Thursday, April 14, 2016

Screaming At The Wall

There are days when it feels like nothing goes right. It may even seem like nothing can go right. It’s not just you against the world, but you against the entire universe, and the universe is winning. How could it not, with those odds? There is not much you can do in a fight like that except put your arms up over your face and try to minimize the damage. You can’t win. You can’t fix that kind of day - nothing can, really - but I want to tell you a couple things that might help.

The first thing is that you are not alone. I realize how often I say this, but it really is that important. You are not alone. One of the biggest hurdles in dealing with depression is the feeling of isolation, the feeling that no one understands and no one can understand. It’s a lie, but it’s a lie that carries a lot of weight. Most people fall for it at one time or another - You’re not even alone in that! - and some people fall for it over and over again. We are creatures of habit. We are comfortable in our habits and will often cling to them, even when it is our habits that are killing us. I smoked at least a pack a day for thirty years. Believe me, I know about deadly habits. This one is just as important to kick as that one. Mental health or physical health, health is health, so do what you can to improve yours. You are not alone. Make that your new habit.

The second thing is, this too shall pass. Also not an unusual sentiment around here, is it? Change is the only constant. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that your current state is the end of all things, that you will never be better again, that life will never be better again, and that there is no point to anything, but the only thing that will make this even close to true is believing it to be true. You can lock yourself into that downward spiral, but that is a choice that you make, not a natural progression. That is not to say that every situation can be fixed. That is simply not true. A disease that is incurable today will probably be incurable tomorrow, and we all know that there are many losses that cannot be recovered. We can learn, however, to live in a new way and adapt to new realities. Everything passes and everything changes, but sometimes what passes is an old way of thinking, and sometimes what changes is yourself.

That last point is critical to the understanding of this idea. Sometimes what has to change is yourself. There is never going to be a time when everything in your life is under your control, but how you face your life will always be under your control. If your happiness is dependent upon a desire to have rain fall upward, you are going to be living a pretty miserable life. It’s just not going to work out for you. If you can keep your desires in line with reality, though, or if you can learn to find the good in the curveballs reality will sometimes throw at you then you stand a pretty good chance.

It’s hard, I know. Believe me, I get it. There are days when you don’t care that you’re not alone. It wouldn’t help at all if every single person on the planet were going through the same thing, and just getting through today - maybe even just this hour - makes believing in the universal reality of change irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether or not this will pass if you can’t make it through this. If you are very fortunate, you may never face a day like this. You might get through life without ever once slamming into that wall. If you’re like the rest of us, though, you’re probably going to have at least one day in your life where you don’t just wish to die, but you honestly wish you had never lived at all. It’s a horrible feeling, and it is very difficult to get past.

So what can you do about it? Nothing. Not the answer you want, I know, but that’s the whole point. If you ever come to that day, you have reached a moment in your life where there is literally nothing you can do about your situation. Understanding that, all the way down in your bones, is the first step toward surviving that day. Let go and let life happen. Stand in the middle of the storm and let it wash over you. You are not in control. You don’t have to be in control. You just have to survive until it passes. Let that happen, let that be okay to happen, and you’re on your way.

You can’t fix a situation like that, but you don’t have to be nice to it either. Scream. Rage. Let it out. Have you ever stood in a field, miles from anywhere with no one around, and just yelled? Try it. You’re not fixing anything. Don’t make that mistake. I’m not talking about “primal therapy” (sometimes called “primal scream therapy”), which is a very specific and clinically-controlled field of psychotherapy. I’m just talking about a momentary catharsis, a way to feel better when you can’t do anything else, and that won’t make anything worse.

That is the problem you have to keep in mind. Too often when we find ourselves in a situation like this, we make it worse by making foolish decisions. We lash out. We scream at innocent bystanders or at the people we love. Sometimes we do things that will end up making us wish we had only screamed. If you have to scream then scream, but scream at the wall, scream at the sky, scream at something you won’t hurt and that won’t hurt you in the process.

It’s okay to do something that will make you feel better about or during a situation you can’t fix, even if that better is only temporary. Sometimes a temporary better is exactly what you need. Just don’t do something that will make you temporarily better but really worse in the long run. Scream at the wall so you don’t end up screaming at yourself later.

It is really not you against the universe, but I know it can seem that way at times. When it gets that way, just hunker down and hold on. Don’t make permanent decisions because of a temporary situation, and don’t lose control of your life by trying too hard to control it. When nothing else will do, just scream at the wall. Let it come and let it go, then do what you can on the other side.

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