Do you ever still get sad?

Sep 6, 2014 by

“She needed a hero, so that’s what she became.”

– Unknown

 

          Yesterday, while showing one of my fav co-workers how to navigate my blog so she can follow my European adventure, she asked me why it’s called The Happiness Experiment.

          “What’s the experiment?” she wondered.

          “I was depressed for years,” I began.

          “Really?” she responded in surprise.

          “Yup. Well, I was never diagnosed, but I knew. You know when you’re depressed. One day, I decided my life wasn’t going to be like that anymore.” I explained to her that I used the concept of a happiness experiment to allow myself to do things that used to make me feel guilty by telling myself that I was just experimenting; I was just trying to figure out what makes me happy.

          “I’ve never been sad,” she told me. “I’ve been sad over events, but never without a reason.”

          “That’s normal,” I said. “I was chronic. There were reasons. I hated my life. I worked all the time and I had no friends, but I made it that way.”

          “Did you take pills?”

          “No,” I told her. I pointed to the computer screen displaying my blog, “This was – ”

          “This was your therapy,” she acknowledged in understanding.

          “Yes,” I smiled.

          “Were you depressed your whole life?”

          “Most of it,” I confirmed, “but it was really bad during the four and a half years leading up to The Happiness Experiment. I wanted to die.”

          “Did your parents know?”

          “No one knew except my best friend,” I answered.

          “Why didn’t you reach out?”

          “That’s not really my style,” I said. “I like to take care of myself. I’ve always been like that.” (For the record, I don’t think there is anything wrong with reaching out for help when needed. I’m just stubbornly self-sufficient. For my own sense of security, I need to know that I can depend on myself. It’s simply my character. If you need help, I encourage you to ask for it.)

          “Do you ever still get sad?”

          “No,” I shrugged.

          “Because you’re not,” she stated matter-of-factly.

          “I do get sad sometimes, but not depressed,” I clarified. “I know how to make myself happy, so I bounce back quickly.”

 

***

 

          When asked, I will openly and nonchalantly discuss my depression and the anxiety that came with it. I don’t believe that mental health should be the taboo topic that it is. People shouldn’t feel like they’re going to confession when telling someone that they’ve had or are currently coping with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness. I certainly do not. Having said that, I don’t talk about my depression often, because it doesn’t matter anymore. I self-medicated with happiness, thus happiness is my focus. My heart goes out to the Maria of my past who cried her life away on the bathroom floor, but I don’t think about her much. I don’t dwell on the life I chose to stop living. I’m way too determined to maintain the present bubbly version of myself than to waste time pitying who I was.

          However, since it came up, let’s chat about sadness and depression. There’s a difference. Sadness is an occasional state of unhappiness, often prompted by a heart-hurting or stressful event, loss, memory, or thought. It is temporary grief that passes. Depression is persistent unhappiness, characterized by ongoing feelings of hopelessness, despair, and anxiety. It results in extreme lack of motivation and high levels of exhaustion. It can also lead to minor or serious physical symptoms. It’s overwhelming and debilitating. Getting out of bed on a weekend can feel like you’re about to go to war – never mind getting out of bed during the week; that feels like the end of the goddamn world. Some depressed people contemplate suicide. I played with the idea, but I more often hoped that something would end my life for me.

          If you asked me what the problem was then, I wouldn’t have fessed up to there being one. As per above, I suck at reaching out for help. Hypothetically though, had I answered the question, I would have rambled on about how my best friend ditched me for six months during our second year of university, how I had no other friends, how I was never going to get married because no guy was ever going to want me, how I worried that I couldn’t fake being fine at school or work much longer, and how I couldn’t fathom waking up everyday to do the rest of my life. Or I would have simply said that I didn’t know what was wrong, because most of the time, I didn’t. I’d sob into my pillow for hours without understanding why. I just got to the point where crying on the reg was normal. I figured that was just my life, so I gave up questioning my tears. I was sick in every sense of the word. Had I not decided to change my lifestyle, I am sure depression would have been my cause of death.

          Ask me what the problem was today, and I have a solid answer: I was choosing to live the life I was cultured to live, not the life I wanted to live. When I decided one night while crying on the floor that happiness was going to be my priority, I had unknowingly found my cure for depression. I began to forcefully change my perspective on everything. For example, if I was feeling down, I was no longer depressed; I was sad or unhappy. I wasn’t allowed to define myself as depressed anymore. Sadness seemed much easier to solve, so I was adamantly sad instead of depressed, because sadness is normal and temporary. I used to assume that any small glimpse of happiness would soon give way to depression. That stopped. I made myself believe the reverse: sadness would become the glimpse to soon give way to happiness. I don’t even have to force that mentality anymore. I proved it.

          I’ve been consistently happy for over a year, something I honestly did not know was possible before The Happiness Experiment, not only for me but for anyone. While I experience sadness at times, like everybody else, I don’t get depressed because my top life priority is to stay happy. I’ve experimented with so many tactics, novel activities, and new people to develop the happiness tips I live by that I’ve learned how to pick myself up when I notice I’m down. I don’t wallow. I don’t engage in self-pity. I don’t play the victim. If I’m sad, I do something about it and happily move on. Depression nearly killed me before I saved myself, so everything else that comes my way that would have been hard for me to manage before now seems futile by comparison. A good friend disappears for a bit? Whatevs! I overcame depression. Work is being a bitch? No prob! I overcame depression. Some guy I like drops off the planet? #ontothenextone! I overcame depression. I got this. I got life. I’ve learned to rebound. I can undoubtedly attest my ongoing happiness to my resiliency (and my tenacious refusal to experience anything but). So, no, I don’t ever still get “sad,” if “sad” is the word being used to refer to depression. As for the experiment, the experiment is my life.

Happiness Tip: Be resilient.

 
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