‘Go listen to very dramatic Russian music’

She has thought about it carefully, says writer, historian and presenter Astrid Sy (34), but she actually deals very badly with bad periods in her life at first. ‘I’m not going to read, don’t knit, don’t sing, I don’t do anything to feel better.’ Or yes, maybe that’s not quite true after all. After thinking about it for a while: I like to go for a walk. ‘Into nature, things like that. But that won’t happen until late.’ Too late, actually, she thinks to herself. Before the peace for walking descends – the ‘second stage’ of dealing with misery – she mainly starts to ‘act very strange’.

Statue Anna Boulogne

What do you do when you act really weird?

‘To be honest, I’m mostly cranky during that stage of processing. But I also have to and will do things: clean up! Arrange everything! Do the laundry! To care! That raging takes a few days, during which my friend in particular has to suffer. Fortunately, he’s good at it now. He knows exactly how to deal with me during such periods.’ Resisting being sad, that’s what it is, according to Sy. “I then deny that I feel bad, until at some point it completely explodes.”

That explosion often comes after a comment from her boyfriend, she laughs. ‘This is really not healthy, you know what you’re doing’, he says. ‘Stop it.’ And then comes the sadness, finally. ‘Many tears, sobbing with big strokes. Aaaargwaaah! Then I get very dramatic. Get everything out. Every now and then such a moment of great sadness comes by, and then I experience it to the fullest. The pain overwhelms me at that moment. I think that’s fine. And then I won’t do anything at all to feel better. I don’t think that’s necessary, you just have to undergo it. Your sadness is just there. Like other emotions, like happiness, you better experience it. Consider it an indispensable part of life. Accept that you feel terrible, that you are sad, or in pain. Sometimes everything is complicated or heavy, and that’s fine.’ But that complete acceptance actually means that you have to cry dramatically, she thinks. Just wallowing yourself completely in sadness. ‘After that you can really go back to it. Then you want to work again, take care of things, do things.’

Do you have those sad moments more often because of the persistent sitting at home?

‘No actually not. The lockdown is not giving me any depressive feelings yet. The last time I really went through a bad period was when my grandmother passed away a few years ago. I really liked that. I was inconsolable. Two weeks before her death, I was at her house every day. Caring, working, more worrying. Until she died. Then I got out of that mode, and I sat down in my sadness.’

null Statue Anna Boulogne

Statue Anna Boulogne

How do you sit comfortably in your sadness?

‘It helps if you listen to music that fits the sad feeling. Preferably very dramatic Russian music. Rachmaninov is one of my favorites. That melancholic, sad undertone is perfect in his pieces. You automatically think of the past, of good times that have passed. If I don’t feel quite right but I can’t put my finger on it, and I hear Rachmaninov, the tears will come. Do you know which pieces work best? His cello sonatas! Beautiful. Then you will naturally start to cry.’

Are you or do you know someone who has found a good way to stay mentally healthy during this time of adversity? Mail to [email protected]


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