From the time I can remember, I have had moments of feeling sad. Today, we tend to label this as depression and attribute one to have a mental health condition. (Please note, for the sake of this post, I am primarily referring to the mental health conditions of depression and anxiety.) We also go so far as to promote the acceptance of mental illness in our society. I am not okay with this. Let me explain. By providing acceptance for those with mental illnesses, we are instantly segregating people and this is something that has never settled well with me. I see everyone as human beings and as humans we are born with a variety of emotions. It has been through not providing an acceptance for other emotions in our society in a normalized way that has caused an emotional influx in people. Nobody knows what to do with those other perfectly normal emotions within them because there has been nowhere to put them. Our solution is to create another segment of people labeled with mental illness and simply put them over there. People can then feel good about themselves because they are accepting of this and/or can now explain their emotional state.
Back to what I was saying earlier…I have many memories of feeling sad at various times in my life. I also have memories of happiness, anger, frustration, elatedness, and so on. Something I have been understanding more as I get older is this idea that sometimes I just simply need to be sad. Sometimes there might be a very distinct reason and at other times the reason could be from a build up of several life events without my even realizing. The time I take to be sad can be comforting and ultimately re-energizing. As I give myself time to process what I am feeling, I am also renewing my energy. The important thing is that I give myself permission to do this and to not feel guilty for doing it.
In general, we have been taught to push any type of feeling (other than happiness) aside and push through…so to speak. We are considered tougher and stronger when we do not feel what we often need to feel. As a result, we will fight, resist or avoid the feeling (which only continues to persist) and end up with mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. Now, think about how this situation could be different – if you were to accept the feelings you have and be vulnerable to them. Vulnerability has gained a bad rap over the years (before Brene Brown showed people the light) and has typically be seen as being weak. In reality, it is through feeling vulnerable that we actually gain strength. This takes much more courage than avoiding the feeling does and will aid us in believing in ourselves – the ultimate strength.
Everybody will need to process their feelings in different ways. Many times it is dependent on what is going on in your life and what types of supports you have. If your main support people process differently than you, this could develop into a slight conflict or perhaps cause you to feel that you are doing something wrong. I cannot stress the importance of listening to your gut more than in instances such as these. We have a strong tendency to compare ourselves to others versus listening to what is going on inside of us. When someone else feels or says something, we want to believe this as the truth. Well, there is no other truth than what you are feeling. I know we are taught a great deal of rights and wrongs in our lives, and many of them the majority can likely agree upon. However, when it comes to your right and wrong, only you can decide this. Unfortunately, the last person we will turn to for answers at times is ourselves. The information we gather from the people in our life as well as our life experiences is what we have to drawn on to form our own answers.
So, this is what I suggest…. Next time you are feeling anxious or sad, take a minute to trace the feeling backwards a little to determine where it may stem from. You have my permission to not feel guilty about simply feeling. Then just take some time to process those feelings. Most important, let’s try to work together as human beings in this world as a collective. The reality is we are born with emotions – why segregate that?