Insight: Will I ever feel new emotions again or just derivatives of old ones?

'So long as I keep forging new experiences and forging new paths to follow, emotions both old and new will follow'

The sunset — all reds, purples and yellows— spread across "A" Mountain and painted a scene of relaxation, serenity and absolute beauty. Ever since I started working night shifts two years ago during my freshman year, I rarely saw sunsets.

Even after I left that job, afternoon naps took up my evenings, and by the time I was awake, night had come, gone away were those picturesque Arizona sunsets. 

I watched this specific sunset back in January in the middle of a depressive episode, and I felt nothing.

I would always tell friends that I had two favorite colors: ocean blue and sunset purple. And on that January day, those purples brushed across the sky like an oil painting. But I had no words to describe what I was feeling, or not feeling. 

Later that week, I rewatched an old favorite movie of mine, "Her." The movie deals with the complex relationships that come as a result of technology not only becoming self-aware but completely indistinguishable from other humans. 

The film's two main characters, Theodore, a writer, and Samantha, a hyper-intelligent operating system, have a brief conversation on the basis of emotions. Have they felt all the emotions they’re going to feel? Is everything from henceforth going to be entirely derivative? 

After hearing this sentiment and critically analyzing the sunset I had seen for the first time in such a long time, I started to ponder similar thoughts toward my lack of emotions. 

The first observation I made was how my depression had deeply affected my ability to process, deal with and experience emotions. I was so terrified of all the negative emotions I was feeling, I managed to block out all the good ones, too. 

Quarantine didn’t help, either. 

In living what seemed like the same day ad infinitum, I felt trapped in an endless loop devoid of both emotion and feeling. I’d say it was dark, but it wasn’t. 

It was a void. 

In the void, thoughts and emotion became futile, and time froze like rain into icicles. Days were spent sleeping, playing video games and looking out the windows at the sunlight poking in — it all felt never ending.

INSIGHT: Coming out of depression felt like seeing color for the first time

Throughout the process of dealing with my mental health issues, I began meditating

With meditation, we are taught to focus on the sensations in the body and accept our thoughts as they are. We learn to treat the items of life with an attitude of welcoming acceptance whether they are terrifyingly horrible or wonderfully fantastic. 

As I started to let myself feel emotions again, the bad ones came first — the ones I had been running from. But despite this, I began to feel more human — more vulnerable, more sensitive to the world around me. 

The breakthrough came when I saw another sunset a few weeks later, and this time around I felt a specific hue of emotion I hadn’t felt in years. It was brilliant. An amalgamation of awe, inner peace and pure content — I loved every part of it. 

Months later as I write this, I still wonder whether this experience contradicts the same idea Theodore and Samantha considered. 

Wasn’t this still an emotion I had already felt, and therefore nothing had changed? 

So often I find myself giving into fear. The fear that my life will become bland and nondescript like an old box of sun-bleached clothing. I fear that the best is all in the past, and the future yields nothing except routine. 

If feeling the rays of the sunset on my skin showed me something, it showed me that what was once felt can be felt again, and that there are always new avenues of exploration for those who would look.  

So, I prefer to stay optimistic. 

In treating my mental health, and in focusing more on the immense grandeur of the world around me, I began feeling things I hadn’t felt in years. Though I had felt all of this before, it leaves me hope for what the future brings. 

As long as I keep forging new experiences and forging new paths to follow, emotions both old and new will follow. Experiences like graduating from college or getting my first job, backpacking through Europe or getting engaged; maybe even having a few little tyrants to run around the house and cause a beautiful ruckus. 

I’m almost entirely sure that my greatest and most refreshing experiences lie in front of me, and life has plenty in store. I simply have to take a bite and chew.


 Reach the reporter at cbeal4@asu.edu and follow @beal_camden on Twitter. 

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