Building Strength Through Sadness

It’s ridiculous to think that you can avoid sadness. In fact, it’s counter-productive.

The real question is: “How will you handle it when it arrives?”

No amount of beauty, money, confidence, or power will protect you from the occasional visit from Sadness. It will come for us from time to time, reminding us how fragile we are in a way that physical pain never could.

From heartbreak to loss, through loneliness or aimlessness; there are a myriad of levels we can exist on within this gloomy spectrum. Some of them leave us bed-ridden, desperate to find escape in the form of sleep. Some people can’t stop eating, while others lose all sense of appetite. Their stomachs occupied by a deep melancholy. Sometimes it just makes us apathetic and unimpressed, seeing life through a veil that obscures the beautiful things around us.

In the more prolonged cases, people begin to identify with it on a deeper level. Building it into their being as though it belongs there. But, just like Doubt, it’s essential to see Sadness as an outside influence that’s just passing through.

Sometimes it’s a dark shadow that sits on your shoulders with such a physical weight that it brings you to your knees before you manage to gather the strength of mind and allow for the passing of time that it will take to pick yourself back up again.

Sometimes it’s sneaky. Existing only in a dull hum so that we may not even realize it’s right there underneath the surface. We just live in some form of drudgery, oblivious to the fact that we’re not quite ourselves, we’ve stopped doing the things we love, and that the world seems a little less vibrant.

Meanwhile, we might appear to be perfectly functional in our day to day lives.

Whichever level we may occasionally find ourselves on, we become more susceptible to its effects when we don’t have a strong, foundational sense of self or a plan to call upon when our world seems to be falling down around us.

I can count the amount of depressions I’ve gone through on almost two hands. I call these particular moments in time “depressions” because they were so heavy that I felt like I had to rebuild myself from the ground up after they passed through me.

What I also know is that the first one was a gateway to all the rest.

As a devoted practicer of avoidance, you learn to bury the pain under a pile of everyday life (and whatever else you might find that creates relief for you) and, in time, get on with it. Somewhere inside I always knew that my particular sadness had to do with the way I was thinking and the fact that I was reacting to the world rather than making choices.

It was common for me to give away my happiness to other people as though it should be in anyone else’s hands but my own.

I needed to do something to become stronger, not to collect my troubles like drops of water in a cup that was inevitably going to overflow, forcing me to start re-filling myself all over again.

During my lowest time, the idea of sitting down with a therapist and talking about the sadness I was carrying around made me feel ridiculous. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with therapy and it’s an incredibly valuable resource…but, I was defiant even in my depression. Just the mention of the word “therapy” made me feel broken and, to top it off, I was angry at myself for being sad. In my mind, the sadness was stupid and weak. I kept going over and over different scenarios of what this person would undoubtably ask me and how I’d respond.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that (in some strange way) I’d already become my own therapist.

That’s when I began to write it all down. I got it all out of my head with the comfort of knowing that no one else on earth would ever read it. Having that safe place also gave me access to objectivity. There is clarity to be found in seeing the words existing outside of your mind and displayed clearly on that page. You can discover the root of your discomfort.

Through that revelation, I turned to reading. And I read a lot.

We have a wealth of information at our literal fingertips and it’s a great reminder that whatever experience we’re currently living in, many others have been right where we are.

We have never before been more empowered to help ourselves.

Struggling with expressing emotion and can’t connect? Try “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown.

Feeling dissatisfied with where you are in life and need a good boost? Take a look at “The Motivation Manifesto” by Brendon Berchard.

You get the idea. For me, this was the ideal way to finally process and release.

Now, let’s say you do seek the connection of another person to help you go through your sadness. Just make sure that you’re seeking solace from the right people.

Have you ever tried opening up to a person that lacks depth of life experience and has never had their heart broken in some way or another? They’re out there and they have no frame of reference to help you. You might as well be speaking two different languages.

Talking to people who have gone through a certain depth of sadness and have allowed themselves to mature from these experiences can be remarkably refreshing. Their capacity to empathize is heightened because they remember what it was like to be in your shoes. They have the ability to tell you what they wish someone would have told them during their hard time and, while their advice is useful, the comfort they provide is what makes them truly important.

Whether you choose to deal with it through reading and reflection, through connecting to people close to you, or through the help of a professional; all that matters is that you’re dealing with it.

We all have built-in triggers, some particularly intensified through negative past experience. Breakups, loss of loved ones, constant feelings of inadequacy, the dissatisfaction of going to a job you dislike day in and day out, feeling alone, lack of financial stability, hurtful words we struggle to forget, the unpleasant ways that people have treated us, the disappointment of trying so hard…only to fail.

So many of us share these troubles. Some bear heavier burdens than others. Be aware of how powerful yours are and whether they’re things you can take of yourself or if you’d be better served by a helping hand.

Do you know what your strongest triggers are?

If you’ll allow me to nerd out on you for a moment, there’s a great quote from Finnick in “The Hunger Games” where he says:

“It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.”

The goal is to find out how to keep yourself from completely falling apart. Maybe we learn to accept the occasional visit from Sadness, but do everything we can to keep Depression from tagging along.

I’m not sad as I sit here and write this, but I’m not stupid enough to think that it won’t pay me a visit in the future. It’s normal. But, it’s important to know how to support ourselves when Sadness arrives so that it doesn’t evolve into its much more daunting counterpart.

So, how might we help ourselves?

  1. We allow ourselves time to feel it.
  2. We process it through sharing with the right people or seeking the right information.
  3. We find a healthy outlet and a routine to provide us comfort.
  4. We grow from the experience and appreciate the feeling of being on the other side.

The bright side about going through any heavy moments is that you have the ability to be substantially more grateful for the light ones. Suddenly, you can revel in the beauty of Sadness’ absence.

You can appreciate supportive and honest people more once you’ve experienced the ones that are suppressive and false.

You can appreciate success more when you’ve overcome failure.

You can appreciate love more once you’ve felt it slip away.

Sometimes a depth of sadness leads you to a depth of self.

That depth is what makes people beautiful and magnetic. It’s what has led to countless timeless works of art, captivating books and films, and moving pieces of music that possess a universal ability to connect.

Many of those beautiful expressions of creativity are the manifestations of someone facing their sadness.

I don’t believe that you need to live in perpetual gloom to create, but I do think that great beauty can come from going through these experiences and allowing them to transform into something incredible.

Most importantly: 

Never feel ashamed of your sadness.

Whether they share it with you or not, it happens to everyone. Sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for less reasonable ones, but know that you are not alone in that respect and that your feelings are valid and worth acknowledgement.

Let sadness teach you what situations you can avoid. Let it teach you how to care for yourself when something unavoidable turns your world upside down.

Let it give you depth.

Let it teach you empathy.

I feel confident in saying that you would like me more now than you would if you’d met me before I’d first experienced true sadness. I think I’ve become one of those people that someone can turn to when they’re not feeling like their strongest self.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

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