I read an article the other day called, “The surprising health benefits of sadness.” My first inclination was to go, “Oh, yeah?” However, after reading the article I admitted that they’d gotten some things right.
The premise of the article was that it was much better to power through grief and sadness than to take antidepressants.
When I faced tragedy, I didn’t take antidepressants, I used alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. It didn’t work. If anything, it made my life worse. When I gave up alcohol I was forced to look at my life sober and that was NOT fun. Dealing with my losses was painful and I did it step by torturous step. I think that if I hadn’t had the crutch of alcohol that the process would have been as painful, but not as long. I think the same thing probably applies to antidepressants, because they only work as long as you take them.
I honestly believe that sometimes the only thing you can do when you’re faced with insurmountable sadness and grief is just hold on and last out the storm. I know that things change. They may get better. They may get worse. But they’ll always change.
I held on. I also changed my routines. I forced myself to find one good thing a day to put in my notebook. I exercised every day even when I hated it. I forced myself to talk to people, not about my grief, but about flowers, plants, the grass, the weather, the Spurs, anything. Conversation was a tool for me. Then I wrote. I wrote about how I felt. I imagined a different outcome. I read books with happy endings (thank you, romance). I wrote again. And one day, when I wasn’t watching, the world got less dark and my life got less horrible.
I often tell people that I’m grateful I had so many terrible experiences at a relatively young age. They look at me as if I’ve lost my mind. I never correctly articulated that each experience made me a stronger person and I needed that strength later when faced with other losses.
But this, from the article, pretty much explains it:
“So while swallowing a pill may forestall psychological suffering, it also may rob you of your brain’s ability to reconfigure pain into wisdom and grit—both of which will serve you well for the rest of your life. When several psychologists asked nearly 2,400 people about their history of adverse experiences—everything from whether they’d been through a divorce or natural disaster to if they’d ever lost a loved one—they found that those who had faced some misfortune were actually more well adjusted than those who’d had no bumps in the road at all. “Having to deal with challenges may toughen us up,” says Mark Seery, PhD, lead author and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Buffalo, “and leave us better equipped to deal with subsequent challenges.”
I’ve met many people on a similar journey as mine. Not matching loss for loss, but people who’ve experienced trauma and have come out on the other side. It’s almost like seeing someone outside of an AA meeting and just nodding in recognition. As if the two of us share a secret.
Finding travelers on the same path, acknowledging our similarities and realizing that more unites us than separates us can be a great discovery, especially if you’re currently walking that road.