If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. Today’s going to be a great day! In response to how I’m feeling, I give a smile and say, “Good! How are you?” Nobody likes a Debbie Downer. In fact, hearing someone be completely honest about their feelings and the awful things going on in their lives all the time has left me with the resolve not to open up and express my feelings. People get away as quickly as possible when they hear about personal tragedy and sadness. They simply don’t want to hear it. I have learned to fake it til’ they make it in several parts of my life. But the struggle to stay happy is real and it’s one that I no longer share with anyone. If you asked me, I’d tell you that I’m fine, but it has to come out somewhere. Here’s why I’m pretending to be happy.
Pretending to be Happy
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I’m a people-pleaser.
But, I’m also filled with social anxiety. If people knew the real thoughts that floated through my head, I fear I’d lose everyone. Instead, I try to put a positive spin on everything. So, yes, I’m super proud of my son for having good days at school now. It’s wonderful that he’s finally got all the help he needs. I don’t worry at all about the backward steps we’ve seen in him in front of other people, but the fact is that it makes me sad that he went from a more inclusive setting to a self-contained setting. I have a real fear for what the future looks like for us and for him. And it’s not that I’m not proud of him for his good days. I just worry about what it took to get him here. No one needs to know that, though. I keep it all under wraps from those I see in public. And to those who might have words of “comfort” to provide, there are plenty of things that don’t help, but what I really need is to just know you’re there.
I work with kids.
It doesn’t matter if I’m depressed or having a bad day. My students don’t need to deal with my feelings. Most of them have struggles of their own. My job is not just to teach them math, but to provide a place of warmth and security for them. Some days i work harder than others to keep it all in check, but they need me. They need the part of me that’s so hard to express. The positive me. If I’m upset about my son, about our mounting bills (and lack of money), or about, well, anything, my students need not know that. As far as they’re concerned, everything is cool (everything is awesome). The attitude in class is, “We can do this!” That’s just my job. And it’s what they need from me, so I provide it. Pretending to be happy is essential for them.
My own children need me.
I’m not always the best mom. I mean, I guess no one is perfect, but sometimes I feel that I’m walking around in a zombie-like state by the time I get home because I’m so exhausted from being cheerful all day. At the end of the day, though, my children need me. As much as it exhausts me to fake emotion, I love my boys and I want them to feel loved and secure too. Besides, snuggling with them and giving them my love sometimes helps melt away some of the sadness. Sometimes I just breathe them in. In truth, I think I’m getting just as much comfort from them as they are from me. Playing with my boys, tickling them, and giving great big hugs isn’t nearly as hard as smiling all day when I don’t feel like smiling. I guess it’s much easier with them than anyone else because, when Squeaker is having a good day, I do get joy from my children. Sometime’s it’s hard when he’s having meltdowns all day long over everything and I don’t know how to stop it. But when I hold him and he tells me over and over how much he loves me and that I’m a good mom, it’s much easier to give them the more positive me.
I want to stay married.
I love my husband. If anyone gets to see my real emotions, he does more than anyone else. When I’m depressed, anxious, and feel like the sky is falling, he’s there. I can usually hold it together until the kids go to bed, but I’m sad to say that I can’t always hide it from my husband. Sometimes I do, though. Sometimes I put on a happy face and go about my day and he won’t know for weeks that I’m a mess on the inside. I do this because, even though he’s definitely seen me at my absolute worse and still stays by my side, I’m just as afraid that he’ll want to leave me as I am with everyone else. We go through many of the same struggles because we live together. Making ends meet until the next paycheck comes, the fights between the kids, the awful meltdowns, and the medical bills that never stop coming are all problems that we share. Most of the time, he handles it much more gracefully than I do. I don’t know how he does it, but he does. So, as often as I can, I stay positive and happy for him. I wish I could do better. But I try.
I want to be happy.
I really, really want to be happy. I do. I honestly can’t remember the last time I truly felt joy, though. On my best day, I just feel okay. I don’t know how to feel real excitement. I know what it should look like and I mimic it, but on the inside, I’m thinking, “I should feel more excited about this than I do.” Depression is real. It’s an honest-to-goodness real thing. It’s not as simple as just choosing to be happy. If I could choose to feel happy, I’d be over the freakin’ moon! I want to be one of those people who exudes positivity and brings excitement with them wherever they go. Instead, I fake it. In front of people at work who say things like, “the kids just won’t get this,” I say the opposite and I say it with a smile. Inside, I’m boiling up over their lack of belief in our students and willingness to just give up on creating exciting lesson plans. I’m the awkward voice of optimism. When I begin to spin toward having a negative attitude, I throw in a statement like, “tomorrow things will go better,” even if I’m not so sure. So, yeah, I want to feel happy, optimistic, and excited about life. I do. It’s just not easy. Until then, I have to stick with just pretending to be happy.
My Christian walk
As a regular church-goer and Bible reader, I know that I should feel joy and peace in knowing that God is always with me. Several Bible verses relay this concept. Here they are:
Ecclesiastes 3:13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God.
Psalms 37:4 Delight yourself also in the LORD: and he shall give you the desires of your heart.
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
Isaiah 12:2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
Psalms 55:22 Cast your burden on the LORD, and he shall sustain you: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.