“You Are Always Happy” Does Not Mean You Really Are
Trigger Warning: This post talks about mental illness, suicide, and eating disorders.
“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”~Kevyn Aucoin
Baring My Soul
I nervously posted a very rough draft of this on Facebook Tuesday night. The day that we found out fashion icon Kate Spade had committed suicide. I was shaking. While I am unabashedly vulnerable on my blog, and post the links to Facebook, rarely do I post essay-esque statuses especially something where I am essentially baring my soul and showing that I am anything less then perfect.
In other words like millions on facebook, I portray sunshine and roses, cute memes and other peoples babies. Somehow to admit that I am human like everyone else, to admit I am human to the people who live in my minuscule hometown, and to show that humanity to my preschool classmates who I haven’t set eyes on since we were in diapers, and high school boyfriends who were still in an awkward phase the last time I saw them, is scary as shit.
But this is to important to not NOT post. And now I am posting it here. Because if one person knows that they are not alone then me being uncomfortable for a hot second is worthwhile.
You Are SO Happy
I’ll never forget when someone told me circa 2007 that they never would have known I was sick or struggling. I am always so “Happy.”
I never thought of being happy as a bad thing, but as I have gotten older I have realized it feels more like a cursed shield, one I can hide behind and no one sees my true feelings.
Three years later, as I had my heart ripped out and came to terms, in the most unhealthy of ways, with the unbearable painful death of my sister, I once again had those words repeated. “You would never know you are grieving. You are always smiling. Always happy.”
Outwardly I grinned and bared it.
Inwardly I was screaming fuck you.
Two years later, when I finally opened up and shed the chains of a raging eating disorder and addiction, once again I was told, “I always seemed so happy.”
Like, I had shattered the image of their favorite movie star, how was it that I could possibly be unhappy?
For the record, smiling does not equate to happiness. It might mean a happy moment. For one moment, that just so happens to be captured by a camera I may or may not have forgotten all my problems. Or maybe it is just easier to smile then to admit to someone, I am having a shoddy day.
Anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, but, yeah, I was fucking “Happy.”
Our “Happy” Persona
We portray an image we want people to see. An image that at our core, we want to be true. With the rise of social media and people using various platforms, portraying an image whether it is one of success, of happiness, of glamour, it is SO easily a front and rarely do people seek to break down the walls and see the real person. The real struggles. They just see our “persona.” In many ways they don’t want to see past it, and we don’t want them too.
Fame. Money. Glamour. None of that guarantees happiness and just because a person might have one or all doesn’t necessarily mean they are happy. More often then not that drive is so we don’t have to feel or face our emotions. The majority of comedians have dealt with depression and/or anxiety, AND THAT is why they became comedians. To bring happiness to others so that people may not experience the pain that they do.
We live in a society where we connect more through a screen then picking up the phone or meeting for coffee. It is easier to say we have thousands of friends, then to admit we probably have handful. And it is easier to portray a fab life, then to admit you had a shoddy day.
A Second Chance
I admittedly have never been low enough to want to take my life, but I did engage in behaviors that very nearly killed me and I was low enough to not care.
Somehow I pulled myself up from rock bottom. It wasn’t easy and it took a hell of a lot of soul searching, therapy, and learning to rewire the thoughts running through my brain. Even now, I still get the occasional tug of those darker self loathing voices that want to take me back into hell.
But I am incredibly fortunate.
I got that second chance to live. Truly live.
Others are not so fortunate.
Mental health isn’t some made up illness. It isn’t “All in the head.” It is very real and we as a society NEED to do more. As human beings we NEED to be better. We need to erase the stigma, the stereotypes and END the shaming. We NEED to do better at funding and making treatments more readily available. We NEED to do better. Mental illness does not discriminate. It affects people of every race, ethnicity, gender, class, it does not care where you come from. And chances are it affects someone YOU know.
Many people were shocked that someone who seemed so “Happy” in one of their last interviews (thanks ABC for that one) could take her life. None of us know the demons, but at the core she obviously thought her family, friends, and her daughter were better off without her.
Let THAT sink in.
No one saw her pain.
We need to SEE better. We need to offer help better. We NEED to do better. We need to open our eyes and stop judging. Stop assuming we KNOW what someone is going through. We don’t. But we can connect. We can reach out. We can raise awareness. WE can be the love we so desperately want and need to see in this world.
For all those hurting and hiding behind “happy” smiles, I see you and I love you. And it may not seem like it, but it does get better. 💗
For anyone who needs help please, please call:
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255