Chasing Inspiration

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Melancholia and Me

  1. Looking at the rain from our newish porch. It's fantastic!
  2. The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu - they are amazing men with a shared message of joy and compassion.
  3. Rawhides. They are for dogs what the TV is for small children. Don't judge!
autumn leaves

I'm not going to lie, it's been a rough week. As I have stated before on this blog, I have situational depression, which means I have short term depressive episodes that are triggered by circumstance or situation. While this is not clinical depression, it does share symptomology: depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, crying, changes in sleep, changes in appetite, etc. It can lead to major depression if the situational depression isn't addressed.

I am also naturally more melancholy in mood. Melancholia is not depression, as Eric G. Wilson explores in his book Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy:
There is a fine line between what I’m calling melancholia and what society calls depression. In my mind, what separates the two is degree of activity. Both forms are more or less chronic sadness that leads to ongoing unease with how things are — persistent feelings that the world as it is is not quite right, that it is a place of suffering, stupidity, and evil. Depression (as I see it, at least) causes apathy in the face of this unease, lethargy approaching total paralysis, an inability to feel much of anything one way or another. In contrast, melancholia (in my eyes) generates a deep feeling in regard to this same anxiety, a turbulence of heart that results in an active questioning of the status quo, a perpetual longing to create new ways of being and seeing.
Please know that I'm not attempting to minimize clinical depression. This is a very real dark shadow that sucks a person down into their own quiet hell. It is a straight jacket, the darkest night, a twisted tunnel of reality that is loathe to let a person go. Clinical depression requires therapy and medication and a lot of support.

This week's lows stem both from my melancholia and situational depression. What has happened to trigger this depressive state? I couldn't pinpoint one single event. I haven't changed jobs, ended a relationship. The only changes that have taken place in my life is that summer has moved into autumn and the two year mark of not working due to health issues has come and gone. I haven't worked in two years. I'm no closer to being able to work than I was then. In fact, I think things have worsened over the last few months.

That may be why I have sunk beneath the waters of melancholy and lay in the pool of short term depression.

Knowing what's going on within my body - physical, emotional, spiritual - means I'm more likely to be able to do something to help myself. Sometimes it's watching Doctor Who or Star Trek. Other times it's getting outside and being out in nature. Sometimes it's getting together with a good friend who loves me, quirks and all. Sometimes it's therapy.

Today, it was figuring out why I feel so low and then writing about it. I have named it. I can now regulate it (inside joke with Claire, but true nonetheless).

There are things I can do toward my health issues. I know this. I've been lax in doing many of them. I got tired of the supplements and the diet restrictions. I started to slip while on vacation in July and kept right on slipping once I got home. My sleep hygiene could use some tightening of routines. I could move my body more.

And I can let myself feel low, feel sadness, frustration, hopelessness. I can sit in these feelings and let them wash over me, through me. I can seek to answer what triggered this round of depression and increase my distress tolerance and my skills. I can let the emotions wash away a layer of myself that no longer fits.And  I can come out the other side being a bit better version of myself.

It's okay to feel low. To be melancholy. It's normal to be so thrown by a life event that you temporarily feel suffocated by depression. This doesn't make me a freak of nature, unlike what my brain continues to try to tell me. It makes me normal. It makes 

Photo by: Seth Stoll 

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