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  • Writer's picturekalidc

Sharing Space with Sadness




 

It's a normal part of life.

 

As a psychiatrist who takes care of mostly Black and Brown patients who are dealing with suicidal thoughts, an inability to afford healthcare, and constant attacks on their identity, I know firsthand that January optimism is a marketing ploy more than anything else.


But, sometimes even I fall for it too. I’m in this strange position as a Black, Queer psychiatrist. On one hand, I’m an Ivy League-educated physician, have the highest financial security in my immediate family, and run my own business. On the other hand, I’m neurodivergent, I’m Black and Queer, my brother is in jail. Though I was recently able to buy my own home with my partner because I live in a high cost of living area, I’m currently completely house-poor. So, all that to say, I’m constantly thinking about not only how I am oppressed, but also how I hold privilege.


This came to a head a couple weeks ago.


I was headed back from New York after filming for the TV show Couples Therapy. You would think that I would feel ecstatic, proud, and enlivened after doing a thing that moves me one step closer to my dream — having my own TV show someday.

Instead, I came home and cried for three nights straight.


Each night, I interrogated myself: what could be so terrible about your life right now that is making you cry — like boo-hoo weep cry? Quite a few things were happening that could certainly make me depressed, but this sadness was more intense, like it came from somewhere in the depths of my being. It felt like I was mourning something but I did not know what it was. I felt hopeless and worried that I would not find joy. Ever.


Per usual, the next morning I woke up, cursed the winter, and begrudgingly forced myself out of the house to walk the dog. Then a thing happened. At the dog park, I shared banter with a stranger and a few blocks of a walk before exchanging numbers.


When I reached home, I realized I was smiling. I felt joy.


It was little “j” joy— not capital “J” Joy. But, it came from me. In that moment, I remembered that the little joys add up, are real, and come together to mean something.  



Your Therapy Takeaway

I know there are those of you in our community who identify with my experience. Sometimes, things feel hopeless, and the sadness feels gut-wrenching and endless. Here are some tips to help you in those moments.


Consider how your feelings relate to your core narratives: Narratives are the stories tell ourselves that capture the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that characterize our life experiences. When we attribute negative experiences to “the way we are,” we typically are referencing a core narrative--consciously or unconsciously. If your feelings are reinforced by one of your negative core narratives, take a step back and explore other alternatives for why you might feel a certain way. If you are someone who suffers from depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition, negative core narratives take up outsized space in your brain. Questioning them is one way to feel less hopeless in the moment.


Accept that sadness is part of life just like joy and all the other emotions on the feelings wheel: I am aware that this sounds a little defeatist and depressing in itself. However, it is impossible to live a life ONLY full of happiness. After growing up as a kid who was forced to go to church weekly and swearing off religion, I’ve recently found myself exploring Buddhism. I needed help accepting that injustice will be present in the world, no matter how hard I fight against it personally. A central tenet of Buddhism is that both suffering and impermanence are unavoidable experiences in life. This is also when I insert the lines about how personal struggles build character, that you can learn from failure, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (thanks P!nk). As much as these phrases make me cringe, they ARE TRUE. Sure it still sucks to go through it, but you will get the other side if you promise yourself you won’t give up.


Ask for external help to get out of the hole: Phone a friend, call your therapist, or change your meds. This one is self-explanatory, but how many of us actually do it? We probably convince ourselves that the people we would call are having their own struggles, or that talking to a therapist doesn’t really fix anything, or that starting or increasing or changing a medication is “too much.” Ask yourself what you have to lose by LITERALLY TALKING ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS to someone? I get it; putting medication into your body implies a different kind of risk, but the point is to confront whether you could use some help to make it to the other side instead of just forcing yourself or “manning up.”


You got this,

Kali

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