It wasn't a big dive into depression but I was certainly going through some sort of emotional upheaval. I tried a few things to cheer myself up but nothing worked. I just couldn't get myself out of this funk I was in. To make matters worse, I was coming across a lot of articles, emails, teachings and workshops that emphasised practicing gratitude.
Now, in my head I knew that I have A LOT to be grateful for. Yet, for some reason, I just couldn't get my heart to play the game. It was like my head was Pollyanna looking down at my heart saying "Come on! Let's play the glad game". You can see the picture to know what my heart's reply was.
I don't like to get too mystical, airy fairy in my blogs but I'll admit that I'm someone who believes that we cross paths with people, situations and notice particular things for a reason. I felt sure that all these messages popping into my life regarding practicing gratitude were telling me to just get over it and be grateful. So I tried harder. I sat with my pen and paper ready to write down all the things I was grateful for and be in awe.......I just sat there with my pen and looked at a blank piece of paper. Inside of me someone was saying "I just don't want to be grateful right now!". Enter feelings of guilt and thoughts telling me how selfish I am. I was exasperated that after all the blessings and wonders I've received in my life, I couldn't just push through whatever this emotional turmoil was and simply find gratitude.
A while ago a friend of mine was feeling down and I suggested to them that they write a gratitude list. If you had asked me at the time why I suggested that, I probably would have said that I really wanted to help my friend. Looking back honestly at that situation now, I can see that I was actually really uncomfortable with my friend's distress. I felt sad that they were sad. I suggested a gratitude list in the hopes that it would slap them into feeling happy again and relieve me of my own discomfort. That doesn't make me bad. Just unaware. I wasn't aware of my self serving motivations and now I am. Hooray for personal growth.
In any case, the tables were soon turned on me when I found myself being asked “why don't you try finding things to be grateful for?” when I was feeling down. It was a pretty eye opening, shoe on the other foot situation and I got the message loud and clear. What I wanted most when I was feeling down was to be acknowledged and heard. I didn't need a pity party and I don't like to give those either. I don't have to commiserate someone's victim story but I can acknowledge their pain. I can tell them I see it, I feel it and I'm here.
I know gratitude is immensely powerful. You only need to read my blog 'My Traumatic Miracle' to know how transformative it is. In this latest situation though, I wasn't able to delude myself into feeling gratitude. I know some people can fake it to make it and I think that's great. In my opinion, it doesn't matter if you decide to fake it as long as you make it. In my case though, it wasn't going to work. I couldn't even bring myself to attempt to fake it, that's how strong my resistance was. A little girl inside of me was in full on tantrum about getting in that gratitude car seat.
So I stopped trying to push through the block I was experiencing and decided to look at it head on. What was I feeling so angry about? I felt myself kind of relax as if to say "well thank you for asking!". So what was it? I'd recently come to a realisation that life was probably not going to pan out the way I'd thought in regards to my career/job. I'd started a community initiative which had quickly become a joy and passion for me. My mind had taken hold of what I'd started and run away with big dreams and visions of how it might grow in the future. Don't get me wrong, I think having a vision is powerful. It propels you forward, brings excitement and sparks imagination and creativity. However, I had started to become fixated on my vision. I had started adding in lots of detail and planning outcomes. My vision had become an expectation to achieve outcomes. Outcomes that I'd attached my self worth to.
Self expectations are heavy, draining and divert your focus to achieving instead of enjoying. That's what was blocking my gratitude. I was in mourning for a dream turned expectation that was now crumbling around me. Strangely, as I started to consider letting go of all those expectations and outcomes I felt much lighter. It really surprised me because I thought letting go of all I working towards would have made me feel worse but it didn't. It set me free to feel ok with how things are right now. More than ok, grateful even.
Sometimes I see gratitude being promoted as a sort of rescue remedy. I've heard that you cannot feel depressed and genuinely grateful at the same time. I would say from my experience that this is true. However, I would add a 'use with caution' label to that gratitude remedy. Well maybe caution is the wrong word, perhaps 'use with mindfulness' would be a better label. Positive thinking, affirmations, gratitude challenges are all great. I would recommend not being hard on yourself, however, if you find yourself resistant to thinking positive or practice gratitude. I found my resistance was telling me that something. wasn't being acknowledged or honoured.
I will finish by honouring that annoying, irritating and infuriating person who asked me "why don't you try finding things to be grateful for?". They helped me to look closely at what was blocking my path to gratitude and that set me free. For that, I am genuinely grateful.
Bron (happily in her gratitude car seat)