It’s okay – just be sad

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I just love this. I’m realising how important it is to give myself permission to feel what I feel and just “sit” with my emotions. It takes at long as it takes…you don’t owe anyone a performance.

“It’s okay to be sad. You don’t owe anyone a performance of being okay when you feel like you’re falling apart. It isn’t your job to smile or hide your truth to make other people feel more comfortable. If it gets awkward, let it be awkward.

If people try to silence your pain by telling you to get over it and cheer up because you’re no longer fun or you’re ruining the mood, you don’t have to push away your sadness. You have to honor your feelings and trust that you don’t need anyone’s permission or approval to feel what you feel. You don’t ever have to sacrifice your self care for the sake of people who only want you around when it’s easy and comfortable.

Their discomfort isn’t about you — it’s about them and their own limitations, and no matter what they think or say, you deserve to give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you feel. You’re allowed to show your feelings honestly. You’re allowed to talk about your pain and reach out for support. You’re allowed to scream and wail and cry. You’re allowed to be sad.”

—Daniell Koepke

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Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky

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When I was driving to work this morning I was thinking about my career. If what I’m doing is what I should be doing, if it is good for me, if I really love what I do (but this is a story for another post…). What I did conclude is that I could never work as a treefeller – at least one thing I know for sure! I just love trees so much and I wouldn’t have the heart to ever cut one down. I believe that mother nature cries out if a tree is cut down without a good reason. It makes my heart sore.

I think trees are magical. They store in them so much positive energy and provide restoration and comfort in times of sadness. Have you ever sat and just looked at a tree for ages? Have you listened to a tree bending in the wind – if it is a really old one it creaks and groans as the branches sway. And when there’s a slight breeze the leave rustle gently.

Trees are very good teachers – you can learn a lot about life just by observing them.

Trees are constantly teaching me how to become silent and how to get comfortable with myself and my own thoughts.

I saw this quote by JB Hill: “As I started to picture the trees in the storm, the answer began to dawn on me. The trees in the storm don’t try and stand straight and tall and erect. They allow themselves to be bent and blown with the wind. They understand the power of letting go. Those trees and those branches that try to hard to stand up strong and straight are the ones that break.”

Isn’t that just so true?

Trees also teach us this: Stand tall and be proud, sink your roots into the earth, be content with your natural beauty, remember your roots, stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky, affirm life’s magic, stand tall after a storm, feel refreshed after it rains, grow strong without notice, provide shelter to strangers, be prepared for each season, hang tough through a cold spell and…

Be still long enough to hear your own leaves rustling.

 

Crying. We all need to do it.

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I thought this is quite wonderful. It offers an interesting perspective on something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve never liked crying in front of people. It always made me feel so vulnerable (and it still does, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I think it is a sign of strength). I always felt so defeated and weak when I cried. I guess this is what happens when you spend years growing up in a family where it is just not okay to show emotion.

But then I started changing my perspective on this. I am still cautious around people I don’t trust (and I think that is a good thing, it is important to guard your heart), but I’m starting to feel more comfortable about crying. It doesn’t mean I’m weak, it is a sign that I am alive, human, in touch with my emotions and that I have the ability to feel things. That doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all, actually. I would even say crying is really necessary. Crying cleanses the heart and soul. And let’s face it, life can suck and sometimes what you need is a really good cry. It is so freeing that I can allow myself to do this now.

 

Write your story

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I love writing. I am a writer and I can’t imagine my life not doing this. It is a very important aspect of my therapy. English novelist, journalist and playright Graham Greene said “writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic and fear that is inherent to the human situation.”

When I start writing it is like turning on a tap and I completely empty my mind on the page. If I don’t do this, I become overwhelmed and I lose perspective. And I always feel so much lighter afterwards. Like my world makes a bit more sense.

Ernest Hemingway said writing is bleeding – “You just sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” And that’s exactly how I experience it. It is often also accompanied by crying, but I think the two go well together.

