That Big Scary Word That Starts With The Letter "D" + How to Own Your Darkness
Maybe it’s the Sunday Scaries, maybe it’s that time of the month, maybe it’s something deeper, something darker, like an innate dread or anxiety. Maybe it's that big scary word that starts with the letter "D" — I'm talking about "depression" (why are we all so scared of that word, anyways?). Maybe it’s a relentless case of the blues. Whatever you call it, it’s yours and it’s time to lean into it.
I call mine, my “dark cloud”.
At first, just to myself, because I didn’t dare talk to anyone else about the sneaking suspicion that I might be suffering from depression. (Sneaking suspicion derived from many sleepless nights spent staring at my iPhone beneath my bed sheets, Googling: “symptoms of depression” and comparing the similarities to my own mental/emotional ailments.)
At first, just to myself, because what would that say about me? Worse, what would my friends, my family, or strangers on the internet say about me?
At first, just to myself, because how can a 27-year-old with the world in the palm of her hands be suffering from “depression”? Because what business does someone with their (physical) health, a loving family, an amazing boyfriend, and the job of her dreams have with depression?
No business at all, I assumed. (Which, to be honest, was part of the problem.)
Eventually, I couldn’t outsmart my “dark cloud” any longer. I couldn’t run away from it. I couldn’t keep my composure. I couldn’t stop myself from falling apart, over: spilled (coconut) milk, a stubbed toe, the right words in the wrong order, the wrong song at the right time, rain when the forecast was sun, etc. etc. etc..
When I told my boyfriend about my darkness, I expected him to retreat, to run, to not believe me or not take me seriously. Not because he’s ever given me any reason to question his love and acceptance, his commitment or his loyalty to me, but because my dark cloud sometimes, well, “clouds” my better judgment.
Anyway, I told my boyfriend. And he listened. He asked questions so he could understand. And instead of trying to offer solutions to “fix me,” he acknowledged the darkness, and gave me the best advice I’ve received; better than anything else I had read on the internet in those wee hours of the night; advice so good that, here I am, passing it on to you: he told me to own it.
Because nothing should “cloud” your better judgment: How to OWN your darkness
1. Externalize it.
Separate yourself from your darkness by giving it a name. Not because we want to avoid or deny our darkness (we’ve tried, it doesn’t work), but because calling it out creates much-needed space and pivotal distance between YOU and your “dark cloud” so you can actually see it for what it is. (Which, btw, is nothing more than a messy metaphorical cloud of irrational thoughts swirling through your psyche.) Recognizing this distinction is key.
YOU* are not your darkness.
2. Tell someone.
If you’ve felt anything close to what I’ve been describing, then you know, carrying the weight of your darkness on your own feels impossibly heavy. Free yourself (and your psyche), TELL SOMEONE. Anyone. Tell your mom, your BFF, your boyfriend, your therapist, your cat, your journal, or the stranger you meet on the subway. Ideally, tell someone who’s willing to listen, and who you trust to not try to “fix” you.
I'm not promising rainbows and roses the second the words leave your mouth. I'm not even promising that telling someone will be easy, spoiler alert… it probably won’t be. But, once you acknowledge your darkness, it begins to lose its power over you. Once you open up and talk about your darkness — even if only to your cat (at first) — you loosen its grip on your psyche.
3. Get to the bottom of it.
This might be slightly terrifying but, try to pinpoint exactly where the darkness is coming from. Be HONEST with yourself. Ask: Is it coming from real, external stressors, or imaginary, internally created ones? If you’re able to identify where your darkness is coming from, it’s much easier to work with it and eventually, move through it.
(Pro-tip: Journaling this out helps tremendously. I discovered a lot of my mental/emotional/physical/spiritual angst was actually just me resisting life — AKA me trying to control completely uncontrollable things — and bypassing my feelings.)
Speaking of feelings…
4. Face it, head on.
My dark cloud is unpredictable. One minute I’m happy as a clam, the next, my cloud is storming. I’ll feel angry. Irritated. Anxious. Helpless. Alone. Sadder than sad. Madder than mad. Frustrated because it doesn’t make sense; because I can’t understand it and I can’t explain it. Sometimes it lasts for an hour, other times it hovers for days with no sign of lifting.
If you’re currently thinking SAME, you’re not going to like this part (nobody ever likes this part) but, in order to fully own your darkness and finally move beyond it, you have to move through it. Which means, you have to look at it *without judgment* and feel all the feels that come along with it. Including the hurt, the heartbreak, the doubt, the anger, the overwhelm, the frustration, the fear, and all the other weird, unpleasant, painfully uncomfortable HUMAN feelings you’re desperately trying to avoid.
I know from experience this is incredibly hard. I also know that this (read: 1-4), definitely isn’t that quick fix you might have been hoping for. Reality check: when it comes to the head and the heart, there is no such thing as a “quick fix.”
But, here’s the thing:
It’s all OKAY.
I have succumb to my dark cloud many times.
I’ve been a puddle on my bathroom floor, crying uncontrollably for reasons I can’t possibly understand (seemingly no reason at all).
I’ve spent entire weeks in bed, silencing phone calls and ignoring texts because I just couldn't deal.
I’ve ignored my work, turned my back on my calling, my passions, and avoided my obligations, only to suffer the consequences (which, at the time, seemed completely inconsequential due to my mental state…they weren’t).
All this to say, that I get it. I'm not going to compare my mental illness to anyone else's mental illness, but I know what it feels like to want to hurt yourself; to want to hide under the covers indefinitely; to wonder why you can't just feel happy when everyone around you seems so happy.
And I want to tell you, it's OKAY.
Okay, so maybe you’re not OKAY (rn), but you will be. And here’s what so many people don’t understand: It’s OKAY to NOT BE okay. In fact, it’s more than OKAY; It’s human.
Part of being human means feeling a whole spectrum of human emotions. That means happy, sad, and everything in-between and beyond. If you were ambivalently happy all the time, well that wouldn’t be very human of you (and to be honest, sounds a little boring).
Want support? I'm not a doctor or anything, but I'm leaning into my dark cloud. I've teamed up with Jess and Erika Sweeney of Urban Alchemy (while highly credentialed, they're not doctors either) to create something I wish I'd had during the worst of my dark cloud days — Love Bomb Bootcamp.
Join us alongside hundreds of other mega-inspiring bad a$$ babes like yourself on Monday, February 13th for Love Bomb Bootcamp. Dissolving dark clouds since 2015. Just ask these beauties.
And... you know this already but I have to say it.
I am not a medical doctor, licensed psychotherapist or clinician. I am not here to define, diagnose, or treat anything, nor are the recommendations and resources provided intended to propose, or offer to propose, a cure for anxiety, mental illness, disease or other conditions. If you are feeling overwhelmed by feelings of self-doubt and loathing or think you need additional support, please GET IT.