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May 2, 2016

You Are Not Your Sadness

You are not your sadness. Everything is going to be okay! Read about my battle with depression now on the blog. | Beauty Bets{artwork: Matthew Taylor Wilson}

I was a depressed person for most of my life. Like a functioning alcoholic, I hid it well. Mostly. Growing up, my parents knew something was wrong but I resisted their help, brushing it off as something that would pass once I made the tennis team, found the right friends, got a date to the dance, went to college. Only when I had done all of that, I still felt empty and alone. My closest friends saw it too, but back then there wasn’t a name for it—certainly not for an ambitious, bubbly co-ed who sometimes cried herself to sleep but was otherwise “normal”.

With the realities of adulthood, life became even more unbearable and the depression palpable. There were bills to pay and bosses to impress, dreams to chase and failures to swallow. I’ve written about my battle with this inner monster here and here. It wasn’t until five years ago that I really faced her. And, after the drugs and therapy and compassion for myself (the toughest challenge of them all), I said good-bye to my inner demons and swore then and there I would never again allow them to take me down. Sometimes anxiety would creep back in, but by now I recognized the signs—a racing mind, lack of interest in things that would normally bring me joy—and would quickly shut them down with exercise and meditation. I had friends who understood my struggle and could quickly drag me back onto dry land before I drowned in self-doubt.

Despite my awareness and healthy coping mechanisms, cracks appeared in the the past month that I couldn’t seem to patch. I’ve felt complacent and confused about what makes me happy. I’m overwhelmed by work, moving into a new home, and grappling with the changing digital landscape that is the bane and blessing of being a blogger. I know I’ve changed, too. I fell in love and found new priorities that displaced the old, leaving me feeling somehow both grounded and uprooted. At first, I brushed off the creeping suspicion that I was headed down that old path. But when it’s worn and familiar, there’s a twisted comfort in rediscovering it. Until the morning comes when you don’t want to get out of bed. When you’re paralyzed by a malaise that doesn’t lift when the sun comes out or you land a dream assignment.

At this point I know I have a choice. I can beat myself up more for having reached it, or be kind and gentle with the girl who is just trying to do her best. Who only wants to be loved and accepted and do right by her family and friends. Who is OK even if she is tired and stressed and a little bit lost right now. The choice seems obvious and yet my default is to fix myself, to solve the problems in my head. This is the self-destructive cycle of depression—believing that you’re bad or a failure because you’re depressed. It’s a losing game. And just as I was about to play it agin for the umpteenth time, my boyfriend/spirit animal offered a simple yet profound solution: Allow yourself to be sad. Don’t fight it. Don’t judge it. Don’t try to fix it. Get under the covers and cry if you must. Only then will you able to see these feelings not from a place of judgment but detached awareness. Eventually, they’ll pass. Or maybe they won’t. But you’ll know what you need to do to feel better.

Friends, it worked. I felt sad. Really sad. And then I didn’t. Because I realized I was more sad about feeling sad then about something that was actually wrong. Everyone gets sad. Life is hard and we are complex creatures. But I’m here, from the battleground, to say I love you and there is nothing wrong with you. 

  • Elizabeth Dehn
    Born and raised in Minnesota by surprisingly low-maintenance parents, beauty writer and lifestyle editor Elizabeth Dehn (aka Bets) spent her awkward years buying Mood lipstick and whipping up DIY face masks before founding Beauty Bets in 2009.
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