After a series of colliding events, both professional and personal and having worn out those around me with my frustrations, and used up several boxes of tissues, I consulted a psychologist for support and advice. That resulted in a clinical diagnosis of reactive depression. My scores, the interview, my presentation, the length of time the events had been occurring, all supported the diagnosis. The only problem was that while it was true, the real pathology was I was sad. Why isn’t sadness valued and honoured for what it is?
Sadness is a totally appropriate response when you are excluded, betrayed, silenced, not respected, told bad news. The assault on the emotional self and then the corresponding physiological impacts are deep and painful. As well as the psychologist, there has been the physiotherapist, the acupuncturist, the masseuse and now a chiropractor, yoga teacher, meditation, theatre group, the journal, the music …. all engaged and locked in for my mental and physical health … the gym … I have been paying attention to myself and caring for myself well under some trying conditions and getting tired … And sad … Trying to avoid what happens to so many others who get sick and tired …
To be told I am depressed, while it might be correct clinically, is not correct for my human condition. I am sad. And why wouldn’t I be? It is right and proper to be sad. My husband has, what the doctors call, a “life limiting” illness and I’m sad it is a one way street. I am sad that the people I was working for didn’t send a card or bunch of flowers to say goodbye. I am sad I am having to get my work act together – again. All reasons worthy of sadness. Why diagnose all sorts of illnesses, instead of wallowing in the emotions?
Hildegard you taught us about groaning loudly and sobbing in these times – not an existentialist angst but a fully human and appropriate response. In my quest to bring more of myself to more of the situations I find myself in, may mean people around me might see more tears for a while than they have been used too. This obsession with pathologising sadness is a dis-ease that doesn’t sit well with me and I am not going to collude. Instead, I will buy another packet of tissues and get on with being sad.
I usually move through sadness by getting angry and then getting creative. I have already started organising the first poetry in the pub and a I concert so can’t be too depressed. I have just enjoyed three amazing playtime days with interplay, I saw 50 years of satire embodied in Barry Humphries Farewell Tour this week and will be dancing to Elvis Costello on Sunday. How lucky am I to have access to all that creativity, laughter and music. This is my kind of medicine.
Being sad is healthy; and from the muck and mulch and compost the seeds are sown and the green shoots appear.