“Anger is just sad’s bodyguard” – Liz Palmer
I’m really trying to tend to my emotions right now. I’m cutting back on the things that I use to numb myself and trying to sit with some uncomfortable things. For the last couple of years in therapy I have been dealing with anger as my default emotion. One of the more helpful definitions of “depression” is angered toward inward. Still, in juggling my emotions, I feel like there has been something missing, something right below the surface that’s been holding me back. Then I came upon the above quote and it hit me like a ton of bricks: I’m sad.
In both “Daring Greatly” and “Rising Strong”, Brene Brown talks a great deal about men’s emotions. Anger is a default for us because it keeps us from looking weak, our ultimate fear. Even when being depressed, I get to be angry at someone (me), and that feels somewhat strong. But sadness… sadness feels inherently feminine and inherently weak. I know that seems like a horribly misogynistic thing to say, but that is the way the male mind works at time. I’m happy to sit with my female friends as they wrestle with sadness. I’m even comfortable with my son’s sadness. “It’s okay to be sad, buddy. Everybody feels sad sometimes” You know, except for daddy.
Sadness is so different from depression and I think it is the difference that is begging for my attention. Depression draws me inward. Sadness can as well, but it tends to have an external focus. Yes, I’m angry at myself (depressed) about the way that my marriage ended, but I’m also really sad that about it. I’m about the ending of a thing, a thing I was a part of but that wasn’t all about me. I get depressed thinking about what kind of father I might be, but ultimately, I’m sad that I don’t get to see my kids daily. I can be depressed that I’m so awful with money or I can be sad about my financial situation. That feels like splitting hairs, but they are fundamentally different. One is judgment, the other a reaction to a circumstance. One feels permanent, the other feels fleeting.
And that’s the real irony here; by not owning my sadness and facing it head on, I’m allowing it to linger. And when it lingers, I get scared and call for its bodyguard, anger. Anger then decides whether it will lash out at others or just start kicking my ass. Depression then becomes my state of being. Sadness, though, isn’t a permanent state. Don’t get me wrong, it can last a long time. But to be sad, to be really sad, to grieve, to cry, to hurt at the way the world is, that is healthy. Sadness does it’s job, it cleanses and sanitizes, then makes room for the next thought or feeling to move into a clean(er) space.
My truth right now is that I am really fucking sad. Sad about my relationships, sad about my career, sad about my finances, sad about the state of the world, sad by how hard it is to be black, saddened by the presidential candidates… sad that the Bengals are undefeated. And all of these things about which I am experiencing sadness will pass. But now, in this moment, in this space… I. Am. Sad.