Mastering melancholy


Isn’t melancholy such a great word? It completely sucks, of course, to be melancholy, but saying you’re sad is just, well, sad. But saying you’re feeling melancholy somehow makes your sadness seem downright royal.

Clearly, when you’re feeling down, it’s hard to motivate to feel better. Or moreover, it’s hard to know how to feel better. What are the tools you have or steps you need to take to get yourself out of your funk?

The first thing you need to do is acknowledge the sadness and own it. It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to be upset. Give yourself permission to have frustration or grief for whatever might be going on. That could mean allowing yourself to cry, writing in your journal or screaming at the top of your lungs. Whatever you need to do to express yourself and own your pain, do it. No judgment. No belittling your feelings. Have at it, for as long as you need. Minutes, hours, days, whatever. It’s when we try to minimize our pain or feelings that they worsen or manifest into something else. Have no shame in your process

Once you’ve acknowledged your sadness, think about how you can feel better. Focus on the short term first, then the long term. Will a drink with a friend help? Or a walk with your dog? Maybe you need to go workout or bake a shit ton of cookies. Or maybe you want to talk to a therapist. Whatever you can do immediately to feel better, do it. Not to take your mind off your pain, but to enlist the help you need in eradicating it. There’s never any shame in asking for help. EVER. Be vulnerable. Be needy. Male or female, this isn’t weakness. This is humanness.

For the long term, the above steps might work as well, but on a more ongoing basis. Do you need to check in with a friend daily, or text them so you don’t text your former lover? Do you need to bake to keep yourself busy or workout to relieve stress and tension? Will a nightly walk help you focus and clear your head? How about writing in a journal so you process your feelings as they change?

Then it’s time to think about what made you melancholy in the first place and how you can prevent it from happening again. Go back to the beginning and think about what you could have done differently or better. Write down every red flag or instance you can recall and analyze it. Did your intuition tell you something you ignored or were you completely gob smacked?  Were there subtle indicators that you did acknowledge but never escalated? Be critical of yourself and your handling of the situation. Be honest. Don’t gloss over things that you know now were vital. You’re evolving. You’ll make mistakes. The key is to learn from them. And you can’t learn from them if you don’t admit you were somehow complicit.

There are two sides to every story. Think about it from the other person’s side (obviously this doesn’t work in all instances). What might they say about those instances? How might they have seen them differently? What can you learn from putting yourself in their shoes? As much as this sucks a bag of you-know-whats, do it anyway.

And remember the most important thing is to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for missing the cues. For allowing yourself to be hurt. You’re human. So beating yourself up on shoulda, woulda, coulda will not help you one bit. Not one bit.

Have you mastered being melancholy? I’d love to hear your story.