Musings

An Unexpected Storm: A Personal Gloomy Story

It’s an early Monday morning as Rachael tries to pull me back to bed. I’m getting up to meet with my friend Jo, a marketing guru (my words), to discuss marketing for Owlsight. It’s a topic I confess to having little to no idea about.

I come back from the meeting bursting with energy, feeling invigorated and inspired. Finally! Some clear steps I can take to improve my marketing efforts.

Sitting at home with a few hours before my next teaching appointment I’m struck by a wave of depression.

I’ve always found depression to be a hard word to use for myself. I’ve never been diagnosed as depressed. Am I feeling as bummed out as all those people that see psychiatrists? Maybe I should just suck it up? My life is nowhere near bad enough to experience depression.

Whatever you want to call it, the energy I had earlier in the morning is gone. Now, all I want to do is crawl into my bed, and maybe even cry.

What’s going on? I haven’t received any upsetting news or experienced an unpleasant situation. Why does my heart feel so bad?

To help answer this question, I asked a few of my philosophical and spiritual texts. The Buddhists seem to think that depression is caused by a particularly stormy climate of negative feelings like anger and fear. I’m not sure if knowing the *cause* of depression makes me feel any better.

Since we’re constantly told how lucky we are as a society, and that we have the highest standard of living in the history of humanity, depression feels a bit like an unnatural state. Why do depression rates in the western world keep climbing? People in less developed countries don’t have the same issues, do they?

I’ve experienced this feeling before. I’d say it happens every few months. And do you know how long it lasts? A few hours at most. I move onto other things and the emotional weather changes.Perhaps that means you can’t call what I’m talking about “depression”.

Perhaps that means you can’t call what I’m talking about “depression”.

I’ve come to a conclusion about these “stormy weather” emotional events. If I want to feel the blissful and happy weather of a pleasant spring day, then I will inevitably experience a few storms.You can’t have a wet day without a dry one. You can’t have light without dark. For one to exist, the other must also.

You can’t have a wet day without a dry one. You can’t have light without dark. For one to exist, the other must also.

Unless I want to be a neutral monk experiencing no emotions (hint: I don’t, and I doubt they really do, anyway), I have to get used to the storms. It’s all part of it.

Storms are not “bad”, and clear skies aren’t “good”. They’re simply different emotional climates. In order to live a resilient and antifragile life, I can’t be too attached to any particular emotions.

Whatever my emotions are, they are fleeting. Occupying my every thought one moment, gone the next. When I learn to see the emotions as just passing clouds – there to be observed and enjoyed, not personally identified with – I find I can almost feel pleasure with sorrow, knowing it’s here for a brief time.

This kind of thinking takes practice, mindfulness and awareness. I wouldn’t expect you to adopt a more relaxed attitude to intense emotions overnight.

Getting up off the couch, I jumped in the shower. I stood under the water just staring at the wall for a long time. Relaxing and observing my current storm was tough work.

But I got out of the hot water. I put on some clothes, then went to teach teenagers how to escape a bear hug. I felt fantastic as soon as I stepped on the mat. The skies were clear.

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