Day 7: Positivity Isn’t Without Negativity

How did it go?

I woke up with a heavy sense of dread and complete sadness. As is most often the case with depressive symptoms, I can’t tell you why I woke up feeling this—I just did. I somehow managed to get out of bed and get ready for work—shower, brush my teeth, get dressed—which all seemed to happen in a mixture of slow motion and speed, with a pause every so often for a dry sob. It was the least amount of effort I’ve put into my appearance probably since having to administer early morning finals when I was teaching.

As the morning progressed, even before I got Belle and I in the car to leave, I just felt everything welling up into anger. Anger that I had to get up, anger that the Keurig didn’t seem to like the coffee pod I had placed in it (thereby only giving me a half a cup of coffee), anger that I had a commute, anger that I’m so tired…and anger that I feel so worthless and undervalued. I just felt inexplicably angry.

I know, I know. Where’s the positivity?! you ask.

On my commute, I listed to TED Radio Hour’s episode “The Case for Optimism.” For some reason, Tali Sharot’s piece in the episode struck a chord with me. She made the case that we are natural optimists, but that too much (or even too little) optimism can have its own negative side effects. Take a listen, and maybe you’ll see why it stuck with me.

As the day wore on, those feelings of frustration and anger never seemed to really go away. They dimmed, perhaps, enough for me to harness some energy for work, but I could feel them all day. I managed to do my job. I got excited about an article I’m writing (more on that once it’s complete). But, deep down, those feelings didn’t go away as I had hoped.

It released when I got home. Yelling at my mom, a flood of tears, screaming into my pillow…and Belle laid near me the entire time, reminding me she was there when I was ready. The one living creature who (I feel) doesn’t judge me for my emotions or decisions.

So, today was not full of positivity. I couldn’t find a way to reframe what I was feeling. But it wasn’t without a lesson.

What did I learn?

In weak moments, pray. As I bawled and screamed into my pillow, I just cried out in prayer. Because nothing else seems to help. And maybe that’s sign enough.

But I think Sharot had a point about positivity. Up until a few months ago, my general optimism served me well. Then real life hit, and suddenly choices had to be made that optimism…well, frankly, optimism wouldn’t be enough. And, in hindsight, I think I was a little too optimistic. I let it cloud my judgement. Just as I am trying to force myself to be positive now, no matter what emotions I face, I think I forced myself to be positive because I didn’t know any other choice. AS Sharot said, though, realism is valuable—that tiny lack of optimism can be realism.

Maybe I shouldn’t push down negative feelings to replace them with positivity. Maybe I need to embrace that negativity, that little bit of realism, in order to become positive.

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