It’s not easy to be me- journeying to the #self: how #melancholy is part of #happiness

Our inalienable rights are ‘Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness’- nothing in there about Health, or Wellness, right?

I was counselling someone today, someone who is actually older than I am, despite me having just had a birthday & feeling extremely ‘senior’ as a result. LOL! I had something of a ‘light bulb’ moment. I thought,  it’s not depression that I live with, it’s melancholy. And is that such a bad thing? Once you realise your own mortality, which for many people is actually before the age of 10, isn’t melancholy part of the background to our lives? It’s not a word that is used or celebrated nowadays, it could even be called ‘unfashionable’ to acknowledge melancholy. It seems that you have to be always ‘happy’ to be considered ‘normal’: if you’re not obviously happy, then you must be ‘depressed’. I don’t believe that’s true.

 Although melancholy gets a bad press sometimes, being equated with deep depression, it has also a more poetic & lighter side. Many poets, composers, artists, writers from various cultures have felt melancholy. ‘Melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness’ by Italo Calvino ‘There is no such thing as happiness, only lesser shades of melancholy.’ Robert Burton. ‘Sweet bird, that shun the noise of folly, most musical, most melancholy!’ John Milton and ‘There is no coming to consciousness without pain.’ Carl Jung. When you can acknowledge that it’s actually OK to be sad, not permanently deliriously happy, to be in fact somewhat melancholy, you can accept your state of being & find that ‘happiness’ & ‘beauty’ can encompass melancholy. ‘I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.’ Dianne Ackerman

taking time out in nature

taking time out in nature

Of course that melancholy can be a spiderweb, it can creep into everything, it still takes work to maintain calm in the midst of chaos:  to maintain serenity, joy. The tools of mental wellness remain the same. We are all living with diabetes. Now that’s just not fair. It basically sucks. At the same time, many of us are trying so hard to ‘live our lives to the full’, whatever that may mean. Whether it’s helping others, striving for a physical ‘high’ that will reward us, striving to be successful in a career, or in love, earning more money to purchase whatever it seems we want; our time is busy busy busy. Multi tasking is a way of life. We are attached to screens for much of our waking time. We are ‘communicating’ with more people than ever before in the history of the world. We need to take ‘down time’, & to use that time to be present in the real world. This might be as simple as exchanging our gym session for exercise outdoors, appreciating the world as it passes us by. It might be turning off screens for a 2 hour waking period every day: or for an entire day a week, & focussing on the people we are with & the world around us. Or to be alone. It might be remembering we have more than 3 senses: more than our eyes, ears & fingers. It might be reminding ourselves that we are more than our diabetes, or our child’s diabetes, that we still have other interests, & other people in our lives. It might be focussing on Breathing, on silence, on music: on watching your child sleep. It might be preparing and eating a meal with pleasure, not guilt, sharing our pleasure with others, not with self judgement or self criticism.  It might be that we need to give ourselves a break, to celebrate how hard we are trying, to let go of guilt or shame. We need to use that wise voice in our head to counsel ourselves as we would another, to be kind to ourselves as to another,  to say, ‘It’s OK, nobody’s perfect, you’re doing OK’.

a gift for yourself

a gift for yourself

It can be hard being Superman, or Superwoman. Even Superman feels melancholy sometimes.

Helen Wilde

Helen is a Senior Counsellor with Diabetes Counselling Online, Teacher, parent of a person living with Type 1 diabetes since 1979, & living with Type 2 diabetes herself since 2002.

You may find it helpful to talk with one of our team by visiting /welcome/our-team-counsellors-ambassadors/


  1. Sally on March 14, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Great post Helen! It’s true that we’re ‘only human’ <3

  2. Helen Wilde on March 16, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Thanks so much Sally. It’s great to get responses here on the blog, & I appreciate your response. So often we’re so involved in trying to ‘get it right’ that we just don’t slow down, look around, & see that actually it’s pretty good.