Blue Monday, January 20, 2020, is the perfect storm. The combination of the dreary cold weather, the lack of sunlight, the bills arriving with the debt from the high of Christmas, and the failure of new year’s resolutions. The saddest day is recognized on the third Monday of January, useful for awareness of mental health, and to encourage you to seek attention if you are suffering.
The severe symptoms of depression and psychosis, involving violent suicidal and homicidal ideation, was notable in my practice this week. It is only a small portion of all the encounters; still, the impact is considerable. Our natural negative bias is noticing the difficult or unpleasant.
I continue to move through life with my outer shell appearing unscathed, but I know I am not alone in ignoring the effects of traumatic experiences. The thoughts cascade and tumble over each other for my attention. I am starting to fall down the rabbit hole. The rawness of suppressed untold stories, again, come to the surface.
Suddenly something has brought me back to now. I am aware of being in the depth of this deep hole. I stop in my tracks. I take a deep full breath and look up to what is around me.
I am in the middle of an open field of freshly fallen snow with no one around, except my beautiful dog, Yola, doing her happy dance. I respond with a smile and appreciate the silence, unique hushed quality associated with snow.
It is a stark contrast to my thoughts that had been rumbling in my mind. They are very loud in all this silence, and it is not only my mind that is affected. I note pain, a tightness, a burning sensation around the lower part of my neck and upper shoulders like a vice or a noose. Thoughts that this could be angina, but I know the body is still trying to recover from the virtual reality of my mind. It is now I notice the slight coolness on my cheeks from a light breeze playing over this field of snow.
I continue my walk across the field into the shelter of the forest. I find solace in the nearness of the trees.
“What do I do when the thoughts are bad?” a common question in my teaching sessions. I take a moment to clear my thoughts rushing through.
“Give it a light touch,” echoing my teacher. The initial step is to recognize the thought. If the emotions are too strong, bring your attention to the breath or your chosen anchor. The anchor could be a candle, hands or the contact of the earth with your feet.
When you are ready instead of pushing it away, observe with a beginner’s mind, teasing out the different sensations in the body and be aware of the thoughts as thoughts. The exercise is not an easy practice. You may observe how the thoughts or reaction begins to fade.
I had not realized it was Blue Monday with the original writing of this piece. I have learnt a great deal in the last year and have improved my writing and grammar, so I have decided to publish a revision because the content is important.
Health care workers witness or are targets of violence in the medical setting of the clinics, hospitals, or our homes and community. We are not immune to suffering. Opening up these topics brings hope of finding solutions, and I believe we can acquire the skills to promote health and safety for all.