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We're Mind, the mental health charity. We provide advice and support to anyone with a mental health problem. We're continuing to run Friends in Need and to support Depression Alliance's self-help groups. We can offer you advice and support on depression, too.

Depression and the happiness myth

There is a deep myth surrounding depression, that it is somehow connected to happiness. 'What did he have to be depressed about? He was rich, had a family, funny, popular, et cetera....' Somehow, depression has become a word synonymous with feeling low or sad and not with mental illness.

Depression makes you potentially vulnerable and susceptible to the dark and murky arena of shame; it can make no difference how many years you have battled this illness, it can suckerpunch you in a moment.

Depression is an illness that can be managed; happiness is not a right.

Why do we think the goal of life is to be happy? How many of us actually believe happiness is the goal of life? Think about your day for a second; You wake up, you have a wash, go to the toilet, brush your teeth and get dressed. You have breakfast/coffee/a cigarette, go to work/get the children ready/go to your study and then begin the next part of your daily routine. How much of the first few hours of your day would you say makes you happy? Probably not a lot. It will probably be routine and therefore not happy or sad, but simply part of life. That's not to imply it is bad, but to gently point out how life happens and that's a good thing. When I get up and make tea and read the news I feel content; it's a routine which enables me to start the day. After all, we all know what it is like if we don't get our morning cuppa - the whole day is out of sync.

Suffering with depression means I am not looking for happiness but balance. I have many happy moments but I think it is dangerous to make people think happiness is our goal. If I always aimed for happiness then I would feel very guilty about my life. I have days where even feeling beyond numbness would be a blessed and enlightening experience. Happiness is a gift, but don’t be distracted or downtrodden by the inky darkness telling you if you’re not happy, you’re a failure. You’re not a failure, you’re battling each day and that is honourable.

Depression sucks all emotion from your body at times, like someone has injected a syringe and slowly extracted key emotions and only left numbness and teariness. When the numbness subsides and emotions slowly wash in on the tide of sensitivity it is wonderfully liberating. True laughter after finding it hard to laugh is healing and invigorating; crying with joy is addictive; inner peace is beautiful. It's great to be happy but for someone with depression I know balance, contentment and an ability to simply feel is the quenching sustenance of what we desire, crave and wish for.

Photo credit: Svein Halvor Halvorsen

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