I’m Sad. Ok, Ok, I’m Depressed. What Can I Do?

Come mighty breakdown, break me wide open.
Carve your name in the caverns of my hollow heart.
Rip off the blinders & cut the shadow’s cord.
I can’t take one more day of this pitch black.
This sandpaper love has rubbed me raw.

That’s a poem I wrote quite a few years ago during a rather dark night of my soul.

Yeah, it was awful.

While I’d love to say I don’t ever feel this way anymore, the truth is that sometimes I do.  And, it oftentimes comes without warning for seemingly no reason at all.

Ugh. Life makes no sense. What am I doing? What is my purpose? Why do I feel this way?

Chances are you feel this way too at times. It’s just that we don’t usually talk too much about it – you know, with having to keep up with our “happy social media” persona.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of people who air out all their emotional laundry on social media. Kudos to them for being real.  I know I’ve caught myself thinking, “Um, Facebook probably isn’t the best place to dump your emotions”, but at the same time, who am I to judge?

Rather than roll my eyes and scroll on by, I take the time to affirm their feelings. Maybe they’re desperate. Maybe they’ve never learned how to resolve inner issues. Maybe they simply don’t feel heard. Maybe they desperately WANT to be heard and affirmed and aren’t getting it from those in “real life”.

I empathize with them.

I’m Sad, You’re Sad, The Whole World is Sad

It’s not tough to surmise that globally the rate of sadness is soaring. I mean, how could the last six months or so with the pandemic NOT affect people?

And even though (speaking for myself) I have so much to be grateful for, sadness still shows up more often than I’d like. Not just me, either.  Just take a survey of your closest loved ones and see how many admit that they’re struggling.

How about you?  Are you struggling with extreme sadness? Depression? Existential Angst?

If so, I wish I could tell you I had your answers.  Just do this and that and bam! You’ll feel better!

If only.

I wish all the “just be happy” gurus who promise instant solutions were spot on.

But they’re not, and I might add that the mentality that we should be SUPER HAPPY ALL THE TIME is messed up.  It’s not likely that we will be happy “all the time”.  And to feel pressured to feel that way doesn’t feel good.

Can we feel joy more than pain? Yes, that’s doable. Do negative emotions always have to drive the bus? No, but in times of pain, sadness, grief, etc., don’t beat yourself up for feeling that way. Life is a roller coaster ride of emotions. We came to experience them all.

I’m Sad, But I Will Get Through It

I will say that through my own experiences with sadness and depression, there is hope. There are some things you can learn from sitting in the midst of such intense emotions. And, there are certain things you can do (and not do) to get through these feelings. To break through.

Here are some things that work for me when I feel sad or depressed. The list is not exhaustive, as there are MANY ways to work through such emotions. If you have your own, I’d love to hear about them in a comment at the end of this article.

I’m Sad. How Can I Feel Better?

  1. Own It

I find when I fight against the sad feelings, they tend to intensify.  What’s the saying, “What you resist, persists?”

Well, when I notice that I’m feeling like crap emotionally, I’ll stop everything for a moment. I’ll check in with myself and if I realize, “Yep, this is a familiar feeling of depression”, then I own it. Trust me when I say I’d rather run from it, stuff it, escape it, numb it, or hide from it.

However, I’ve learned that those things don’t do much in the way of helping me get THROUGH it faster. In fact, they may cause it to deepen.

But when I face it and own it, it’s like I’m giving myself permission to just feel it.  I take a deep breath and relax into it. I’m ok with it momentarily.

I really dislike when I’m feeling depressed and feel like I have to hide it from those closest to me. Not that I’m looking to blab on and on about my mood, (because I don’t) but I also don’t want to pretend I’m thrilled about everything.

Sometimes it’s just nice to say, “Hey, I’m struggling today” and not have to worry that they’ll think less of me or worse, try to fix me.

I also don’t want to fall prey to tucking it into the folds of my shadow side. That doesn’t feel good either. It’s like throwing a bunch of huge rocks into a bag and carrying them around everywhere I go.

It gets heavy real quick!

It helps me to take a deep breath, own it, and at the same time, know that I’m not going to stay there. That emotional distress, for me, is only temporary and if I will take some time to sit with it, it may give me an important message.

Like maybe it’s time for me to rest for a day or two. I once heard someone say “depression” can mean “deep rest”. Take a deeeeeep rest and courageously go within to feel it and do the necessary inner healing work or shadow work to heal that particular level of depression.

  1. Unplug Momentarily

When I’m feeling depressed, it helps me to unplug momentarily. To find a safe place to retreat in solitude. Granted, I’m alone quite a bit working from home, but when I’m struggling with intense sadness or depression, I’ll focus a bit more on solitude. I’ll get off social media for a bit. I’ll go for walks in nature. I’ll get on the bike and ride.

