We’ve all had a come down. You know that swirling void of deadness that makes you hungry, thirsty and want to throw up all at the same time? As Isaac Newton once said what goes up must come down which when talking about drugs and alcohol is pretty standard. If we choose to go over the metaphorical rainbow we do so understanding that we will suffer for it. Physical symptoms make sense, we accept them; some even plan for them. But what about emotional come downs? These can be a bit more difficult to address; their symptoms, causes and cures are not so easy to pinpoint. They raise the issue of what people like to call ‘mental health’ and the main difficulty is that it’s something we cannot see. And as over the years people have proved themselves to be capable of lying an illness without physical proof can easily be disregarded.
Now before I open up the Pandora’s Box of Mental Illness/Health/Well-being/Whatever let me tentatively point out that as with a broken toe or a brain tumour there are different levels of ‘illness’. Some conditions are terminal like Stage 4 Cancer or chronic like schizophrenia requiring long term treatment while others are only temporary like a bruised rib or a broken heart and will eventually heal. When we have broken bones we don’t have them forever. We don’t seem as comfortable or capable of recognising this when it comes to our emotional well-being. Is this because we so often have to prove our ‘illness’ that we sink into it in order to explain or express it instead of desperately wanting our cast to be cut off? Often we run the risk of being completely ignored when down-playing mental stress and so possibly as a reaction we encourage it, we label it and identify with that label.
An emotional come down can appear in various areas of our lives, some more serious than others. PTSD, for example, is the terminal version of this type of come down. When someone has been through a hugely traumatic experience it can resonate within them for years inducing hallucinations, flashbacks, night terrors and panic attacks. This is particularly common in people that have experienced war and it has only recently, in the last fifty years say, been recognised as a genuine medical condition. Our Grandparents who fought in the Second or First World Wars would not have received much, if any, counselling and will have been expected to bite their own stiff upper lip potentially becoming life long sufferers. Fortunately today people can receive psychological treatment, exorcise said demons and move on.
But what’s the temporary version?
Let’s say you’ve had an amazing date/night/shag/whatever and everything is left peaceful and pleasant, smiling and wide eyed. Parting ways with your significant other you feel completely confident and secure that you have both had an equally satisfactory ‘time’. The next morning, minute or moment you just can’t help sending some recognition text testing the water to clarify that indeed you were not imagining it and a good time was truly had by all? Then if no text is received in response this can easily plunge our overactive emotional brains into despair.
Couldn’t just leave it and enjoy the moment. Had to risk it, had to push the button setting ones emotional well-being up for a potential fall. What about the opposite side of the fence? Maybe you don’t react in that clinging ‘please tell me you had fun too’ kind of way. Maybe you’re the opposite and instead of flouncing around for approval you detach, you distance; maybe you feel anxious about the connection and pull away as a form of self preservation? Maybe you avoid the intimate side of connection entirely sticking to a purely physical relationship with no cuddling allowed? I mean if you don’t connect you can’t get hurt right thus avoiding said comedown?
Within our emotional relationships we all develop ticks as a direct result of our relationship life experience be that with family members, friends or romantic partners. And then we judge. Judging is dangerous. What’s just happened, what happened before, what could or should happen next. We judge ourselves, our potential partners, our exes, our friends; we compare other peoples happiness and interactions to our own. The older we get the more we see, the more we judge and as a direct result can become less and less satisfied with what the present moment has to offer us. We get lost in an imagined or perceived place of thought and quibbling over relationship etiquette that doesn’t actually exist can blow a peaceful evening up into a war zone.
In the performers world we tend to experience something similar when a job comes to an end which can happen a lot. This may be difficult for non-creatives to understand but to give you an idea I did seventeen different jobs last year. Seventeen. A civil servant or an accountant might never have seventeen jobs in their life. Compare it if you will to returning from a holiday. Back to the grind after sitting on a sunbed or meditating on the beach does tend to knock us down into a self-loathing pit of ‘I hate my life’ despair. When I finish an acting job with nothing else on the horizon I feel the same. We may sense a drop of adrenaline, a change in routine, an emptiness or fear of what’s coming next. Even though we know we can adapt to our changing day to day lifestyles that emotional come down still comes down.
But why? Where does this come from? Thought patterns? Mental habits? Society? Family? Expectations? Humanity? All of the above?
When you’re in the loving warm embrace of your lover, feeling safe and overwhelmingly happy how do you ensure that when they are gone you do not feel sad as a result? Is this a reason to not participate in any intimacy at all to completely avoid the comedown? Maybe it is unavoidable. Maybe there are different layers of happy and paying attention to this spectrum of emotion without judgement can reduce our unhappiness? I’m sure that clever levels of chemicals and pheromones play a part in all of this but I am convinced thought patterns do too. If you concentrate on things that make you sad pretty soon you’ll be crying and if you focus on positive things and what you enjoy in life you’re much more likely to have a better time….
…..in comes the onslaught from the positive thinking gang. The new wave of positivity rules OK in which being sad is no longer cool. This kind of emotional land-sliding is ironically not very positive or very good for ones emotional health either and is reminiscent of our age old British reserve. Our spectrum of mental illness or wellness is exactly that; a spectrum and it is subject to change. Just because you are depressed now does not mean you will suffer from depression forever and vice versa. Think of it as a scale on a piano that we want to get the full range out of. Just as it is unhealthy to be depressed all the time the same can also be said for forcing ourselves to be happy all the time.
Maybe if we didn’t project this ideal of perfect behaviour, emotional reactions, relationships, jobs, life goals and people then we wouldn’t feel so sad when things don’t work out? Maybe if we didn’t expect ‘mental illness’ to be such a huge daunting and dangerous sounding taboo we would feel more comfortable with people taking a mental health day when they feel like hammered shit inside? And maybe if people knew that it was OK to feel like shit every once in a while and that doesn’t mean they have to feel like shit forever they might heal a bit quicker? It’s not going to fix a broken leg or a deep rooted psychological problem but it might make living with being human and the come downs associated with this huge emotional brain a little bit easier.
We could probably all benefit from a little less judgement and a bit more awareness. If we can pay more attention to our own mental patterns, noticing them without judgement, we open up our own emotional possibilities. After all knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that the tunnel isn’t so bad can make it easier to navigate our way through.
Janna Fox is an actress, writer, yogi, aerialist in training and creator of many things. She started blogging for The New Establishment in February 2017 and her pieces are published every other Wednesday. Janna also contributes to sex blog Hitting the Spot. For more information please visit www.jannafox.com