I don’t know what I have been searching for on the internet lately, but now my Facebook ads are about pee proof underwear and vaginal dryness solutions. I remember reading in a book about big data how parents found out their teenage daughter was pregnant because their Target flyers started showing baby items. It is not a big step from menopause to mortality, and this has been underlined by the death of a college friend after a brave fight against cancer.
Moments of recognition about the finite quality of life can be sobering. It has caused me to reflect on my life in a way that does not feel productive. How am I doing? This question often has me notice where I feel I am lacking. Where my parenting is not up to scratch. Where my kindness and patience don’t hit the mark. Where I work too hard. Where I have not achieved what I would have liked too.
With the loss, I have been reminded of a time of extreme insecurity for me where I believed I did not measure up. I was not able to accept love and affection. I was depressed. I felt lost. I felt worthless. I felt unlovable. I believed I was damaged and that something wrong with me. My head was not working. Everything felt terrible and life felt insurmountable. I felt like a pariah. Everyone else was okay, having fun, and enjoying life. I was on the outside, looking in, feeling alone.
My current critical gaze reminds me of this time. It is not only unhelpful, but it is also not what I expected to experience when recognizing that life is not unlimited. I thought I would be filled with gratitude and have more perspective rather than less. But this is the nature of a low mood. It is not rational. And it reminds me of how I felt in college in my late teens and early twenties. There wasn’t really anything for me to be miserable about or to feel suicidal over, but I did. Back then I thought my experience and my incapacity to change it meant something about me. I saw it as defining me as weak, shallow, selfish, self-absorbed, self-centered, uncaring, damaged. My labels caused me to sink further into the darkness and despair over my brokenness.
I have a penchant for the dramatic and histrionic. I can easily jump to the worst case scenario. Even now, I am known in my household for being able to make the leap from my daughter having a headache to diagnosing her with meningitis. Of course, it didn’t help when I called the nurse’s hotline, told them her symptoms, and they told me I had to call 911 immediately. I asked them if I could just drive her to the ER, and they told me, “No, their algorithm indicated immediate crisis intervention.” This of course only reinforced my ability to jump to extremes. It turns out she had a bad flu virus, they were thankfully able to diagnose this before they did the spinal tap procedure.
So back to my low moods. I get them. I am not blaming the current events for my low mood. I know that feelings just are and adding on a story about them is not helpful. And even with an understanding of the Principles, knowing that my true nature is unchanging oneness, I still get them.
I do get them less. When I get them, they don’t last as long, and the experience as I go through them is different. I still feel grumpy and irritable. I still get sensitive. I still have all the crazy thoughts about how I don’t measure up, and how I am not good enough. And, I can still find plenty of evidence to make all of these thoughts look true.
The difference is that none of this stops me. I don’t lose momentum. Before, I would not be able to move forward under the weight of all that thinking. It would prevent me from getting on with my life and doing what needed to be done. Then I would get even more freaked out because I was falling behind. I didn’t see that I was stopped because I was taking all of my thinking and how I was feeling so seriously. I didn’t realize I was incapable of moving forward because of the meaning I was making of my experience and not because of the experience I was having.
I won’t go as far as saying that I enjoy my low moods now, but they are more background noise than something that I keep front and center in my awareness. My day-to-day life does not have to change to accommodate them, and I definitely find myself dropping out of my low mood, forgetting about it and finding myself in a good mood despite myself.
I am in a beautiful environment. Life is good. There is nothing wrong and nothing to complain about. My suffering is existential, not literal. My understanding lets me recognize that my feelings of aloneness, my negativity, and my perceived separation from my true nature are the temporary experience of thought.
When my thinking is this stirred up, I do not feel the deeper feelings within me the way I usually do. Looking at beautiful scenery does not stir my heart. A loving embrace from Angus leaves me feeling cold. I act sharply in the face of my daughter’s mood rather than letting it roll over me. I have the capacity to feel the effect of my thinking. It is not my fault and it is not in my control, and I also have the awareness to understand what is happening to me so I trust my thinking less and don’t make my experience mean anything about me.
The reason I am writing this now is that I hope my experience will help to destigmatize and demystify low moods. They are an experience of being caught up in thought so that it is hard to feel the comfort of your true nature. There is nothing to be done in terms of getting rid of the thoughts. Reframing them, challenging them, or interrupting them only keeps the mental machinery activated and maintains the stirred up thinking.
What is helpful is to understand that this is what is happening, to recognize that the suffering is the result of thought and not something else, to know that this state is temporary and to understand that the experience of who you are will eventually come through again. This helps me to ride out the experience and take it less seriously so it does not bring my whole life to a halt. It is the background noise that may be disappointing to experience while on vacation, but it is not so compelling that I can’t enjoy myself despite it.
Here’s hoping that you can ride out your low moods with kindness and understanding.