Settling with Sadness and Feelings of Flatness
The last few days I’ve been feeling quite sad and quite flat.
In the past feelings like these would automatically send a signal to my brain to press the panic button –
“Oh no!” the siren would wail. “You’re feeling sad – it’s an obvious sign you’re going to dive head first straight in to a depression again.”
This is not ‘dramatic’. It’s a realistic thought process and feeling that’s connected to past events. That’s the fun of having experienced depression so frequently. Your immediate response to a normal feeling such as sadness could alert you alarmingly. Reminding your sensors that what you’re feeling now is one of those more difficult emotions associated with those other horrendous times. The alarm would ring so loudly it would even try to rationalise with me in a bazar way.
“It all makes sense. The clocks have gone back, it’s getting darker, colder, and so will you. Depression could be looming. You may as well close all doors and windows to the outdoor world, it’s going to swallow you anyway.”
I remember during my relapse at the beginning of the year there were some wise words a family member shared with me. They were trying to empathise and help me to come out of what I was in. They gave me ‘guilt free’ permission to express openly what I was feeling and said something along the lines of,
“I truly believe that a very large part of the pain you’re feeling is the judgement and pressure you’re putting on yourself and what you’re going through. Its horrible how you talk to and think of yourself. Perhaps try to ease that pressure.”
They were right. My self esteem was at an all time low and I was struggling to change the way I spoke to myself. Daily I belittled my being rather than praising my ability to get through another day and at least try. At least try to change the situation I was in. The problem was – it was a dangerous cycle. Depression told me my trying wasn’t hard enough. It wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t going to work. I’d compare myself to others (imaginary or real) and depression would talk to me and tell me that I’m different to those others and what’s the point.
“What’s the point in trying, it’s always going to be like this. Don’t be silly, even when you get better I’ll find you again” it would threaten me.
However, fast forward a good few months and I’ve got to hand it to myself, I’m getting a lot better at not giving in to these past experiences and what feels like the voice of depression/the black dog – whatever we want to call it.
I even have managed to ‘stay with the sadness’, ‘be with the sadness’ which I never understood back then. Stay with the sadness? What the?! Why would anyone want to do that? But I get it now. I get it. For without fighting it, beating myself up for why I’m sad (I should be so grateful aye for the many good things and people in my life) I can learn to navigate the experience with it, with much less judgement.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s really not easy. I’ve been finding it so hard dealing with difficult yet common feelings in a different way. It’s felt very foreign to me. I’m so used to anxiety catastrophising everything when I feel low and spiralling it out of proportion into a world of paranoia but, I’ve been somewhat managing to make this shift. Little by little. I would in no way say I’ve mastered it, I think it’s an ongoing journey to be honest, but I’m taking steps to learn how to manage difficult feelings this way and it’s been quite eye opening so far.
Alongside sadness had been a feeling of flatness. Not numb but a difficulty to feel things with the usual emotions that I would have associated with friends, family, occasions.
I’m working to apply the same approach to this too.
I’m proud to say that tonight, I didn’t give in to sadness and flatness and I managed to go to an exercise class for the first time in a month (thanks to work clashes and poorly physical health) and it felt so good. Even if it was a temporary good, I did it. I didn’t succumb to the sadness telling me I’ll probably still be sad anyway or flatness telling me there’s no point.
I must say I do think a lack of exercise may have been a factor in these recent feelings and I can’t wait to try and prioritise physical activity again as much as I can now I’m feeling a little physically stronger. Admittedly, I’ve returned to a few unhealthier coping mechanisms too, alongside this new revelation, probably and simply because well… it’s been hard, it’s also what’s familiar and…hey, I’m only human. I’ve somehow been okay(ish) with that too…
So, if you’re feeling sad or ‘flat’, you’re certainly not alone. The seasons are changing, it’s getting colder and darker, but try and take each day as it comes.
We’ll be in this together. I promise you’re not the only one.