I had a really lovely day today. For the most part, I made good decisions around food. And yet for no apparent reason, this evening I feel incredibly melancholy and moody. I’m overcome with a range of emotions I can’t even describe. To be honest, I just want to cry.
Why? I have absolutely no idea. None whatsoever.
This is the problem with having all your emotions invalidated in your formative years. You learn to quash them. To refuse to acknowledge them. To actually be ashamed of having emotions – any and all emotions. Don’t get angry or excited – nobody is comfortable with that kind of emotional display. Pride is a sin – be humble. Love is for those not independent enough to manage alone. You have nothing to cry about when there are people in the world with much bigger problems than you have. Don’t overdo that happiness gig, you’ll make other people feel uncomfortable. I genuinely have no idea what I was supposed to feel. I think I was meant to be bland and boring. I think that’s what I became.
I know I was a difficult child. I was really hyperactive and stubborn, inquisitive and independent. And I was highly emotional! I still am – but now I don’t know how to identify those emotions. I bury them until a few days later they just bubble to the surface. Then I find myself on a Tuesday evening, having had a lovely day at work and with friends, feeling all moody and melancholy and teary, and not having any idea why.
During my psychology sessions I am often told I need to sit with my feelings – I need to let them wash over me, accept them, name them if I can, and just feel them. Feel the feelings. It seems so obvious! It seems so simple… It isn’t.
Over the years I have developed an uncanny ability to recognise buried emotions in other people. I can read faces like a book. I’m really very good at it apparently. But my own emotions? I’ve spent five decades burying them and they’re jolly hard to find. Now I need to spend a long time digging to find them.
I’ve been digging for a couple of years and I’m getting there – believe it or not. Six months ago I would have just found myself staring at the bottom of a recently devoured ice cream carton and wondering what had just happened. Instead of unexpected melancholy, and moodiness, I would be struck with the unexpected necessity to binge and purge. In fact if I’m entirely honest here, I will admit that I am still struck with the unexpected necessity to binge, only now I try and interrupt the desire. I can white knuckle for a short period of time, or do any of the many tools I have learned. But feeling the feelings… I want to do it. I don’t know how.
If I try to think about today’s melancholy mood, I can’t find any obvious trigger. I have been trying to come to terms with my changing life – getting older, my kids leaving home, my music and teaching career tossed away, the many family members that are gone – forever. These are all perfectly normal life changes that I have been expecting. The alternative to getting older is death, so for the most part, aging is the preferred option. My kids will leave home because I raised them to be capable, independent young men, and I am excited for them to break away and lead their own lives. I loved, loved, loved being a flautist and a teacher – but I was tired and I’d had enough. I left it voluntarily, at a time when I was ready, with no regrets. Family members die – that is a reality. Nobody gets through life, without experiencing death.
There is nothing unusual or tragic about the things I miss. But I still feel a little lost. I still feel consumed with regrets. I regret not appreciating my youth – I would have liked to be slimmer, and fitter and more beautiful when I had youth on my side. Parenting gifted me the happiest years of my life and I hate that those years are gone. I feel deeply, deeply sad knowing I will never play the flute again. So, so sad. I loved, loved, loved it. It was my biggest and greatest dream – to be a musician. I would give almost anything to have the opportunity to spend another day with all those family members I’ve lost – one last party to tell them how much I loved them.
So – on this very melancholy, moody day, I want to acknowledge how sad I feel. I want to acknowledge that I feel grief for times, places and people I genuinely loved and deeply miss. I cannot bring those days back, but I am incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to experience so much gratification, excitement and love. I am truly blessed.
And now – now I need to remind myself that recovery is about focusing on the future – on what is to come and what I am dreaming of, not continuously looking back and regretting that which is now gone.
To finish for tonight, I will share a little gratitude (an exercise I am hearing on a regular basis is an excellent means of developing a more positive outlook), and then I will dream a little dream for the future.
I am grateful for my excellent health, my adoring husband and my amazing children.
I dream of a future filled with hope, purpose and love. I dream of a future where I contribute meaningfully in the workforce and financially in our home. I dream of a future where I appreciate the amazing friends and family I am blessed with. And I dream of a future filled with the excitement of travel planning, the contentment of domestic bliss, and the appreciation of good friends.
With a thousand words, I have moderated my melancholy mood 🙂