There's nothing I love more than a new word to introduce into my daily vocabulary, especially when that word sums up exactly how I'm feeling. I first heard the word 'ennui' during a conversation with a dear friend, who announced on our day out to New Brighton that the grey and boring environs were the perfect conditions to elicit this lesser-known emotional state. I suddenly realised that ennui not only applied to being in New Brighton, but also to my life.
The UK borrowed the term 'ennui' from France during the height of 18th century European Romanticism and I'm so glad we never returned it. It was used to describe a rather fashionable kind of weariness, boredom and dissatisfaction with the world and a preoccupation with the emptiness of existence. Back in the day, artists and poets suffered from it and those with ennui were seen to have spiritual depth and sensitivity.
As someone who has suffered all manner of mental maladies towards the darker ends of the mood spectrum, I'm always monitoring myself for any signs of relapse. I had been feeling low, unmotivated and bored for a while, hence the lack of blog posts and over-reliance on Primark benders and eating. I couldn't decide whether I had depression, the winter blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder or just needed a kick up the backside. After many careful assessments of myself along with the day out to New Brighton, I deduced that my mind was in fact, a quagmire of ennui. I possibly needed a kick up the backside too, but in a counter-intuitive move, I decided to embrace the ennui for a while and see what happened.
I've always been the type of person to try and force myself through any periods of depression or so-called 'negative' feelings and just power through no matter what. I've always found it particularly difficult to give myself a break and as soon as I realised I had ennui, I felt guilty and tried to push myself once more into being a useful unit of production. This only enhanced the ennui however and eventually I was forced to ask myself, 'why am I trying to fight it'?
I knew it probably wouldn't last forever, plus there were stresses and strains going on around me which were giving the ennui big beefy muscles, so I made the executive decision to be at one with my ennui and invite it home for tea. If it was good enough for artists and poets, it was good enough for me.
Accepting it has been rather wonderful. I managed to keep the fabric of my life together but stopped pretending I was OK whilst doing it. It was interesting that when I spoke of my ennui, lots of other people were intrigued and said they didn't realise there was a word for this feeling. The highlight of having ennui was that I just didn't care about not caring about things. The pressure of 'should' disappeared and I felt a lot more relaxed than I had done in ages.
Nearly two months later, I can feel that the ennui is starting to lift. By letting it run it's course, it has burnt itself out and some different emotions have come along instead. I may never find out the reasons why ennui descended, but not judging it seems to have worked.
The worst that happened during the ennui, was that nothing really bad happened. Everything is still exactly as I left it and I am now able to return to my writing and my life afresh and with a new word at my disposal. We can often feel under so much pressure to be super-achievers and never admit to floundering, but I've discovered it's fine to grind to a halt in ennui laden traffic once in a while and peer at the world through brown tinted spectacles.
People say that moods and feelings are like the weather and I think that's true. My dalliance with ennui was a simple rain shower compared to the severe depression I've suffered in the past. But I think approaching it with acceptance and patience stopped it turning into anything more nasty and it's a lesson I will be applying to any more new and unusual mood states that I discover.
*This blog was first published in The Huffington Post UK on 11 January 2017