Happiness is a luxury, not a choice

One of my pet peeves is the saying ‘happiness is a choice’. The phrase completely trivialises my condition, making me feel weak and pathetic. Every time I hear it, I feel like I’m being told that I’m choosing to be sad, to feel tired all the time, and to lie in bed at night, unable to get my mind to shut the hell up.

The point is, happiness is certainly not a choice. It’s a luxury – and one that I was lucky enough to have for the majority of the first twenty-one years of my life. But for the past seven months, this intangible commodity has, for me, been unobtainable. I just can’t find it. I’ve tried so hard. All the things that used to make me happy are now, at best, mere distractions from this horrible monster that follows me everywhere I go.

By ‘choosing’ to be happy when in reality something’s not right, you suppress all your negative emotions. Rather than acknowledging them and dealing with your issues in a healthy way, you simply hide them where no one can else see. You carry them with you everywhere.

For a person suffering from depression this kind of approach can be detrimental to recovery. If you try to deal with depression by suppressing your feelings of sadness then eventually you’ll lose any sense of what was making you feel down in the first place. But the trouble is it doesn’t work – you still feel awful. And now it’s worse because you can’t pinpoint why. It’s like you detach yourself from reality in the hope that it will make things better but then you realise that you’ve become incapable of experiencing any emotion at all. You can’t cry, even when you want to. You can’t get excited about things or experience pleasure or enjoyment. You just become this empty shell of a person. You’re not really living – just existing.

Recently I’ve learnt how important is to stay in touch with my own emotions. I try to sit down on my own on a daily basis and just ask myself how I’m feeling. It’s a really good way of being aware of what’s going on because often I can get so caught up with whatever is happening in my external world that I neglect my inner self. Usually I’ll realise that I’m feeling pretty down. But, increasingly, I am at least able to figure out why I’m feeling like this – simply because I’m paying more attention.

It’s difficult to do though because sometimes checking in with yourself can be terrifying. If you’re really low then you’ll just want to distract yourself in any way possible. So I’m not saying that keeping in touch with your emotions is a solution – it’s just a more healthy way of dealing with problems than suppressing them, provided you can bring yourself to do it.

After all, how can you be happy if you can’t be sad?

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