The other night I sat across from my depressed daughter and listened to her realization that her fear of her father had transferred to a fear of her brother, who smiles like his dad and mimics some of his mannerisms. I at once mourned for her and felt awe for her wisdom, that she would have the ability to see. And I empathized. I know the twinge of her brother’s resemblance, and I know the twinge of her resemblance to her father too.
She hates that she’s afraid of her brother, and she doesn’t understand it. He’s done nothing to elicit her fear. I explained that her response is because the trauma she experienced with her dad has affected her so deeply. It isn’t her brother she fears; his similarity to their dad is a trigger. She asked me how she’s supposed keep surviving with feelings like that. And with depression? How does one face those things every day? I told her, “Deliberately.”
The trauma that colors our past colors our present and our future. It can be overwhelming and suffocating. But we can’t give up. No one can walk us through our lives but us. And when you have to keep going but don’t know how you’re going to muster the energy or get past the paralysis, you have to do it anyway.
When the natural instinct to persevere waffles or fails completely, you’re going to have make the decision to keep going. It’s a deliberate, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other effort. It’s hard. I know because I have been doing it every day lately. It’s how I’m waking up, how I’m making my kids dinner, how I’m making it through a day of work, how I’m keeping up with the housework. It’s a decision I am constantly making. So that’s what I told my daughter: decide that you are going to keep going, despite the fear and anxiety and depression.
My daughter might feel afraid of her brother, but she’s going to have to walk into the living room or the dining room or the kitchen anyway. She’s going to have to tell herself my apartment is a safe place. She’s safe. Her brother isn’t dangerous; he’ll never hurt her. And then she’s going to have to put one front of the other and keep moving in the direction she wants to go.
Because that’s how we progress. That’s how we persevere. It is a deliberate decision to keep going. Small steps, tiny shuffles, whatever it takes. For your sake, you cannot stop.