I’ve realized that as I don’t have the guts to promote this blog properly I only really have a potential audience of 190something facebook contacts and an actual readership of 4-6. I’m sure my last 2 posts, which were more personal vents than anything else, will not have helped. I’d like people to understand me better for who I am, not just how I come across at times.
I feel like I have no voice because of my emotional nature and tendency to freak out and act on emotional impulse. My sensible brain always kicks in waaaaay too late. So I’m a drama queen who imagines and perceives negatively.
There seems to be a huge pressure to be positive and “choose” happiness and ironically even more so in the chronically ill community when actually people have more right to feel negative and unhappy at time because actually it’s pretty shit to be constantly ill whatever the level. There are a great many shares I see over and over again on Facebook and I know the people who post them do so because they feel the need to to remind themselves not to slide down into misery or because they think they will help others.
I want to say a little about me to demonstrate my point about all this, because I worry about the negative affect these things have on others too, not just how they cause me problems.
It’s no secret that I suffer from depression and I am ALSO unhappy. These two things are separate, obviously they play off each other, being unhappy with my life makes it harder to win the constant fight against depressions and suffering depression makes it harder to feel happy even if everything was “perfect”. There are aspects of my life which make me unhappy at times, my physical health is an issue. Whilst I am more well than I was and much more well than many I know, I am still ill, I suffer discomfort, pain and exhaustion and this restricts my life and my potential to work. This is a situation that I am mostly unable to change and I have mostly accepted and adapted to it, sometimes the enormity of what I’ve lost smacks me in the face but then I remember all the things I’ve been lucky enough to do and what I can still do and what I still might achieve and this softens the blow. Oh hey, look, I do positivity and hopefulness! I’ve been told I’m negatives and ignore the positives, which is slightly hypocritical as my positives are clearly being ignored too! My main source of unhappiness is lack of social interaction, feeling connected to people and being part of a social group. I’ve gone on and on about this and just ended up feeling worse about it all. I don’t for one minute believe that people are out to get me or make me feel bad. There are some unpleasant people for whom I am a magnet but mostly I know that people have good intentions but they are so focused on their belief they are giving the right advice they miss the point and in my case can just make matters worse. I DO count my blessings and I DO look at the positives but being good at making jewellery doesn’t stop me feeling lonely and isolated. Maybe, if I was too ill to socialise then I wouldn’t be so distressed but this has been a problem for a lot longer than my ME has been around. The biggest reason this makes me unhappy is because it feels like it’s proving all the people that bullied, criticized and excluded me right. I do love seeing my friends and their kids and going out with my mum and her friends but there is no one to go where I want to, no peer group, nowhere that I belong, that’s what I’m missing. I barely even socialise on facebook because I feel so out of place, like it’s crossing a line to post on walls or join in threads where mutual friends are talking. I also get frustrated with the advice to stay positive and be hopeful. That’s not going to change my situation, I want to do something to make my life how I’d like it, I just don’t really know how or where to start and the older I get the less it feels like I’ll ever be anything other than everyone’s weird single tagalong friend. Trying to explain this gets me labelled as negative and actually told that I’m wallowing….. I’m not, I just don’t want to accept an unhappy life where there might be something I can do to change it and being told to accept it feels like no one thinks I deserve better or that they just want me to shut the fuck up.
So, that’s my experience. I can say that I know that some very positive people feel under an awful lot of pressure too and I know others who have every reason to be unhappy in their current situation and those who have been through bouts of depression recently are hiding their true feelings from those who should be offering them support and criticizing themselves mercilessly for it, myself included.
Can we please stop stigmatizing unhappiness?
It’s normal to feel unhappy at times and it’s a perfectly acceptable human experience. Obviously, it’s a good idea to try to change that feeling and do what works for you, it might be counting your blessings and focussing on something else, something positive or trying to find a way to change what is making you unhappy. If you care about someone, remember, there is a big difference between helping someone feel happier and forcing/guilting them into saying they feel happier. In my experience, empathy and understanding is much more effective way of helping, try “that’s understandable” or “would you like to talk it through?”, dismissing someone’s feelings with an “at least you…” or “but you’ve got x y z” is never going to really help, sometimes people just need to express themselves in a safe environment so you don’t necessarily need to fix it, or say “poor you” just be there.
As for those positive messages shared on photos on facebook, I know there us a wonderfully passive aggressive argument that they’ll only make you feel bad if you’re being negative but I believe in not causing distress to others even when I think I’m right. Things that say “I don’t have the perfect life but I CHOOSE to be happy and count my blessings.” “it’s easy to be happy, just be grateful for what you have” seem to me to have a rather aggressive and manipulative bent to them. The first seems to come from a place and position of superiority (I’m better than unhappy people) and the second seems to be rather guilt trippy (happiness=gratefulness therefore unhappiness = ungratefulness). Admittedly I have very negative thought patterns, this is because of my early experiences, I didn’t choose it ( most of us are products of our experiences) and therefore I’m going to see the negativity in things. It doesn’t make me a bad person, in fact, I strive to be the best person I can and leave those I come into contact at least not worse off for having met me and hopefully a little better off. In some ways it better places me to notice potential harm and although I am very aware of the effect these things have on me, for others it may not be so conscious, these things may be wearing them down on a subconscious level.
I’m honestly not criticizing people who share these things, I’m certainly not saying that they are sharing them to feel superior or guilt others, they’ve probably not even see the negative potential but it IS there and I would love everyone to think more about what they say and how they say it on the subjects of positivity and happiness. Often people just need love, empathy and a little time to get there by themselves.