Happiness: A Quest

Most people who know me always say that I am one of the most cheerful people they have ever met. They say that they seldom see a frown on my face and that my laugh is infectious and smile-inducing.

This is true.

My acquaintances somehow believe that I see a unicorn and rainbow-filled world through rose-colored glasses. For them, the world I live in is one in which the everyday worries and hassles that are part and parcel of being a fourth year occupational therapy student do not bother me.

This version of me that they see, sadly, could not be further from the truth.

What makes this even sadder is that at some faraway point in the past, it used to be true. I was once a cheerful, bright-eyed girl with big dreams and a strong will. This girl is slightly diminished now, worn away by stress and the crushing reality of life. And though this girl is fighting to bring back her old self, she still slips into sadness for the simple fact that this sadness has now become so familiar that happiness feels alien.

I can’t really remember the last time I could say that I was genuinely happy and satisfied with the life I’m living. I’m just going through the motions and sleeping with my eyes open. And all the time, as I’m fixing my morning coffee, as I’m submitting papers, as I go home from school, sadness accompanies me, if that’s even the appropriate word for it. The sadness was deep and profound at first, but now that I’ve gotten so used to it, it’s just numbness. I feel nothing, and it’s a hundred times worse than sadness. I would take sadness over this any time. At least it was a real emotion.

I feel like a hypocrite sometimes. People still see me laughing and smiling and cracking inane jokes, and they believe that I’m genuinely happy. I wonder how they could fall for that mask. It’s so obviously fake. For all of that expression’s authenticity, I might as well have painted a clown smile on my face. It wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

I should talk to someone about this. I know it’s unhealthy to keep my emotions bottled up inside me, as I have so often told those who have asked for advice from me before. It’s not that I don’t have anyone to talk to. I have my family, and I have friends who are willing to lend a listening ear to me anytime. My problem is that I don’t have anyone to talk to who understands what I’m going through right now in its entirety.

The problem is that for many people, depression is just sadness. If you will yourself to be happy, then you can and will be happy. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t. I already tried it. When I confide to my family about it, they tell me to “just be happy” as if this is all my fault, as if I’m doing this to myself. And maybe it is, in a way. Maybe if I was stronger, I wouldn’t be the way I am now. But who am I kidding? When I take their advice, I only end up feeling worse than when I started out.

Another problem is that no matter who I confide in, the numb feeling lingers. It used to be that I would just talk to someone or write about how I was feeling, and I would feel better. It’s not like that anymore, and this is how I know that what I’m dealing with is not mere sadness.

However terrible my situation is now, there are things I can still be thankful for. The difficulties I’m facing now are probably far greater than any I have ever faced before, but I still believe they’re there to strengthen me and help me grow. I am learning much from this humbling experience, and the most important lesson is this: you are responsible for your own happiness, and no one else. Others can help you feel better, but you are the only one who has the power to choose to feel better.

I find it strange that my first post here is about depression. If I had another option, I would have chosen a happier topic. But I am a firm believer in writing from the heart. I will not force my writing to be happy because I am not. Still, I hope and pray that I will be one day. And when the time comes, my pen and paper, or rather my keyboard, will be ready.