It’s really not something people on the outside can understand easily. According to many of my friends, “I always look so happy” because I am the cheerful one with the bright smile. That’s what depression looks like. Depression means I am happy all day around my friends but as the day goes on, my mood crashes, I feel emotionally drained and I end up crying myself to sleep at night. Why? Because the voices inside my head are loud enough to convince me that I don’t deserve to be alive.
All this self-torment may very well have been due to stress overload or my compulsive over-thinking habits. One “bad” grade in almost every class was enough to convince me that I was never going to get accepted into a “good” college, and all of a sudden, I ended up feeling worthless and a complete waste of time and money for my parents, who worked so hard to provide me with a better education. Having supportive friends who were constantly willing to help me out – either with advice on life or just a homework problem – heightened my guilt of not being as good of a friend to them as they were to me. Imagine walking around every day apologizing in your head to every friend you thought you didn’t deserve, and sincerely questioning why they still want to be friends with you.
At the time, it was extremely complicated to even try to explain how I felt, so I made it easier for myself and just kept it inside. On some days however, it was difficult to conceal it completely and a tiny hint of sadness in the eyes or in the curved edges of a smile would be enough for people to start wondering what was wrong. Subconsciously, I had trained myself to automatically reply to the questions “Are you okay? What’s wrong?” with a simple “Yeah, I’m just tired.” I thought it created this armor around me that convinced others I was emotionally strong enough and capable of conquering difficulties on my own. Eventually, learning that lying to myself and shutting out those who cared about me did more harm than good.
Of course things associated with my idea of happiness could distract me from my lack of enthusiasm to do anything. Whenever I could, I took the opportunity to walk my dog under the cool night air while listening to music, or feel the smooth rubber floor wrapping around the soles of my feet as I danced. But depression had a way of creeping up into my mind and devouring any joy I felt earlier that day. Like dominos, one negative thought could easily alter my view on what the rest of my life would look like. This back-and-forth of emotions went on for a good two years – with breaks in between during which I felt comfortable with exactly who I was – until it all gradually got better with time. Somewhere along the lines of “what do I do with my life” and “the world could not be a happier place,” I found the true definition of happiness, thus allowing me to move past a period of confusing ups and downs to developing a stronger, self-reflective me.
Happiness is not trapping yourself inside with buried emotions. Happiness is not waiting for someone to care enough to come around and dig them up. Happiness is being aware of those negative emotions and finding a release for them. Once I close the covers of my journal, I feel mentally lighter as my anger and sadness drowns between the pages. Surrounding myself with animals, yoga, and nature gives me a chance to appreciate everything in life that is worth staying on this journey for. The demon inside my mind will never go away and I may never be able to escape from it. However, I am grateful that it has taught me how to live with these negativities and most importantly, I’m thankful that everything I went through has allowed me to view life in a more positive light.