Maybe it’s just a film about Space. About the human fight to survive – to live – when faced with disaster (like your space shuttle being destroyed). But for me, Gravity was a beautiful piece of poetry about grief and depression. An emotional roller coaster, that left me a sobbing wreck on the walk home.
If you’ve never experienced depression, and have struggled to understand panic attacks, I urge you to go and see Gravity (preferably in 3D, obviously). The scene where Sandra Bullock is spinning out of control, unable to find anything to hold onto, unable to catch her breath, with the world outside muffled and far away, and with no one to save her had me gasping for breath. Because I’ve felt that way, often.
So many of our metaphors about breakdown and emotional pain have their roots in gravity. “Pick yourself up”, “Find your feet”, “Find something to hold on to”, “Free-falling”, “Spiralling out of control”… I hadn’t noticed them before.
In the film, Sandra Bullock is dealing with the loss of her child. Something she has to let go of, to surrender, to recognise she can’t control it… and then she has to grab on with both hands and fight to get back to solid ground.
I don’t know if it was the intention of the film, or just an accident, but I’ve never seen depression so clearly. I’m in a bit of a free-fall myself at the moment, feeling as though there’s nothing to cling on to (as everything around me is changing), but I’ve taken some hope from this film… that I will just keep going and that I will be able to stand up on my own two feet again soon.
I’ve been struggling recently – feeling vulnerable. Getting better has been a long, and difficult, process and a few months back I felt ready to take on some new challenges, to make a change. But it isn’t easy. Starting a new course has reminded me of those early days of University, and I can’t help but look back on them and be surprised by how strong I was. I packed all my stuff up and moved more than a hundred miles from my family – where I knew no one – and I survived. Not only that, I enjoyed it. I don’t think I could do that now.
And then, I did it again, almost a decade ago – quit my job and decided to train to teach, moved all the way down to the south of London (albeit with beloved housemates in tow). How did I do it? Could it be that I was stronger then? And, if I was, what can I do with the pain of my breakdown? If I can’t say “I’m stronger now”, how can I explain it?
People have spoken to me a lot recently, about what strength there is in being able to speak openly about how you feel; what strength there is in being able to feel as quickly as I do. A lecturer on my course told me that the other students would learn a lot from me, by listening to how I feel. That wearing my heart on my sleeve was my blessing (though he didn’t use those words). It made me angry. I don’t want to be a case study – I don’t want people to learn from me at the expense of my sanity.
But maybe there is something strong in being so openly vulnerable. Maybe I can find a way to live with this emotional honesty (something I can’t seem to control anyway). And, perhaps, I was only stronger back then because I was pretending to be someone I’m not. Someone who cared less, and hid behind a made-up personality. Maybe being me (the real me) is something I should learn to embrace, even if it means being open to heartache.
It scares me sometimes that I am in my thirties and still only just learning how to be human, but maybe that’s the whole wonder of being human in the first place.