4 Ways to 'Own' the Dark Cloud of Your Depression
Maybe it’s the Sunday “Scaries.” Or maybe it’s something deeper, something darker, like an innate dread or anxiety. Maybe it’s that big scary word that starts with the letter “D” — I’m talking about “depression” (why are we so scared of that word, anyways?) Maybe it’s a relentless case of the blues. Whatever you call it, it’s yours and it’s time to lean into it.
I call mine my “dark cloud.”
At first, I did so just to myself, because I didn’t dare talk to anyone else about the sneaking suspicion I might be experiencing depression. That sneaking suspicion derived from many sleepless nights spent staring at my iPhone beneath my bed sheets, Googling “symptoms of depression” and comparing the similarities to my own mental or emotional ailments.
At first, just to myself, because what would that say about me? Worse, what would my friends, my family or strangers on the internet say about me?
At first, just to myself, because how can a 27-year-old with the world in the palm of her hands be living with “depression?” Because what business does someone with a loving family, an amazing boyfriend and the job of her dreams have with depression?
No business at all, I assumed. (Which, to be honest, was part of the problem.)
Eventually, I couldn’t outsmart my “dark cloud” any longer. I couldn’t run away from it. I couldn’t keep my composure. I couldn’t stop myself from falling apart over spilled (coconut) milk, a stubbed toe, the right words in the wrong order, the wrong song at the right time, rain when the forecast was sun, or any other seemingly insignificant thing.
When I told my boyfriend about my “darkness,” I expected him to retreat, to run, to not believe me or not take me seriously. Not because he’s ever given me any reason to question his love and acceptance, his commitment or his loyalty to me, but because my dark cloud sometimes, well, “clouds” my better judgment.
Anyway, I told my boyfriend. And he listened. He asked questions so he could understand. And instead of trying to offer solutions to “fix me,” he acknowledged the darkness, and gave me the best advice I’ve received — better than anything else I had read on the internet in those wee hours of the night — advice so good that, here I am, passing it on to you: he told me to own it.
Because nothing should “cloud” your better judgment. You should own your darkness.
1. Externalize it.
Separate yourself from your darkness by giving it a name — not because we want to avoid or deny our darkness (I’ve tried, it doesn’t work), but because calling it out creates much-needed space and pivotal distance between you and your dark cloud so you can actually see it for what it is. Which, by the way, is nothing more than a messy metaphorical cloud of irrational thoughts swirling through your psyche. Recognizing this distinction is key.
You are not your darkness.
2. Tell someone.
If you’ve felt anything close to what I’ve been describing, then you know carrying the weight of your darkness on your own feels impossibly heavy. Free yourself (and your psyche) and tell someone. Anyone. Tell your mom, your BFF, your significant other, your therapist, your cat, your journal or the stranger you meet on the subway. Ideally, tell someone who’s willing to listen, and who you trust to not try to “fix” you.
I’m not promising rainbows and roses the second the words leave your mouth. I’m not even promising that telling someone will be easy. In fact, it probably won’t be. But, once you acknowledge your darkness, it begins to lose its power over you. Once you open up and talk about your darkness — even if only to your cat (at first) — you loosen its grip on your psyche.
3. Get to the bottom of it.
This might be slightly terrifying, but try to pinpoint exactly where the darkness is coming from. Be honest with yourself. Ask: Is it coming from real, external stressors or imaginary, internally created ones? If you’re able to identify where your darkness is coming from, it’s much easier to work with it and eventually, move through it.
Pro tip: Journaling this out helps tremendously. I discovered a lot of my mental, emotional, physical or spiritual angst was actually just me resisting life — me trying to control completely uncontrollable things — and bypassing my feelings.
Speaking of feelings…
4. Face it, head on.
My dark cloud is unpredictable. One minute I’m happy as a clam, the next, my cloud is storming. I’ll feel angry. Irritated. Anxious. Helpless. Alone. Sadder than sad. Madder than mad. Frustrated because it doesn’t make sense — because I can’t understand it and I can’t explain it. Sometimes it lasts for an hour, other times it hovers for days with no sign of lifting.
If you’re currently thinking “same,” you’re not going to like this part (nobody ever likes this part) but, in order to fully own your darkness and finally move beyond it, I’ve learned you have to move through it. Which means, you have to look at it without judgment and feel all the feels that come along with it. Including the hurt, the heartbreak, the doubt, the anger, the overwhelmingness, the frustration, the fear and all the other weird, unpleasant, painfully uncomfortable human feelings you’re desperately trying to avoid.
I know from experience this is incredibly hard. I also know this (read: 1-4) definitely isn’t that quick fix you might have been hoping for. Reality check: when it comes to the head and the heart, there is no such thing as a “quick fix.”
But, here’s the thing:
It’s all OK.
I have succumbed to my dark cloud many times.
I’ve been a puddle on my bathroom floor, crying uncontrollably for reasons I can’t possibly understand and for seemingly no reason at all.
I’ve spent entire weeks in bed, silencing phone calls and ignoring texts because I just couldn’t deal.
I’ve ignored my work, turned my back on my calling, my passions and avoided my obligations, only to suffer the consequences (which, at the time, seemed completely inconsequential due to my mental state — they weren’t.)
All this to say: I get it. I’m not going to compare my mental illness to anyone else’s mental illness, but I know what it feels like to want to hurt yourself, to want to hide under the covers indefinitely, to wonder why you can’t just feel happy when everyone around you seems so happy.
And I want to tell you, it’s OK.
OK, so maybe you’re not OK right now, but you will be. And here’s what so many people don’t understand: It’s OK to not be OK. In fact, it’s more than OK; It’s human.
Part of being human means feeling a whole spectrum of human emotions. That means happy, sad and everything in between and beyond. If you were ambivalently happy all the time, well that wouldn’t be very human of you (and to be honest, sounds a little boring.)
Follow this journey on littlefoolbook.
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