Exactly. That Dory.
I remember, very clearly, how she looked at me and and said–halfway singing, with such pure, silly innocence–“Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”
Pissed me off.
Okay, she was talking to Nemo’s dad (Marlin; I looked it up) not me, exactly. But it felt like she was talking to me. And she seemed to be speaking for everybody who feels whole and wonders at those that don’t.
I remember that day: me and wifey, with the kids between us, sitting down front, having a nice visit to the movies. And there I was, not right, not good, when things were the about the worst, but I was trying to keep it together, relating to Nemo’s grieving father in a much darker way than Pixar ever imagined. “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”
For me, two things:
- Shut up.
See, it’s not that it’s bad advice. Not really. Between getting on with it and giving up, it’s better, in pretty much every life situation, to get on with it, and keep on going. That’s as true for tired workers at the start of another day or athletes late in the game as it is for the defeated, the depressed, the grieving, or the overwhelmed. Life means movement. So, yeah, Dory, we know. We (the depressed and the anxious, the grieving and the overwhelmed) do it more intentionally than most other people, keenly aware moment by moment that we are keeping on. Thus the duh.
But don’t pretend it’s easy. Or worse, don’t rub it in, with your rubbery grin and googly eyes. It isn’t easy for everybody. You can’t just shake it off, sometimes.
Thus the shut up.
A lot of people with mental health challenges have played the “You don’t know what it feels like to be me!” card. I’ve tried not to do it in real life, though I’ve played that one in my head often enough. But it’s trite, and rarely useful. We’re all locked inside our headcages. Nobody knows exactly what anybody’s thinking or feeling, and we’ve all got stuff we’re dealing with.
That’s always true about everybody everywhere. Being sad doesn’t make that any truer.
However, what’s still worth pointing out is that… well… seriously, people really don’t know what it feels like. When living hurts, and no place feels better than any other, and improvement is utterly, utterly impossible (at least, from the warped perspective of a depressed human), all movement feels pointless. Why keep swimming? Shut up about swimming. Why go to any effort to feel like shit over there when I can feel like shit right here?
At the heart of it, it’s a math problem, with only negative numbers.
Under duress, I will admit the following: when you finally start to feel better, you can see that the only way you could have gotten from there to here was to… just keep swimming.
Shut up, Dory. Don’t smile.