A while back, over the course of several weeks, I unexpectedly hit one.
It was strange, as this discomfort came about at a time when lots of exciting, happy things were going on.
Life was looking up on the opportunity front. I’d just hosted some successful events and launched another online class. Enquiries were coming in about my new service and I had communications work to keep me busy. I’d been getting lots more social support, and I’d just spent a wonderful time away with family.
There was no reason to also feel so ‘out of sorts’. But that didn’t stop me from noticing that I was feeling ‘off’.
In between the good days and good experiences, and good feelings associated with them, my mood kept plummeting unexpectedly. Moments of sadness, apathy or despair would saunter in without warning and lurk like a creepy stalker, for a few hours or a day at a time.
I kept trying to brush them off, because I had better things to do than dwell on them, but the feelings kept skulking around. After a few weeks of this, these feelings weren’t just annoying, they were distracting.
They weren’t so troublesome that they were stopping me from doing the work I’m doing to move forwards in my life. However, they were proving to be cumbersome, which was slowing everything down. And a new feeling had started hanging out with the gang too.
I started to feel trepidation that if this carried on, I might find myself back in an awfully familiar place.
You see, I didn’t want to find myself back in that awful place I’d spent far too much time in a few years back. Far too much time in the equivalent of a scary, dark muddy hole with slippery walls, which made clawing your way back out super freaking hard. That place which stays with you for a long while after you crawl out of it. As you slowly move from being an exhausted wreck with dirty, broken finger nails, grazed knees and matted hair, to learning how to breathe, survive, thrive and smile again.
Yes, that awful place.
Some of you may have been there too?
I was determined not to go anywhere near that dark hole of depression again. But I also knew that because these feelings kept saying ‘boo’, I had to face why they might be trying to get my attention.
Ok, I acknowledge that you’re here.
If I fall into that hole again because of you, will I know how to deal with it? Will I be able to climb back out more easily?
In stopping to consider the meaning and reasons behind the discomfort, I discovered that the very act of shining a light on these ‘bad’ emotions, helped to remove some of the fear and survival mode responses I was experiencing.
I realised that, whilst I’m still learning, I’m also far better equipped now to know what to do in this situation. Or to find a way to figure it out if I don’t. I have knowledge and tools I didn’t have before. I also have a physical and mental framework to guide me, which can help me stay out of the hole, or support me if I accidentally fall in.
So, I reviewed my framework and picked out some activities I could start doing immediately to help kick those grumpy moods in the goolies. Or at least get them to crack a nod of appreciation at my efforts.
By taking them into consideration, I was able to face them and deal with them. They may and do still pop up from time to time, but I’m getting on with things. Even though I may not be able to control when they come and go, or how long they stay for, I am able to manage how I respond to them if/when they jump out at me.
This does take practice. It’s not easy by any means, but it is simple. I have to keep practising being those things. That also means living my life and doing what I want to do, despite fear, depression or any other belligerent mood trying to gate crash the party.
It was only afterwards that I came across Susan David’s powerful Ted Talk on Emotional Agility and that particular phrase stopped me in my tracks.
Susan speaks about how our emotions aren’t us, they’re separate from us. How, contrary to how we might feel, they don’t have to own us either. Instead, we can treat them as data.
Denying or pushing our negative emotions aside just amplifies them. But when we face them and accept them for what they are, we can mine the data from these emotions to help shape our lives, our decisions and our actions in a good way. She recommends getting to know the contours of those strong, tough emotions, just like we know the backs of our hands.
Andy Puddicombe of Headspace shared something relevant in a recent meditation on finding stability. When we develop a greater understanding of the changing conditions of our mind, how it thinks and feels, then we can learn to meditate no matter how the mind feels.
So, next time you notice a skulker, try inviting them in for tea and asking why they’re lurking. If they feel acknowledged, they can become less of a threat and more of a data source. If you get to know the contours of these strong emotions well, they may even become an ally.
Finally, learn to carry on with what you aim to achieve in the world, regardless.
We all have our stuff, but life is far too short to be held back by the meddlers in our mind.
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