Ever had someone tell you to just brave your fears and be happy?
Ha, ha, ha. If only it were that easy to overcome depression.
Perhaps it’s genuinely difficult for people without depression to understand how it works and what it does. That for me, with dysthymia, it lasts for seemingly forever, an infinite cycle of gloomy days. That some days sadness just comes out of nowhere.
Maybe people can’t relate to it because depression sometimes doesn’t have an obvious cause–the sadness is just there. But it is much more acute and debilitating (of course, for the most part) than sadness from, for example, a bad grade on a math test. This is because there is seemingly no way out of the sadness. If you don’t know where the sadness comes from or why it comes, there is almost no way that you can defeat it on your own.
Some days are worse than usual. Social anxiety usually leads to this for me; the pressures of fitting in at school and the knowledge that communication is arguably the most important thing to anyone causes me great pain. But I can’t help the rapid bursts from my heart that erupt when I am called on to participate, nor can I prevent a squeaky imitation of my voice from leaving my mouth.
Yet people tell me, and undoubtedly many others suffering with mental illness, simply to be happy. Cheer up, think positively, exercise, eat well, and you will be okay, they say. What is there to be sad about? The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and life is there to explore.
But what if one has lost all interest in life? These kinds of “helpful” comments offered in sympathy or pity don’t help in any way. I feel guilty that the sun is shining, birds are chirping, and the world is buzzing when I feel as if I’m in a monotonous cycle of work and sadness.
So please, if someone has mental illness, don’t tell them to be happy. It may only make things worse.
A person like me just needs a helping hand, or a hug once in a while. No pity, please; just empathy and compassion. Those will serve far better.
What is more important, though, is that all of us with mental illness need to band together and support each other. We need to help others out of the ruts that we share, to let each other know that none of us are alone.
And maybe someday, we will climb upon each other’s shoulders and out into the world.