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“Don’t worry, be happy,” they say.

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The other day I saw a Facebook post going around that said something along the lines of, “The secret to being happy is to just be positive and not care what others think. It really is that simple.”

I sat there for a moment contemplating a response because on a gut level I felt that this wasn’t entirely true, not for everyone certainly. But a part of me felt like maybe it was true, that maybe there was something indeed wrong with myself that I could not simply be positive and not care what others think and BE HAPPY. In fact at that moment I said to myself, there is a lot of truth in this. I have been happy lately. I have been working on being happy.

But that’s the thing. Sometimes, for some people, happiness takes work. Happy is not a fluid gift given every day. Happiness in many ways can be a privilege, and only when you find yourself on a sunny day staring out over a lake and thinking to yourself, this day is beautiful, I am in love, I have an iced coffee in my hand, everything is going well and yet today, on all days, on this beautiful, blue for as far as you can see day, I do not feel happy. And what’s more, I WANT to feel happy.

That is when you realize that happiness is not always a choice. That statements like, “Just be happy” can actually serve the opposite of their intentions and instead isolate others who wonder why they cannot “just be happy.”

After all, depression is a sneaky monster. One that you might think you have finally defeated. Just the other day I was thinking to myself, “Wow, I haven’t been depressed in so long. Maybe I did something right. Maybe I found a life path that is truly making me happy. Maybe I really am putting in the work to be happy. To JUST BE HAPPY.”

But this is the thing. Your brain is stronger than your mind. The chemical makeup of your brain does not care that it is beautiful and sunny and fall and almost your birthday. I am not an expert. I do not claim to know what is going on with the chemistry in my own brain, let alone others, but I do know this: that there are certain chemicals: (serotonin, for example) and when you are depressed they are not distributed correctly throughout your brain. You remain unbalanced. (See also fancy words like: reuptake). But it turns out it’s even more complicated than that.

Needless to say there is more at work than just a mindset.

And while I am a large believer in how powerful your mind can truly be and I do believe that being positive and trying to react positively towards your life does in fact help your overall well-being, I can also say that I have experienced the opposite.

Just yesterday as I sat in a beautiful courtyard, with the person who has been by my side for nearly ten years and a coffee in hand, I sat with tears in my eyes saying:

“I don’t know why I feel sad and panicked but I just do.”

“My biggest worry is what size box I need to mail something in and yet this morning I felt like I could not get out of bed.”

“I can feel that I am happy underneath all these depressed feelings, but I just can’t get to it,” and nearly breaking down into tears, “You would think if a person was this self aware they would be able to stop feeling this way.”

So let’s be mindful of what we post. What assumptions we make about the lives of others, because there are 350 million people in this world that cannot just be happy because they want to.

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