“Happiness is a choice. That’s the thing I really feel. Like with friends who refuse to get happy, who refuse to rise above the discomfort of where they’re at… And once you meet yourself, and truly love yourself, then you attract that.” -Jennifer Aniston
Beautiful statement, right? Happiness is a choice. If you really, really want it, you can just be happy. It’s just that easy, folks.
Here’s the thing: Statement like that completely disregard the fact that there are people out there that suffer from depression. More people than you even realize suffer from depression. According to the CDC, an estimated 1 in 10 adults report depression. That’s a huge number. And depression is not a choice. Oftentimes, there is a chemical reason for it and it can take a while to find the right medication to treat the depression. Even after that, they may have demons from their past to work through, which requires therapy. Therapy is not something that works overnight.
In other words, it’s not easy thing to smile and have a fantastic day. To just be happy. Tell someone who’s depressed that they need to snap out of it and choose happiness and you’re likely to make it worse. Why? Well, don’t you think they want to be happy? No one wants to be miserable! It sucks!
These jars need to be filled up daily.
Seven months ago, my depression literally had me in a life or death situation. I was so miserable and felt so worthless that all I could think about was death. Pills, gassing myself in the car, driving off the road. Anything to stop the pain. I was no good to myself, my husband or my children. I had told myself. Nay. Convinced myself that these were facts. People think that it takes a coward to commit suicide, but I felt like a coward for not doing it. Part of me was afraid that it wouldn’t work and I would be permanently disabled from my attempt and even more worthless. Part of me was afraid of the Eternal Damnation (quickly ruled that out, as I had convinced myself that I was already in Hell). But ultimately, my children were the reason I didn’t act on those thoughts. What would my husband tell them? How would they feel when they got older and found out? I didn’t want to increase their likelihood of depression by becoming a statistic myself. I at least still had enough presence to think about what would happen to my children. That’s what saved me. Not everyone is fortunate enough to still have that presence of mind.
I was in and out of the hospital three times from October until Christmas until they found the right combination of medications to get me back feeling like myself again. I found a better therapist and a different psychiatrist. It took me another few weeks after that to feel comfortable going back to work.
Am I “cured”? Hell no. I’ve come to the realization that, for me, depression is a lifelong illness. I’ve suffered from it for as long as I can remember. I will always have to fight for happiness. I don’t always win. I don’t always get to choose happiness. The sadness overcomes me sometimes. Sometimes I wake up feeling that way. I did choose to get help. I do choose to work on it every day. But it is hard work. It is especially hard to stay positive with deteriorating physical health and a challenging child, but I work really hard to see the positives every single day. No one can know my internal struggle but me.
Sometimes it’s hard not to spill these jars.
Thankfully, I’m usually able to hide my dark secret from my students. They after ask me questions like, “Are you always this happy?” That’s a blessing. I work really, really hard to look happy. It takes a lot of energy out of me to put on a production all day. To bottle up all the negative emotions and store them in the closet. There’s only so much room in that closet, and sometimes the bottles spill out, but at least my students use up my bottles of happiness. I wish there was enough of happiness left in the bottle to make it through the entire day. Enough for my own children. I wish I didn’t feel that it was stretched so thin that I felt I was pushing it with them on work days. Summer is easier. I have more energy during the summer. My fuse is longer due to not having to wear that mask of happiness all day.
But, my point is that happiness is not a choice for everyone. It’s a struggle for quite a few of us. And I, for one, do not wish to feel judged for “refus[ing] to rise above the discomfort of where [I’m] at” to be happy and love myself.
Self-love is damn hard work. For me and 10% of other adults in America, so is happiness. I’m not saying happiness is impossible, because it isn’t. I’m just saying, don’t tell us we’re not choosing to be happy. Most of us are fighting for it.
Have you ever suffered from depression or do you know someone who has? What are your thoughts on this topic?