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Publish365 005: Tidal Waves Are Meant To Be Felt, Not Fought

I sat there this morning, my eyes blankly staring out the window at the gray sky and wondering why in the hell I had to "do this" again. What was "this?"

Get up. Go to work.

Yep, that's what I struggled with this morning. Basic adulting. I wish I could say it got better but it hasn't. I got to work and had a discussion about this issue that's been keeping me up at night and making me physically ill. Compounded with the impending divorce, the purge of my house, and the sale of it, and I'm just a messy sea of painful emotions that are coalescing in a soup of self pity and misery. Tomorrow I have an appointment with my therapist, who is literally one of the best humans I know, and I'm so glad I do because I really feel like I need it. Who knew three weeks ago when I scheduled it, I would need it this bad?

I am handling these downswings differently from how I used to handle them and that was the best thing that happened to me from my first orbit around the therapy sun. In the past when I had days like today when I stopped caring or hated life or felt like I was in the darkest corner of the darkest room, I would fight those feelings like I could win. I would stick my chin out and say "Not today! NOT TODAY!" I'd fight, struggle, exhaust myself, and run myself into the ground. In the end the feelings were still there, I was just exhausted from fighting them, and in turn the feelings, somehow knowing I was in a compromised state, lingered a little longer to make me just a hair more miserable than I was before. It didn't work, but I didn't know any other way.

Somewhere in my therapy journey it clicked that the best way to handle these waves of negative emotions wasn't to fight them. I think it was a combination of my therapist saying that it's not a sign of strength to fight negative emotions so you never feel them, and my own lightbulb moment that redirecting that energy would be way more productive. Instead of focusing on fighting, I needed to focus on coping. On handling the emotions and their side effects. On being strong by letting the hits land because they always, eventually, stop.

The martial art of Aikido is pretty amazing when compared to the other martial arts. One of the core principles of Aikido is the idea that your opponent's energy and momentum should be redirected to minimize the amount of energy you expel. As your attacker nears you, you don't stand square to them, but you slide sideways and use their own momentum to redirect them to the ground. When they reach an arm out or leg out to strike, you don't strike, you grab their limb and take them down. It's an elegant dance of energy redirection that is incredible to watch. Often if the opponent isn't trained in Aikido their frustration over not being able to "land a blow" will result in increased frustration, more energy being expended, and a decrease in the amount of planning and thought into the individual attacks. You win against your opponent by channeling their own energy into their crash to the ground and your overall victory.

I am fighting depression the same way and trust me, it works a lot better than being the frothing attacker trying to land a blow on it.

The problem with that is that I have days like today. Where my job seems painfully difficult and stressful. Where my life seems out of control and unmanageable. When the dark is so much more obvious than the light, but even in days like today I still know I'll be okay, and I need to channel that energy, instead of into fighting, into doing something productive and coping with the exhaustion the feelings bring with them.

The best thing my therapist got me to finally understand is that strength isn't standing up to the feelings, it's feeling the feelings and pushing through them as best as I'm able. That's the constant cycle people with depression have to deal with and it definitely isn't fun, but if I've learned anything it's that it's much easier to redirect than to stand in front of the tidal wave.

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