Last week, I had a particularly shitty day. Like, it was stupendously shitastic. Shitterific, even.
I was overwhelmed by a multitude of stressors. I felt hopeless, lost, weak, and exhausted. I wanted to crawl into a deep, dark cave where no one could find me (except to drop off chocolate and extra blankets). I pulled all the tricks out of my bag – mindfulness meditation, cognitive behavioural therapy tactics, a nap, listing every tiny little thing I am grateful for (and it’s a long list). But I still felt like a big, sad, angry pile of throbbing glass shards. And on top of that, I also felt horribly guilty for feeling like shit.
I felt guilty for feeling like shit! This was thanks to abundance shaming. When a friend of mine used the term last week, I laughed. But it’s stuck with me ever since and now I see it everywhere. Honestly, I’m scared to lament a bad day lest I am deemed ungrateful. I went years trying to hide anxiety and depression from my (ex) partner because sharing it was met with an exasperated eye roll and a list of all the things I should be happy about.
So, you’re saying I’m not feeling sad properly?
(well, dammit, I can’t do anything right)
If we feel glum about a shitty thing, we are told to ‘look on the bright side’ because ‘everything happens for a reason.’ I understand that these things are said from a place of love and optimism but do you know what it sounds like when someone is feeling crummy? It sounds like “your feelings aren’t valid” and “I can’t empathize with you because your feelings don’t make sense.”
So, I feel worse and the space between us is no longer safe for me and my feelings and I shove them down, down, down. There’s also a good chance I will avoid the people who practice abundance shaming so I can avoid a lecture about all I have to be grateful for… which is maybe ok because, instead, I will find someone who can hold my tender feelings in a safe space.
Soothe Me, Love Me
Listen, I know why I should look on the bright side. If you’ve ever said it, it’s because you are full of love for your schmoopies and pookies and want to make them feel good and safe and optimistic. So, to help you create that space for them, I’m going to tell you what most people need on a shitastic day.
Today, in this moment that I am feeling low, please don’t tell me that I’m doing it wrong. What I need is for someone to say:
“Aw, buddy, that sucks that you lost your job/your car died on the highway in a blizzard/you got stood up by some jerk. That really REALLY sucks.”
And then say:
“Tell me about it. Scream, yell, cry while I brush your hair, feed you chocolate, and make you some tea. Let’s watch that show that you love but I hate. And tomorrow, TOMORROW, I’ll help you pull your socks up, look on the bright side, and figure out how to overcome. But right now, you just pour that misery out while I listen, pooky. Get it all out. Or not. If you want to just lie on the couch, I’ll put a blanket on you and get a bendy straw for your drink so you can sip without sitting up.”
Can’t keep me down, baby
I am an optimistic person. If you know me, you know that. You can knock me down, kick me, and leave me in a ditch for the dysenteric raccoons and I will get up, dust myself off and keep on walking. Daily, I am overwhelmed by my luck of the draw in this life. My gratitude is plenty. I don’t regret any of the bad choices I’ve made for they’ve taught me incredible lessons. I don’t lament the wrong paths I’ve picked because now I know where I don’t want to go. I appreciate all of the ‘abundance’ in my life. But some days, I feel like shit and I need to really FEEL it. I won’t feel guilty about it anymore. Please don’t preach to me about abundance. Please don’t send me cheesy memes about gratitude. Indulge me in one day, maybe two, and let me froth at the mouth. And THEN I’ll take a glass of ice water to the face if I need it. But not before.
P.S. I will never tell you to look on the bright side either. Promise.