The Happiness of Feeling Sad

Hi. My name is Belle, and I'm a self-sadist.

For those of you that didn't get the memo, self-sadocism is a term I just invented. No, I haven't yet approached the OED about it, but I'm predicting it's only a matter of time until it gets in there. I like making myself sad. Not 'sad' in the Alan Partridge meaning of the word (i.e. a loser - although, there are some that would argue that), I mean 'sad' in the literal sense. To put it in context, I've just got out of a bubble bath, complete with scented candle, in which I drank a glass of wine and read some fucking depressing poetry. Cliché much? Yes. But I feel great about it. Let me elaborate.

I believe the greatest art in the world - be that poetry, music, or actual painting, sculpture, etc - has been made by those who are feeling sad or depressed. It turns out that's not just my opinion. I read an article last year about how creativity is closely intertwined with an individual's depression, whether that be manic or clinical, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or even substance abuse (1-0 to drug addicts.). Case studies in this article included Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, renowned for his heavy use of opiates (well, I mean, how else would you come up with a narcotic caterpillar who speaks in rhyme). Virginia Wolf was as famous for her depression as she was for her novels. And it's not just novelists: Winston Churchill, Vincent Van Gogh, and Einstein are other notable individuals who suffered from different kinds of depression throughout their lives. So why, exactly, does sadness and depression inspire such an outpouring of creativity - and why do we value the results? 

This post is going in the Relationships/Rants section of my blog. If you read any of those, it might be fairly clear that they are generally written at times when I've been ruminating over an event that's made me angry, hurt, sad, or depressed (yes, there is a difference between the last two). Wish List Mondays and Tune Tape Tuesdays are all very nice and I enjoy doing them, but in my opinion, my best writing is done when I actually feel something. And that something is usually sadness, in its many shapes and forms. I only really started writing last summer. I had split up from a guy I believed was the love of my life, and, to be honest, I was a complete mess; a breakup cliché. I didn't leave the house for days. I couldn't sleep, but when I did, I slept for 14 hours straight. I 'Hemingway-ed' it to the max: sitting in darkened rooms, drinking far more than my "recommended daily allowance", and chainsmoking my way through the best part of 20 a day. Thankfully, I had the clearheadedness to realise that this couldn't become my actual lifestyle forever, or, if it did, I should at least have something to show for it. So I opened up a Word Document, and I started writing. I wrote everything that I was thinking; everything that I couldn't bring myself to say to him, all of the memories I had of our relationship, and all of my dashed hopes of a future together. 20,000 words and a Summer later, I was better, and looking back on it now is strangely life-affirming:

4th July, 2012
When we broke up, I used to say that my soul felt like it had been pushed down a flight of stairs. It was the only way I could think of to describe the pain I felt inside. Although its bruises have healed, the scars remain, and it still limps a little. Do you remember when I asked you that time in Brixton if you had been unhappy? You shook your head and said “no, it just wasn’t perfect.”

I'm not saying my Summer ramblings were the stuff of artistic genius. But what I am saying is that I know that my personal best is made when I can't contain what I'm feeling. I guess that when REAL geniuses 'forge their metals', we can instinctively click into their troubled psyches. Which, in my books, is as pretty close to real magic as you can get without waving a wand and going to Hogwarts. Some people believe that embracing the outpourings of depressive individuals 'romanticises' the disorder. I don't personally see the bad in that. As a society, I think we're too quick to ostracise those who struggle to control, maintain, and manage their emotions; those whose membranes are so fragile that the world osmoses through them far quicker than others. Coming from an all-girls boarding school, admitting that you had clinical depression was basically announcing you were bat-shit crazy and were going to go rock back and forth in your room and stab a voodoo doll. For those with a penchant for statistics, one in four of us will experience depression at some points in our lives, and in my opinion, it's a fucking shame that a very high proportion of those that do are too scared to seek help because of what other people think. Personally, I think 'romanticising' depression is the least of your worries; I mean, at least it's getting some recognition. I can also vouch for creative outpourings - whatever medium they come out in - being far better for you than taking some meds and shutting up shop. 

Just like people suggest men 'get in touch with their feminine side' once in a while, I think that we all need to get in touch with our inner-depressive. Which is why I like making myself feel sad once in a blue moon (colour-appropriate). Give me Leonard Cohen, a large glass of wine, and some poetry by Pablo Neruda, and you'll make me a very happy sad person. 

Who else is a self-sadist?

Belle x

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