Sometimes I wake up feeling down, I guess we all do once in a while. It can be a horrible feeling especially if you have experienced a lengthy bout of depression at some point. I have experienced the ongoing gnaw of depression and the need for antidepressants. I use to fear that I might go back there to the ever deepening black hole and the feeling that there is no way of getting back to normality.
I don’t fear depression in the same way anymore because what I have learnt is that the down-flat feeling can just be an indication that there is something that needs attention. Dissatisfaction and frustration have a quiet greyness that knock at ones inner door and calls to be explored. Something that might need working on and need more thought. It could be an unspoken problem internally churning, that is not quite rectified, which needs some ongoing work. I know I sometimes feel these grey feelings in response to a feeling of inadequacy and insecurity. I am trying to be transparent here because I feel that if we share our experiences with one another we can find new ways of coping and overcoming.
How do I work on these awkward feelings?
Firstly I keep in mind my ‘swings’ picture.
I have never quite lost the childlike enjoyment of playing in the park. I still like to swing on the swings. One time, as I was swinging as an adult, I was observing which view point would be the best vantage for a photo: high up, then low down, high up again…close up, then far away, then close up again; this is what I observed as I swung.
Then I realized that this is just like life. My life is held up by the branch which is firm and steadfast but the cycles of ups and downs are like the swinging to and fro. Some aspects are worthy of taking a photo, others are not noteworthy, while still others are just plain ugly. Whether I feel down or up I trust the branch that is holding me to keep me steadfast.
I know, just as the swing swings, that life will change and become better again, worthy of the “photo shot.” This is what I remind myself when I feel the intensity of the ups and downs of life. Amongst other things this is the analogy I use to encourage myself when coping with the tough things in life.
Secondly I welcome the feeling and accept it instead of suppressing and ignoring it.
There is no need to fear. You will not be obliterated or annihilated. I tell myself and the feeling that I am going to stay with the feeling and give myself the opportunity to become curious as to what the feeling is telling me. I try to observe it and ask questions such as: Does it have a physical component too? If so where in your body are you feeling it? What does the feeling mimic? Hunger? Pain? Loneliness? Shame? Anger? Frustration? When do I experience it? When did it start? How do I react to it? What are the things I tell myself? Are they real, or excuses or lies? It is not easy to answer these questions and sometimes they make me feel even more uncomfortable. I also don’t find it easy to calmly ‘stay with the feeling’ and impulses such as wanting to eat or do something automatically begin to hijack the process as I internally squirm. So sometimes I have a hard time keeping focused and I have to ‘call myself back’ but the more I practice this process the closer I get to finding out the inner truths of my feelings. The answers to the questions you ask yourself can be informative and revealing. Even if it feels like you are only glimpsing the tail-end of the feeling, grab hold of it. I think of it like a messed-up ball of wool that needs untangling – if you patiently and slowly untangle it you will find the other end (the source of your feelings). The reward of finding the source is growth and ultimately wellbeing. The more we know ourselves the more we can love ourselves through the tough times which lead to deeper contentment and satisfaction.
Other things I do are to talk with someone that knows me well like a counselor or trusted friend and also work with my feelings in a concrete and energetic way through artistic creativity and writing. This helps me express things that I had not yet known before and gives me a deeper understanding of myself and the situation I am exploring. (I will show you some examples of my creative work in the future)
The nagging feeling as one wakes up can be quite off-putting and before you land up going down unnecessary rabbit holes wondering what is wrong, analyzing your day or week or life remember that it could be the dis-ease that is communicating to your conscious that something has not yet been solved. Keep working, keep thinking. Stay open and see what happens.
In the Cedarburg, South Africa: me taking time out to explore my feelings a month prior to finding out I had breast cancer. I find it amazing how feelings play such an intuitive role in one’s personal road-map of signboards, junctions and detours. More about that another time.