The world as we know it, the human experience, is defined by polarities. Black and white, righteous and evil, beautiful and hideous, clean and dirty, nice and mean.
When I used to get sad or have a bad day, I couldn’t remember what happiness felt like. The pain of whatever experience, justified or silly, would consume me. Have you ever felt that? Just the strange and hollow feeling in your chest? The sinking of your heart. Sometimes I had very legitimate reasons and other times I would be sad for things that I thought were illogical or nonsense. Maybe I’m depressed, I’d think. Maybe I’m broken.
The thing is, when I used to get sad for whichever reason, I would beat myself up over it. “Why am I so stupid?” I’d repeat in my head. “You shouldn’t be sad/angry/confused/lonely/depressed,” I told myself. I would turn whichever emotion I was feeling into guilt. Feeling blue turned into self-loathing and the next thing I knew I was punishing myself in my head for feeling how I felt. Sometimes it would simply be “wipe those dumb tears away, hold it together,” that I’d whisper into my own ear, walking down the halls to class. Other times it would scale into full blown abuse against myself, “you’re worthless, that’s why you feel this way.”
Maybe you’ve never felt this way. If so, you’re lucky. I’ve only ever talked to a few people about this type of behavior and received an overwhelming “me too.” Why, though? Why do we do these awful things to ourselves? Why does it come so naturally?
I believe that from an early age, we are taught by our families and peers that feeling negative things is simply… wrong. “Cheer up,” my friends told me after my first boyfriend dumped me. Of course they were only trying to help, but it’s just a small example of how we try and tell ourselves that feeling negative things is inherently bad. Our parents get upset about how dramatic our feelings are in our teenage years. Maybe if we were told it was okay to feel those things, maybe if we weren’t scared to just feel the way we felt, maybe we would all spend a little more time over on the happy side of the emotional wheel, because we wouldn’t compound our feelings with fear and guilt and grief.
In the past year, with the help of a few key people, I’ve began letting myself feel the darker side of the range of emotions and have come to one conclusion, bad days are completely okay. Being sad is also completely okay. In fact, it’s healthy. Allowing myself to just cry and get it out and loving myself and saying “it’s okay, Rach, just feel. Just feel and don’t beat yourself up over it,” has made a huge difference to me.
I can finally just be upset and not hurt myself over it. Today I had a rough day. I was sad and angry and confused and alone and I let myself just feel all of it. My boyfriend let me feel all of it too. He hugged me, drew a bath, told me he loved me and just let me be with the whole experience. I needed that.
Next time you’re sad or angry or whatever you are, try just loving yourself. Just tell yourself it’s okay to feel that way. Go ahead, have a bad day. You’ll be okay. Sigh deeply, tomorrow is a whole new chance at the other end of the spectrum.