Sad, not depressed

After a series of colliding events, both professional and personal and having worn out those around me with my frustrations, and used up several boxes of tissues, I consulted a psychologist for support and advice.  That resulted in  a clinical diagnosis of reactive depression. My scores, the interview, my presentation, the length of time the events had been occurring, all supported the diagnosis.  The only problem was that while it was true, the real pathology was I was sad. Why isn’t sadness valued and honoured for what it is?

Sadness is a totally appropriate response when you are excluded, betrayed, silenced, not respected, told bad news.  The assault on the emotional self and then the corresponding physiological impacts are deep and painful. As well as the psychologist, there has been the physiotherapist, the acupuncturist, the masseuse and now a chiropractor, yoga teacher, meditation, theatre group, the journal, the music …. all engaged and locked in for my mental and physical health … the gym … I have been paying attention to myself and caring for myself well under some trying conditions and getting tired … And sad … Trying to avoid what happens to so many others who get sick and tired …

To be told I am depressed, while it might be correct clinically, is not correct for my human condition.  I am sad.  And why wouldn’t I be?  It is right and  proper to be  sad. My husband has, what the doctors call, a “life limiting” illness and I’m sad it is a one way street. I am sad that the people I was working for didn’t send a card or bunch of flowers to say goodbye. I am sad I am having to get my work act together – again. All reasons worthy of sadness. Why diagnose all sorts of illnesses, instead of wallowing in the emotions?

Hildegard you taught us about groaning loudly and sobbing in these times – not an existentialist angst but a fully human and appropriate response. In my quest to bring more of myself to more of the situations I find myself in, may mean people around me might see more tears for a while than they have been used too. This obsession with pathologising sadness is a dis-ease that doesn’t sit well with me and I am not going to collude. Instead, I will buy another packet of tissues and get on with being sad.

I usually move through sadness by getting angry and then getting creative. I have already started organising the first poetry in the pub and a I concert so can’t be too depressed.  I have  just enjoyed three amazing playtime days with interplay, I saw 50 years of satire embodied in Barry Humphries Farewell Tour this week and will be dancing to Elvis Costello on Sunday.  How lucky  am I to have access to all that creativity, laughter and music. This is my kind of medicine.

Being sad is healthy; and from the muck and mulch and compost the seeds are sown and the green shoots appear.


13 thoughts on “Sad, not depressed

  1. Ilze

    There is a beautiful word for this. Melancholia. I heard a brilliant lecture once on the fact that sometimes it is in fact good to be sad / melancholic as then we embrace happiness with renewed vigor. Stay
    with sad for the moment. Put depressed back into the box with those soggy tissues. A new adventure in life awaits, you just have to wait that little bit longer. Bon chance!

  2. Pauline Small

    So pleased to hear you are a normal human Moira, and not afraid to actually be so. Being true to your experience helps other people to be able to, as well. As one weepy to another, thanks!XXX

    1. moiradeslandes Post author

      Thanks Pauline and Ilze for your kind thoughts. Also welcome to new followers. The most helpful advice I have had on the conversational nature of reality is from David Whyte in this short TEDx talk.

  3. Christine Belford

    Dear Moira, you write so beautifully and what an interesting and creative way to approach/cope with all that confronts you at the moment, ie as a letter to Hildegard. Thinking of you, Christine x

  4. redheadsteph

    My dear Moira. Where to start? I think you are a wonder and an inspiration. When I grow up I’d like to be as noble, true and authentic as you. Being sad, or even depressed is not a shameful thing, but a part of being fully human. I was crying recently and my wise 14 year old son said to me “Mom if you block out the sadness, you will also block out the joy.” I was amazed at his brilliance and insight at exactly the right moment. (He later advised he had googled it on his ipad while I was crying and talking!). Just be where you are Moira. Where you are is where you are. Its good to fully be there. There will be something else around the corner, and you will feel differently then. The world can be full of tragedies, and small, cruel self-interested people – and people full of wonder and insight and deep generosity too. You’ve just had a few too many of some and not enough of others. Its OK to be sad about that.

    1. moiradeslandes Post author

      Thank heavens for Dr Google! I happen to like this one minute clip from Brene Brown. Steph, and others in blogosphere might find it useful too Thanks for the hugs, I am doing really well – music and laughter by favourite anti-depressants!

  5. mishwrites

    Hugs to you Moira, and yes, agree completely that there is a difference between sadness and depression. I like your ‘prescription’ and I look forward to sharing both music and laughter with you at Womad xxx

  6. Alizar Anwar

    I like the last sentence in your writing Moira, we have a saying that life is like a circle, one time you are at the bottom, the other time you are at the top ( just like the picture you put at the bottom). A wise man will always smile when he is the bottom, because not too long then he will arrive at the top..again.


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