Whispers of Melancholy at the Window

Two weeks ago I broke my big toe and badly bruised my other foot. I wasn’t doing anything remarkable. I simply missed the bottom step while carrying down some ‘donations’ from our clean up. The pain was incredible and I earned myself a trip to hospital and three days of lying on the couch with my feet up.

A few weeks earlier, I had tripped while crossing the road and skinned my knee. A warning sign that I was overdoing it. This time the message was more insistent.

The ‘thought’ of time to catch up on some reading and some shows on Netflix was appealing. I did something I rarely do – I cancelled my University classes and gave my body permission to rest.

It was hard, really hard.

Usually I have a two episode Netflix tolerance, before I start to get ‘itchy feet’ to get moving. Moving was a painful shuffle, so that was out of the question. There was certainly plenty of time for overthinking, or should I say beating myself up. A VERY well worn pattern. My coach from years ago called it my sport!

How could I be so clumsy? I had so much to do! My students had a major assignment due and I had organised a information sessions for next year plus a staff get together. How was I going to take action on my goal to walk more? Or finish the great Spring declutter? And why wasn’t I using this time more creatively? Writing a blog? Meditating? Launching some great masterpiece!

Instead I found myself drifting into a very familiar, seductive space – melancholy.  Images of J.K Rowling’s Dementors at the window, their whispery fingers luring me into the darkness. It doesn’t surprise me that Dementors are JK Rowling’s metaphor for depression. Luckily, I recognised their presence and caught myself before I was devoured. Some chocolate was also consumed as a precaution!

I know I am not alone.

Many of my students and clients struggle with anxiety, depression and perfectionism. Despite their incredible talent, they struggle to finish an assignment, or even make it to class.  They are consumed by self doubt, overwhelmed by possibilities and their desire to leave their mark in the world. Unsurprisingly many become lost in a life that isn’t their own.  Netflix binges, social media, gaming,  The path back to reality is never an easy one.

My own experiences are a reminder that creative, sensitive individuals need support.  Their high intelligence and wit is often a mask to the internal battle raging within.

Recognise the signs

Withdrawing: Are you withdrawing from your family and friends?  Are you struggling to begin activities that normally bring you joy? Does it feel like your dreams are slipping away and you don’t even care?

Self-depreciating self talk: Are you beating yourself up more than normal? Overthinking is a natural hazard of highly intelligent individuals, but if it shifts into anxiety or you are ‘down’ for more than a couple of days, reach out for support. In my coach training I was told that it takes seven days to alter your brain chemistry.  While I am not sure of the evidence here, this guiding principle has served me well.

Seeking alternative realities: Are you binging on TV series, gaming, social media or even sleeping more than normal? When this begins to interfere with your own goals and hobbies, bring yourself back into your body and notice the affect these activities are having on your moods. It is a slippery slope from relaxation to escape.

Small steps back

Move the energy: Our physiology informs our psychology. Inactivity also shuts us down emotionally.  Break up periods of inactivity with small action steps. Clean a cupboard, walk around the block, go outside and stretch.  Stand up straight, look at the sky with your feet on the earth.  Take a deep breath and let out a sign. These are just a few powerful ways to shift your mood.

Say yes even when you want to say no:  A early sign that I was slipping into melancholy was my reluctance to attend a group mentoring call that I usually look forward to. Saying yes gave me the energy and support I needed to take the next step.  Even if you don’t feel like being social, say yes and see what happens.This is especially important for hobbies that bring your joy and get you moving!

Ask for help:  It is a beautiful human quality to need one another. The key is to notice you need support as soon as possible. Keep a list of your support team and trust yourself to know who to reach out to and when. It isn’t a weakness to ask for help, your vulnerability is your strength! Beneath the surface of your angst are the jewels, once you find them you are one step closer to becoming who you were born to be.

Closing thoughts

Almost two weeks since my injury and I am still stumbling around in a ‘moon shoe’. Life is a balancing act – rest, and movement, giving to others and giving to myself. The temptation is still there… Do I  open the window and my heart to those whispery black shadows?

Awareness is the key, plus some kindness. After all,  I have so much to give, so many dreams waiting to be lived… and so do you.

If these words are calling to you, know that I am always here to listen.