I ran across an interesting piece this morning about why you shouldn't feel sad about being sad. At first I thought it would just be about how sadness is natural, and sometimes you just feel down, but it turns out that the author, Mac McClelland, has a different message.
For nearly five years, McClelland has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, then comorbid major depressive disorder, and then as alcoholic and suicidal. More than $20,000 worth of treatment later, she is no longer defined by those disorders, but, as an evaluating psychiatrist put it in a report last year, she still has “chronic,” “recurring,” “residual psychiatric symptoms.” She explains that she feels emotions much more dramatically than many people, to the point where a pop song can make her break down in tears and missing out on an online sale could throw her into a fit of rage. Because of this, she has spent the last 3 years trying to get to the root of her emotions, to understand them. She believes that one of the most powerful emotions, sadness, has been seriously misunderstood.
"Pre-therapy, this is the only thing I was ever taught, implicitly and explicitly, about sadness: It is bad. Sadness can be legitimately problematic, absolutely. If your sadness comes from seemingly no place or even an obvious place but keeps you from participating in life or enjoying anything and refuses to abate no matter how long you go on letting it express itself, you of course can’t keep living like that. But culturally, we aren’t allowed to be sad even for a little while. Even when it’s perfectly sensible. Even when, sometimes, we need it."
Life is hard. We have bills, annoying coworkers, family members we miss, a sick pet, a low grade, a bad breakup, things that are simply out of our control. Things don't go as planned and things will break your heart. Are you not allowed to be sad about it?
How many times have you felt totally sad in your life, and someone tells you to turn that frown upside-down, to cheer up, to get over it. Why? Why can't we have a moment to fully accept our situation and our sadness. “I’m not bummed out about feeling bummed out,” she said.
Reflecting on sadness, she leaves us with a great message.
It hurt. It was difficult to work. To cook, to eat, to play. To take care of others. Exquisite it may have been, but painful, and not invigorating, and quite tiring. Still I trusted that I needed it at that time, that it was expressing something necessary. I didn’t hate or judge it. I did not feel silly or weak. They say it takes a big man to cry, and I think — unfortunately, given our collective feelings about sadness — that’s true. But it takes a bigger woman still, to feel the strength of a sob, without apology or shame. With pride. I’m the biggest I’ve ever been, the way I let my emotions run, sadness included: the way it cleanses me, tears washing my face, resolving me to continue to feel with abandon.