Monday, 16 January 2017

MH Monday: The pressure to be happy

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Why is it, when you're suffering from depression, that some of the happiest days of the year can actually feel like the saddest? Christmas, birthdays, family meetings, holidays etc. These were the days that I could feel at my lowest. 

One day that I remember vividly is my Year 11 prom. There was such a huge build up to it that it was going to be such a fun night that we would all remember for the rest of our lives, but I honestly spent the majority of the night crying or feeling upset. My depression hadn't really been diagnosed at that point, and I found it so difficult to control my emotions. I was supposed to spend the time having fun with friends and laughing uncontrollably, but instead I felt extremely depressed and didn't enjoy the night at all.

I also remember many days on holidays and trips away where I would feel down. When I was in Australia last summer, it was my 23rd birthday. This should have been an amazing day for me - it was my birthday, I was in Oz, and the sun was shining! But instead I spent the day crying and feeling homesick, and I felt low in energy so I slept for a good few hours. Although this could partially have been because I was away from my family for my birthday, but I have had similar experiences during holidays in the past.

I could reel off loads of examples of when I 'should' have been happy, but actually spent the day feeling very depressed, perhaps partly because it should have been a happy day, but that would get very boring.

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Why does this happen? I think that the pressure to be happy actually made me unhappy. Holidays, birthdays, Christmas, New Year - they are all supposed to be happy times, where everyone is celebrating and joyful. There is a lot of pressure to join in with this, too - nobody wants to be around someone who is not enjoying themselves during these events. Then I would start to feel guilty about feeling down, when nothing in particular was wrong and I knew I should feel good, and that would make me feel even worse. One huge spiral.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't spend every happy event depressed. I actually can't think of a time where I have been unhappy on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, and I think this is mainly due to my family as our Christmases always live up to expectations without much pressure at all. Christmas has always been my favourite time of year. But birthdays? Definitely. Family meet-ups? I can think of many times where I just couldn't stop crying. New Year? Oh, I always cry on NYE. 

I think the point I'm trying to make is that people can't make themselves be happy. Special events don't cure depression, and the pressure to be happy can actually sometimes make it worse. Try and understand what might be going on in someone's head if they're not enjoying themselves as much as they perhaps should be during a happy time - and be patient with them. Depression can feel a lot easier when there is less pressure to 'cheer up', and when you are surrounded by understanding and non-judgmental people.
It's not the future that you're afraid of. It's repeating the past that makes you anxious.

1 comment:

  1. This something I used to feel a lot through university. The bigger the night out, the more likely I was to cry, hide and go home early (and whether I drank or not made no difference!). End of exams I used to struggle with - I just couldn't make myself feel happy and then I worried that I wasn't happy and got more anxious and spiralled from there.
    Jennifer X
    Ginevrella | Lifestyle Blog