Taking a bit of time to just get quiet, away from the noisiness of life, can help quiet the mind. That endless mental chatterbox.

Take an hour, a half day, or a full day and just enjoy silence and solitude.  But not to let the racing mind make you insane.  Take the time to quiet the mind through mindfulness or meditation. Be in the moment, aware of your surroundings.

For me, I’ll go walk in the woods, noticing everything! The bird that’s squawking, the wind that’s blowing, the smells, the flowers, trees, etc. I’ll take the time to NOTICE and be in the moment and it always helps me feel better. It lifts my spirit. Helps me align with myself and the God of such a beautiful creation.

  1. Remember The Times The Sadness Has Passed

It’s likely these intense sad feelings won’t last forever. Oh, it might feel like they will!  But look back at how many times through life you’ve struggled with depressive feelings and they passed.  Or, if depression has been chronic, remember the times or experiences that helped it feel less intense.

I used to think I was one of the few that struggled with depression or sadness, but the truth is that everyone struggles from time to time. Of course, some experience it deeper than others, but everyone gets sad at times. Most people go through a dark night of the soul on occasion.

And most of the time, people work their way through it, which takes me to the next point.

  1. Reach Out For Support

Suffering with clinical depression is different than feeling depressed for a day or two or three. In the scope of this article, I’m not really talking about Major Depressive Disorder, where the depressive symptoms are more severe and last more than two weeks. In that case, my advice is to seek help from a qualified transpersonal therapist, good psychiatrist, spiritual advisor, or a mixture of these!

For me, if I can’t pull myself out of feeling intensely sad or depressed after a couple of days, I’ll reach out for some support. I’ve got those I can go to that will listen, hear me, and remind me that I don’t have to get through it alone.  Not that they’re there to “fix me”, but they’re there to offer a safe space for me to honestly share, be heard, and comforted.

Online forums are great for support too. It’s nice because people that don’t know you tend to feel freer to share what you might not want to hear – but need to hear. I’ve found great support at times over at Daily Strength.

  1. Hear What The Emotions Are Telling You

Emotions can be great informants of what’s going on under the surface. When I went through a tumultuous time in my 30’s, I lost it emotionally.  I had negative emotions erupting like a badass, angry volcano and I had no idea how to contend with them.

What were they telling me?

They let me know that they didn’t want to be stuffed deep in my psyche anymore. They were tired of hiding in my shadow side. That wounded “little Dominica” wanted and needed to be seen and heard.

Those repressed emotions I’d started stuffing as a kid wanted to be felt, processed, and most importantly, integrated into my psyche and energetic system. By “integrated”, I mean unified, blended, meshed, etc.

Negative emotions like depression can be great teachers. Pain has taught me a whole lot more than joy throughout life. Had I lived in bliss and ecstasy my whole life, I would have missed out on some very valuable life lessons.

We live in a world of duality and polarity. There’s light and dark, good and bad, pain and pleasure, love and hate, and so on. To feel the bliss, we sometimes have to feel the sadness. It’s just the way it is.

Take some time to ask your emotions what they want and need you to know.  Get really honest with yourself.

  • Maybe you’re not aligned in some area of your life.
  • Maybe you’re not practicing self-care.
  • Maybe something someone said is affecting you deeply.
  • Maybe you’ve fallen prey to a victim mentality.
  • Maybe you’ve got some inner healing or shadow work to do.
  • Maybe you’re grieving the loss of something or someone.

Do some digging. You may gain some insight, or you might not.  The reality is sometimes we just don’t know why we struggle, and that’s alright.  We can still do what we know to do to accept and work through the emotions best we can.

Wrapping It Up

My hope is that the next time you feel sad or depressed, you’ll REALLY know that you’re not alone. And, that you’re not messed up, broken, or less than.  You’re a spirit journeying this planet as a human, and it’s not a cake walk.  Even with all the wonderful instruction manuals we’ve been given, we still struggle sometimes, and that’s alright.

Sometimes I’m sad.  I admit that, and even admitting it right now makes me wonder, “what will they think?”

And now I’m chuckling.  Hello, everyone is sad sometimes and it’s alright to admit that. If it lasts for longer than I feel it should, I do what I know to do to help me break through.  And in a world that’s full of chaos and uncertainty right now, it’s challenging to NOT feel the weight of it at times.

But take heart. Experiencing longer-term happy feelings is possible over time, especially if you commit to an inner spiritual journey. Sadness may come and go, but feeling content and fulfilled more often than not is possible.

I keep reminding myself of this, even in moments of intense sadness. I keep doing my inner healing work, committed to a spiritual discipline of mindfulness and meditation.

It helps!