimension of guilt. It took a lot of time and effort to come to the place where I didn’t hate myself anymore. Sure I could have been better, but at some point I had to realize that what’s done is done and that I’m not the only one to blame for this.
I also had to learn that I would eventually love again. It’s cliche, of course. But for as self-aware as I am, I was spectacularly bad at feeling like there could ever be another love in my life. Every deep-loving person in the history of time has had to learn to recover from a breakup‚ just watch the first scene of any romantic comedy. Still, there is no way around the loneliness that you feel when it’s your turn. For me, it took falling for someone else to show me that I wasn’t dead inside.
There are a million more little pieces to my last four years, but to go through them all would take as many days and far more words than you care to read. Instead I’ll just say: If you’re in the thick of it, keep going. It actually does get better. If you’re not, be nice to those that are. They already feel like they’re failing at life. No matter how much you think they don’t care‚ I can’t stress this enough‚ you don’t have a clue what’s going on inside of them. So just be there. And ask them how they are. They’ll appreciate it. I promise you.
Thanks for reading. I’m gonna go live life now, and it’s awesome.
Stay in touch. I’ll be paying attention to the comments, so comment away. You can find me on twitter, @joshhudnall. Come start the commotion.