Why Are We Afraid to Admit When We’re Sad?
If I could just be vulnerable for a moment. There have been a few occasions when Matty has asked me a question so deviously simple: Are you happy?
I’d ache when I heard those words because I knew they hadn’t appeared for no good reason. Somewhere along the line, I must have done something to make him think perhaps I wasn’t happy. And so my quick answer, the one I give without thinking, is safe and firm: Yes, of course I’m happy. *smile!*
This happened recently and while my answer remained the same, I felt a tugging inside as the words escaped. It was the feeling you get when you aren’t quite telling the truth and you fear someone might find out—classic principle’s office guilt. I decided to pay attention this time and show myself a little respect. I wondered if, perhaps, there was a bit of sadness in my heart.
Without getting too personal (more for your benefit, I’m an open book and will tell you all the gory details over coffee if you like), I discovered the root of my sadness after taking the time to acknowledge it. Turns out, transition is a slower process for me than it is Matty. He is highly adaptable and can easily jump into a new situation. Me, I carry the stress, I think about the details, I tinker with a problem or thought and try to find a solution without having all the tools. I know that all my Instagram photos of palm trees have led you to believe that life is rolling along at 100, but the truth is, having no home of my own was really getting to me. Starting over from scratch, be it location, job, budget, friends, even our dreams...it’s a heavy weight to carry and I was trying to do it on my own.
After I came to terms with these things via a genuine freakout, unloading all my thoughts to Matty, and a really good cry, I felt much lighter. Much...happier.
I’ve been thinking about sadness, and my recent experience attempting to hold it at bay. I realized there were a few myths that kept me from admitting that I felt sad and I’ve jotted them down in notes in my phone to remind me that it’s okay, necessary even, that I’m authentic with myself in those moments.
Maybe you can relate:
Myth 1: It’s Wrong to be Sad
Happy, good. Sad, bad. This is how they equate, no? The truth is, we are multi-faceted humans with the capabilities to feel several emotions at once. Yes, we tend to feel best in our happy moments, but being sad is not wrong, it’s just a value on our spectrum. Every human being feels sadness and while it absolutely sucks, sadness (like a righteous anger) often inspires movement and change.
Myth 2: It Will Hurt the People Around You
I was afraid that if I told Matty I was sad he would get upset and take it upon himself. Instead, he held me and helped me talk through it. Your closest friends and family members are not so fragile that your sadness will break them. We forget that this is what they are for, to be strong when we need it. To listen and to lift us up. But here’s when it does hurt: when we aren’t open to listening, or won’t do our part when someone wants to help. There is a tendency when we’re sad to believe the whole world needs to get down on our level. We can either grab their hand and be dead weight until they grow too tired of trying, or we can put in a little effort when they kindly attempt to pull us out.
Myth 3: Saying it Outloud Labels You
I thought that if I said I didn’t feel happy 100% of the time, I’d be the sad girl. Matty would tip-toe around me because this was my “sad season,” like I was contagious or frail. In my circumstance, it was the complete opposite. Saying that I felt sad was liberating. I acknowledged it and from that point on, I began to believe it was behind me. That sadness did not replace my happiness. It wasn’t one or the other and it was more than okay that I’d experienced both those emotions at once. And anyway, I am defined by much more than my emotions.
In sharing my experience, I want you to know that I know that sadness is not the same thing as clinical depression. I do not purport to have any authority in the realms of depression or counseling. And while I doubt you’ve come to ATD seeking a counselor, I highly suggest you reach out to someone with real experience who can help if you suspect you may be battling a consistent sadness.
That being said, am I the only one? Are my myths the same as your myths?