It also helps me to own my story. I think this is the most wonderful thing I’m experiencing right now.

I read something (and I don’t know who said it) that goes like this: You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

And this is why writing helps me – it helps to settle the rage in me. It comforts me. It makes me feel that what I have to say is valid and real. Writing grounds me and it allows me to express myself without fear of judgement.

It helps me to feel more and think less – this is really important for me. It is one of my biggest struggles. Thinking distances me from my inner self, my pain and trauma and then I tend to slip back into unhelpful patterns of intellectualising things. To heal my trauma I have to learn to feel. Deeply. And often that is very uncomfortable.

Through writing I’ve found my own voice – that’s the best thing! And you know what I’ve realised? No matter what happened to me, no one can take my voice away from me.

Writing is helping me to process what I’m feeling, instead of the thoughts and feelings just racing around in my mind. So now I can actually receive the messages that my subconscious mind is sending my way – both good and bad messages.

Writing is my sacred ritual. It is what I do to mend what’s broken inside. I do it everyday – even if it is just a paragraph I get those thoughts, fears and emotions onto the pages. I write about the things I shouldn’t forget because forgetting is not helpful in the healing process. You can’t shelve trauma. Writing helps me not to be afraid of my own mind and memories. It is just a wonderful thing.

I’m fine and other lies

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I’m fine.

How often have you found yourself saying that? I think people who struggle with depression are professionals at this. I know I am.

It just seems so difficult to tell someone how you really are – and it is risky.  How do you explain it? How do you tell people that you’ve reached your breaking point? I didn’t tell most people because I was worried that they might delegitimize my feelings and then I wondered if would they really even care.

I also didn’t want to risk someone telling me that I should just pull myself together, that I should snap out of it and that there are lots of people worse off than me (by the way – these are three of the worst things you can say to someone who has depression).

Sometimes it just seemed easier to hide the pain and despair. But actually – it’s not. Doing this is exhausting. And when I do it, I’m just lying to myself. It takes a lot of energy to pretend that you are happy.

Eventually I realised that I need people in my life who I don’t always have to be fine with. People who don’t have to see the cleaned-up version of me.

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I saw this quote the other day and it got me thinking:

“Everybody is always so fu***ng “fine. But we are not. Sometimes we are hurt and bruised and nearly completely shattered and this, sir, is not what one calls fine.”

So I wondered why I feel the need to be so guarded? I hide my emotions to protect myself and because I’m scared of making myself vulnerable. But there is actually nothing more freeing than being real and telling someone how you feel, what you’ve been through and what you are experiencing now.

I treasure the people in my life who stood by me when I was at my lowest point. These people helped me to find the things I had lost – hope, courage and the will to live. They helped me to stay close to the things I love and make me happy to be alive.

So what do I do these days?

My psychologist doesn’t allow me to walk into her room and tell her “I’m okay” or “I’m fine”. I have to explain how I’m feeling. Properly. This irritated me so much in the beginning, but now I’m learning to label my emotions and express them. The word “depressed” isn’t an emotion. Now I rather work out if I’m feeling fear, despair, hopelessness, anger, betrayal or sadness.

I’m realizing that emotions are messages delivered by my subconscious mind and I owe it to myself to listen to that message.  And I also take time to document that feeling in my journal.

What I also find helpful is making a list of all the emotions I feel – positive and negative. It might sound stupid but if, like me, you struggle with these things it is a very useful exercise. And if you struggle to find the emotion – just Google it!

I don’t always get it right – I still struggle with identifying and dealing with my emotions because it wasn’t something that I was encouraged to do as a child. My default mode is to push my emotions away as quickly as I can.

But now, when I’m starting to feel that my mind is a race track of thoughts and emotions, I make a point of calming myself down and I take just a few minutes to figure out what I’m feeling. This is something that’s really worked for me.

And in the process I’m learning to be gentle with myself. I’m not a project to be completed flawlessly and I don’t always have to get it right – this is one of the biggest life lessons I’m learning all the time.