Sometimes we feel ashamed to admit when we’re depressed or struggling. For me, personally, I feel pressure to always be happy. This pressure not only comes from those who have known me to be the girl who is always smiling, always laughing, even when she’s crying, and the one who always looks at the positives more than the negatives; but this pressure is even more so self-inflicted. I want to be that person 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That Sandy has a ton of friends. She interviews cool celebrities. She travels the country by herself like a boss. That Sandy wrote 8 novels that she hopes will inspire others to be happy.
The truth is… Happiness is not easy. It is a feeling, and like most feelings, it can also be fleeting. No single feeling can last every minute of every day. We need balance. Without fear, anger, pain, passion, sadness and exhaustion, how can we even appreciate happiness? I have tried my hardest to reject negative feelings most of my life. I thought it was simple: I’ll choose to be happy. You can choose many things in life: what to wear, where you go, who your friends are, but you can’t always choose which types of emotions you feel.
While I do support things like gratitude journals and thinking positively along with incorporating small things that make you happy daily, you can’t just turn off your other emotions. Just because you ignore them doesn’t mean they’re not there; building inside of you, bringing you down as much as you try and fight it, and paint the portrait of happiness to the outside world.
Believe me, I’ve tried. At 32, I still try to be that agreeable bubbly ball of sunshine everyone loved. For those friends who knew my back story of growing up in an abusive home in the projects, they commended me on my attitude toward life. As for my extended family members, we all laughed off any kind of abusive behavior in the family. Maybe that was the only way we knew how to deal with it. “Your father is ridiculous,” one of us would say. “So was mine,” the other would agree. That was that. We turned out just “fine”. Every family has issues. And yes, they do. Bypassing abuse though is harmful as is bypassing your emotions.
My approach was simple: keep looking ahead. That was why I always had a list of goals. That was why I’ve remained so determined in life, accomplishing many of my goals early on. It kept me focused; it kept me moving forward instead of looking back. That’s all great. I have achieved plenty with that mindset. I am proud of the strength, will, and positive reinforcement I provided myself. I am grateful that I was able to love myself enough to believe I wouldn’t be deterred from things I wanted, even when so many people told me I was just a dreamer.
However, not dwelling and avoidance catches up to you. Is it normal to not be able to express anger? I literally do not know how to be mad. I feel pain instead or I move on quickly. Forgiveness is wonderful, but to not give anyone any consequences out of fear of them losing their temper or worse, me losing mine, will leave me open to swallowing emotions and being used. I’ve been victim to it, but thankfully, I keep pretty good company these days. One thing I have learned is to weed out the people who purposely hurt me, or even unknowingly hurt me.
Still, I am so afraid to lose my temper because of what I witnessed growing up. Lost tempers lead to things broken, Moms yelled at, kids hit, and sometimes even the dog gets an a beating–if you know me, you know those are 3 groups of lifeforms you NEVER mess with. Lost tempers lead to shame, guilt, betrayal and horrific insults. I do not know how to lose my temper. I have trained myself to hide anger behind a smile. I’ve trained myself so well that sometimes I can’t even tell when I’m truly angry. It’s somewhat funny when I’m outraged. I will literally shout, “I’m so angry right now!” But it is usually followed with a laugh or smile, that no one even believes the words I say. Sometimes I don’t even believe me. I used to think this was a wonderful quality, but now, I know I am suppressing so much.
Anger is not the only emotion I can’t handle. Depression/sadness that lasts longer than fifteen minutes is unacceptable. I fight it by trying to give myself goals, ie: go to the gym, write, cook a healthy meal, etc. I try to encourage myself with things that will make me “happy”. When I either don’t have the energy or even want to do those “happy” things and rather fall asleep and dwell on the numbness, that isn’t “normal” to me. I actually hate myself in those moments. I hate what I’m feeling. I hate that I wasted time laying in bed. I wonder what is wrong with me, and I think these thoughts are the closest I come to expressing anger. And of course, that anger is toward myself. I berate myself. I think I’m lazy. I think I’m unmotivated and unsocial. I’m not “normal”.
I turn into my father lecturing me and picking me apart. I can hear myself trying to argue with him. “But I work a lot; I deserve a day doing nothing. I’m definitely not lazy. I need a day of rest. It’s okay. I don’t have to do anything if I don’t want to.” I don’t usually hear myself–the one who is trying to come at me with love, and who will listen to all of my feelings, whether they’re good or bad.
I sometimes fall victim to that inner child, trying to please everyone else and hoping I don’t get in trouble. I want to allow the adult in me to stick up for myself more; to get mad; to be sad; to allow myself to feel everything and not simply “get over it”, but accept the feelings and my reactions toward them. I want to understand that I’m not supposed to be happy 24/7 and that there is no normalcy. I’m weird and I’m fun. I’m driven and passionate. I’m strong and loved, but there will always be someone who doesn’t love me, and that’s okay too. I experience fear, pain, love, hate, loneliness, anger, and ALL the things at any given moment. It doesn’t mean I am a miserable sack of poop that no one wants to be around! I’m human and happiness will always be lurking around the corner, and it might just come out after I have a good argument with someone. I’m giving myself permission to get mad or sad or tired or silly or so happy it might make others sick!
I will work on expressing all of my feelings. That is the only goal on my list right now.