Managing My Melancholy
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Managing My Melancholy

Bad days.  Icky, craptastic, sucky, vomit, I-just-wanna-lay-in-bed-and-cry, shit days.  We all have them.

Sometimes I know what’s bothering me, and sometimes I just wake up feeling indeterminably down.  It’s like a stormy raincloud is following me around and with each soggy step, thunder rumbles in my head; there’s just no cheering me up.

I don’t have any ways of yanking myself out of a funk like that.  Usually when they happen, I just trudge through them, fighting back tears at my desk or letting myself scream it out, alone in my car, waiting til I can pull the covers over my head and hopefully feel better tomorrow.

It’s a deep hole, and when I’m in it, it’s hard to see the sunlight and there’s no use trying to convince myself I can scale the steep walls to get out.

BUT these funks are never permanent, and although I haven’t been able to find sure-fire methods of ending them, I have learned how to deal when I’m in them, and how to keep them from growing longer or more frequent.

I channel John Lennon and LET IT BE. Denying how I feel, playing Pollyanna (“I’m great!” just comes out sounding sarcastic), or getting upset and frustrated with myself for feeling bad just makes me feel worse.  When I’m having a bad day, I’m not allowed to say, “what’s wrong with me” or “get over it” – I am allowed to say, “I feel rotten” and “I am in a terrible bitchy-ass mood” and “I just want to punch everyone.”  Of course, I mostly say these things to myself; I try not to splash people with my rainy day as much as I can help it.

When I can admit to myself I feel horrible and just allow myself to feel it, I’m not fighting against myself.  There’s nothing less productive than fighting yourself; struggling to deny or change how you feel is like punching yourself in the face, and no one wants to look like Ed Norton in Fight Club.  And, since I’m aware of how I feel & not fighting it, every once in a while I actually end up laughing at myself because I’m being so ridiculously grumpy.

I stop and ask myself WHY. What brought on this mood?  Even on days where I feel like I just woke up possessed by Oscar the Grouch, there’s always something underneath it, and usually it’s something seemingly small that can be easily dealt with once I recognize it.  The worst feeling is “I don’t know why I’m so upset!!”  It carries with it feelings of powerlessness, desperation and futility that are not only completely unhealthy, but untrue.  We DO have the power to change how we feel, always, even if it’s just tiny bit by tiny bit.

It’s easy to say, well I feel this way because my life is a mess (sniffle sniffle sob self-pity), but really dig in there – why are these feelings coming up so strongly now, today?

Sure, there are a lot of things in my life that could use some improvement, but usually when I really take an honest look at how I’m feeling on a bad day, I find it’s stemmed from a remark someone made or some small experience I had recently that struck me the wrong way & has lodged in my mind like a poison arrow.

If I can pinpoint the wound, I can dig out the arrow & start to heal.  Usually, when I discover the why, I find it doesn’t merit all the dramatic attention I’m giving it, and it almost immediately improves my mood.

I TALK and/or write about it. I have an overactive brain; I over-think everything and have a hyper-active imagination.  So letting bad feelings build up inside me and run away with my thoughts is the easiest and worst thing I can do to myself.  I call it “tornado brain” when my thoughts get so out of control that I’m just going around & around in a cyclone of bad feelings and negative thoughts, and it’s swirling so fast I can’t grasp the why & I can’t let it be.  When this happens, the only way to combat the storm is to let it out.

Sometimes it’s sufficient to write in my journal; sometimes I need to talk it out with my mom or my therapist.  Whatever it takes, I have to get it OUT of my brain, because often, when my thoughts hit the harsh light on the page or are breathed and formed into words, they sound plain idiotic.

I’ve laughed through tears innumerable times at how problems that seemed unresolvable in my head, once spoken, become so simple and even absurd.  We are amazing creatures; deep down, we always know why we are feeling what we’re feeling, and what we need to change it.  When I allow myself to delve deep down and purge, I usually hit that core knowledge and always feel a lot better.

Bad days are part of being human; I don’t expect to ever not have them at all, but as long as I know how to deal with them, I know I can always get through them.  In fact, now that I think about it, I’d probably be a much less self-aware person without them, so there’s even something in our bad days to be grateful for.

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