therapeutic hijinks

make feelings funky again

Dear Reader,

It has taken me 45 minutes to write this sentence. I’m draggggggggggging right now. All I want is to cocoon myself in a brooks linen comforter, dim the lights, and listen to Scottie Pippen read me bed time stories for the next four months. Am I feeling depressed right now? You bet!

It’s okay to feel depressed, even when some things are looking up. It’s okay to feel depressed, even when some things are looking up. It’s.okay.to.feel.depressed. even.when.some.things.are.looking.up.

I can write this sentence 3000 times and still struggle incessantly with this notion. But I am trying really hard to just be right now, in my sadness, and see what happens. As someone who becomes more situationally than clinically depressed, I realize that my relationship to sadness may be very different from yours. I am not here to tell you how to feel or what’s right for you, just sharing where I’m at in this very moment.

And actually - while we’re on the subject of how I’m feeling right now, I am not in the mood for anyone to give me a list of things to do to stop my sadness right now. To suggest all the things I should surely feel grateful for. Please do not invite me to try feeling happy; or bypass the necessary emotional work in favor for cheap, fleeting joy. I’m good right here for now. Thanks but no thanks.

I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness when it becomes aggressive. Also known as: toxic positivity. I am definitely a recovering toxic positive person. What I mean by this is — my happy go lucky attitude was not coming from a place of genuinely feeling good. No, it was actually coming from a place of feeling terrified of feeling sad. I used to think my/your/their sadness would eat me in one big gulp if I let it. So I pushed it as far away as physically possible. I pitied sadness. I judged it. I hated it. But that wasn’t actually making me feel any less sad. No, instead, I was just being manically happy. EVERYTHING! WAS! NOT! AWESOME! BUT! I! PRETENDED! IT! WAS!

I used to think that sadness was the only emotion that could last forever, if you let it. Happiness would come and go. Anger was hot to touch, but would eventually cool. Anxiety was frenetic and unpredictable. But sadness. Ohhhhhh no, not sadness. That one, I was sure, would overstay it’s welcome permanently, if I let it. It wasn’t until I started training as a therapist that I was forced to embrace sadness as an important, inevitable emotion.

I once worked with a patient who carried sadness with her like a little toy poodle. Every session she would set her sadness down on the floor and it would trot right over to my chair and begin licking my ankles. I found her sadness to be such a nuisance, mostly for me.

“It’s just so depressing talking to her,” I would complain to my supervisor. “I am trying so hard to bring some life into the room.” My supervisor replied, “It’s not your job to take away her sadness. Stop trying to control her emotions.”

I am so skilled at entertaining, hosting, making others comfortable, that it often becomes my default way of interacting with others. And while I love to throw a great party, no one can eat that much funfetti without eventually… needing to throw up. And my supervisor, as blunt as his response was, had a really important point. When you’re the host, you’re in charge. It’s your house, your rules. There is an element of control in brightening someone’s day that can feel really, really comforting to me. And while it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s also not necessarily making much space for one’s personal journey. And it’s also sending a dangerous message that sadness is bad, or something to be ignored.

The type of therapy party I want to throw is one where every emotion is invited to join. Anger brings the whiskey. Happiness tequila. Sadness shows up with a four-pack of ginger beer. This month, I’m drinking the ginger beer. It’s got a surprising kick to it, and reminds me of my grandma.

Speaking of ginger beer (just using this as a segue, this has nothing to do with ginger beer) I’m going to be taking a month off from writing All Mixt Up to rest, gather my thoughts and create some dope feelings content for you to interact with soon. This is not easy for me to do — taking breaks, resisting the temptation to perform for the sake of it — but why not try something new? I’ll miss you all, but I think this recharge will be good for us all.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for future All Mixt Up posts, please get in touch! I’d love to collaborate on something with you.

One final thing — I’m going to continue creating spotify mixtapes because music is therapy and I’m trying to move my body more in 2021. Here’s one I created for this week’s post! I made it collaborative — so if you feel like adding songs to it, please do! Think of this like a group therapy exercise. Enjoy!

love,

Jesse