Have you ever had one of those days where you just wake up completely miserable? I’m not talking about getting up on the wrong side of the bed (whatever that means), or simply being in a bad mood. This is a deeply rooted feeling that is not only unshakeable, but also extremely painful.
Trying to shift your mood feels impossible. It’s like your strapped into a roller coaster being pulled along for the ride without any option of getting off. All around you the world continues to function yet you don’t want to get out of bed.
If you’re saying “WHAT? I’ve never felt like this” than call yourself lucky and stop reading.
If you know what I’m talking about then these are the moments, days, and even months of life where nothing you read, do or think can shift how you feel. It’s like a bout of nausea that you have to just let take its course while suffering through the discomfort until it passes.
I had one of these days recently. I hated everyone and everything, wanted to run away to somewhere remote or to hole up in my house without any contact. Dealing with people and facing life felt impossible, but somehow I survived and made it through. I wish I could tell you that I had some magic secret about how I endured this excruciating period of time, but the truth is that there are just some feelings and intrapersonal experiences that you have to just live through.
The culture at large would like you to believe that you can always fix your feelings. Just change your perspective, exercise, meditate, pray, dance, journal…the list goes on and on when it comes to prescriptions that will surely heal what ails you. If you ask any person who has felt this low what helps the least they’ll tell you that it’s the insensitive yet well meaning comments from the people around them.
“Just get some fresh air or exercise.”
“Watch a funny movie and forget about it.”
“Stay busy with work so you feel productive.”
“Volunteer to give yourself perspective.”
It’s my experience that the only option when the world goes this dark is to accept that it’s happening. This doesn’t mean not reaching out of for help or making attempts at easing the pain, but fully embracing the magnitude of your misery is the most efficient way to reduce suffering.
Buddhist teachings tell us that pain is an inevitable part of life and being human, and that most suffering is self-inflicted by the person trying to grapple with that pain. We make things worse for ourselves by trying to resist what’s happening and by pushing the feelings down with unhealthy coping mechanisms like work, alcohol or food.
The path of acceptance is not for the faint of heart when it comes to emotional pain. Resilience and tolerance definitely play a part, but even the most challenging situations pass with time and patience. As assuredly as the weather, something always shifts for your emotional pain to change course.
One of the hardest things to do when you feel out of control with your feelings is to trust them to be your best guide. Your emotions are what push you to seek help, reach out to others, and to recognize that something is off in your life.
Here are a few examples of what your darkest moments are telling you:
When you’re feeling down it’s pretty likely that you’ll want to be alone. Isolating is a natural response when you aren’t in the best place for socializing or connecting with other people. The drive to retreat is protective because you’re vulnerable and fragile when your emotions are driving the ship. Listening to what you’re wanting leads you to what you’re needing so don’t try to convince yourself that it’s better to go out. This isn’t always the best solution.
Cry Your Eyes Out
Tears (not unlike sweat) are a natural release of toxins from the body. We are the only species to shed emotional tears that are directly connected to certain regions of the brain associated with our emotional life. As a culture we learn to “wipe away” our tears as if they are something to stop, but in truth crying is a beautiful way to process emotions and to reduce the stress that comes with built up feelings.
Reach For Help
We’ve all had that moment where we reach for the phone to call our go to person when things fall apart. It’s a natural instinct to cry out for help when things get rough, but instead we tell ourselves that we should be strong enough to handle our own stuff. This is just a form of denial and a tough love behavior you learned early on. Leaning on others in a time of need is natural and essential for anyone tangled up in blue.
The practice of sitting with pain long enough to see if it will pass, and reaching for help when you know it can’t be done alone are the keys to getting through some of the darkest days of your life. Learn to trust and honor your feelings in the same way you would trust someone else to tell you what to do.
No one knows your internal world better than you, and if a visit from your feelings feels like a stranger breaking into your house learn to make peace with them because they mean no harm.