Depression (or anxiety) is a thief that comes up behind you and slugs you, just whams you one right in the spine, throwing you off center so violently you feel permanently tilted off your axis.
Once off center, direction becomes confusing. Sight becomes muddy. Which way is up? Down? Why are my measurements so off? Why am I so wobbly? Which way am I supposed to go now? Loss of center feels like loss of self. You are at a loss as to what to do. You are at a loss when it comes to making decisions. You’ve lost the path forward to contentment or happiness. It’s almost like being alive while grieving your own death, as though that person is gone forever and you now inhabit a new soul you don’t like very much. (You’re still there, I promise, but I get that it feels that way.)
I’ve come to recognize that during these times I desperately seek grounding.
In the emotional health sense to be grounded means to be someone who is sensible, stable, calm, fully present and … interesting given the tilted axis … centered. In the moments when I have felt grounded I have felt confident in the knowledge of who I am, what I want, and that I am fully capable of handling most situations and able to press forward. It’s the glorious feeling of being solid and tall and strong on my own two feet.
When I don’t feel grounded I feel like a tumbleweed, the buffeting winds of life blowing right through me and around me as I fly this way and that, without control, confused, lost on my path and unsure of myself. When in the midst of depression or anxiety, as I’m sure you’re aware, you feel the polar opposite of grounded. Out of curiosity I looked up some antonyms for the term “well-grounded” and they sure sound a lot like the words women feel about themselves during postpartum depression: inconsequential, invalid, weak, incoherent, stupid, crazy. Any of those sound familiar?
One of the things I like to do at times like these, and I’m really not kidding here, is lie on the ground. No pun intended. Get grounded on the ground. Have you ever done that?
Try it. Just get down on the rug, the carpet, the hardwood floor, the grass, whatever, and embrace Earth. Lie face down. Arms out, legs slightly apart, prostrate.
Now just hold on to the earth, really hold on to it, and think about where you are right now. And when I say where you are I don’t mean the particular street in the particular town in the particular state in the particular country. Because none of that matters at this moment. Where you are right now is hugging the Earth. Feel how solid it is. You are currently holding on to 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds (or 5,974,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms). I believe the proper way to say that is thirteen septillion, one hundred seventy sextillion pounds.
I don’t know why but in those moments of lying there, hugging it out with Earth, I feel supported. What could be more supportive than several septillion pounds holding you up, right? I feel real. It helps me pull out of my micro-focus on all the ways I feel bad or all the ways I think I’m failing and on all the small things that upset or worry me and I move my mind out to as big and as far away as I can think. I am fully present for a moment as a human being on this planet. Hugging on a huge mass as Earth and I travel together through space at one thousand miles per hour.
I am one of the 107 billion people that have ever lived on this earth and I’m okay. I’m not worse than any of them. I’m not failing more than any of them. I’m not less than any of them. I have mass. The earth is solid. I am solid. Going through difficulty, yes, but still solid.
I might remind you that the earth is tilted on its axis too and yet it keeps on going. I can keep going. You can keep going. And when you feel like you can’t, get down on the ground for a minute. Talk to other people who have a little bit of experience being where you are and have found the way back to their center. Let them, and the Earth, hold you up.
For other ways to feel grounded, you might like this article from Psychology Today.