Even therapists get the blues

I feel depleted. Perhaps it is the time of year, the sticky hangover of Halloween chocolate combined with autumn’s shorter days, or the way the school year feels serious now, entrenched at almost two months in. The end of year holidays await, little twinkles of light on the horizon, but as I write it is just another Thursday, an interstitial moment, neither the beginning nor end of anything.

what’s going on?

Friday is All Soul’s Day, the solemn counterpoint to the costumes and pretend gore of Halloween. Thought religion holds no pull for me, I like this idea of commemorating the dead, of making soul cakes or creating altars in the manner of Dia de Muertos. It could be that this is what is weighing on me, the heaviness of missing and the missing of comforting ritual to honor and remember those who have passed.

There are also the times in which we live, the tragic mess of last week—(thankfully) foiled bombings, the shooting in Kentucky, and the massacre in Pittsburgh, all (and more) against the backdrop of rising global fascism, starvation in Yemen, and the demonization of a group of migrants by a man who uses the stoked-up fear-based admiration of others to fill his emptiness. Generally, I cope with news overwhelm through a bit of healthy avoidance. This, comes, however, with attendant feelings of unease and the uncomfortable acknowledgment that my ability to avert my eyes with little consequence is a form of privilege.

looking for clues

These moments of malaise and times of high anxiety are part of being human. People often put a premium on denying these feelings. We ignore the tendrils of worry and dread that insinuate themselves into our psyche. Those tendrils grow in the dark. They obscure our ability to think and feel freely. But if we pay attention to the clues provided by our bodies and minds, we may remove some of their power.

For me, the first signs are in my sleeping and a suddenly casual approach to food. I wake at odd hours. I unthinkingly skip meals or am drawn to unhealthy snacks (like the bags of Pirate Booty I was eating for lunch a couple of Tuesdays in a row). My thinking process becomes sluggish. If I don’t pay attention to these signs, if I do not name the malaise, it starts to become more solid and feels less transitory.

but then what?

I’ve gotten better at noticing the preliminary signs. Figuring out what to do, if anything, about the feelings remains a process. Some things are simple (eat healthy, regular meals). Other things are difficult to do in the midst of a busy life (take a restorative break by, say, reading a book for fun). I always come back to writing out my feelings. For me, this makes those feelings more manageable. And today I’m adding the step of posting them in a public environment, as a professional, both as a way of feeling connected and hoping that I may help someone else feel less alone.

What works for me may not work for you. But the first step for all of us is to notice our internal weather patterns, to recognize what we are carrying in our bodies, and how it manifests itself in our moods. Recognition does not mean that the mood will lift, but it might help us realize that this, too, shall pass.