I was just thinking this morning about a feeling that I get sometimes when I’m sort of emerging from a pit of depression. There’s a definite voice in my head that says, “Excuse me, what do you think you’re doing? You’re not allowed to be happy!”
I remember last April, when I was officially ‘diagnosed’, immediately thinking that I needed to make sure that I didn’t smile because my family and friends would think I was faking my depression.
What’s particularly strange is that for years up to that point I had been suffering with feelings of depression and anxiety but still been able to have many moments of happiness. So why would I have to be consistently miserable now that my condition was known to those around me?
Well, let me give you some background. I was one of the people who bought into the stereotype of those with depression. You know the one I mean, that you can tell if someone has depression because they wear it all across their face. E.g. “Have you seen Ellice? She looks so depressed!”
What I’ve learnt through my own pain and through learning of others who suffer, is this: every person looks different and is different and every person who has depression or anxiety or diabetes or asthma looks different and is different. So I don’t have to look a certain way to convince other people of the validity of my emotional state.
And this is how I look when I’m depressed or anxious:
Okay, so now back to am I allowed to be happy? The answer is yes! Of course. Yesterday was one of my not-so-good days where just getting out of bed was an achievement and everything else was a huge effort. Today though, it seems as though the fog has cleared and I feel as if I could experience happiness. Yet the voice tells me I’m not allowed; I haven’t suffered for long enough yet. Well, tough luck little voice! I am going to allow myself to be happy today and if it doesn’t work out I know you’ll be there waiting for me, until I’m strong enough to get rid of you for good. So there!
To demonstrate, this is his how I look when I’m happy: