The Other Me

“Come on, sweetheart; won’t you give me a smile? Is that too much to ask? Just one smile?”

Do I have to?

I know, in life, you’re going to have to say and do a lot of things that aren’t true, just to make other people happy. Words like “I’m fine” will have to escape your lips. “It’s all okay.” “No, I’m totally not on the verge of a breakdown, what are you talking about, this is my regular face.” But it’s just that… I’m so fucking tired of smiling. My face hurts, and I can feel my eye twitching from the strain, but you ask me to smile and I do it because what other choice do I have? I’ll just wait until your back is turned to let it fall. You won’t even realize it left; by the time you turn around again, it’ll be back, and you’ll be just as fooled by it as ever.

“Oh, come now, dear, that isn’t very happy. Cheer up! Tell us a different story! Give us a lesson, a moral, a happy ending so that we can all leave you feeling better about ourselves!”

Why would I? Maybe there is no lesson. Maybe this is just the way it is. Maybe there is no great, big take-away, maybe there is no reason, no rhythm, no rhyme. Maybe the world is just one great, big stinking cesspool, and we’re all trying to force reason into it. Maybe life is nothing more than a constant stream of pain from which we can never fully escape. Maybe I spend all my time waiting for things to get better – just one more year, three more months, another day, things will be fine, I promise – and maybe it’s all just one great lie that I tell to keep myself from giving up.

Do I really believe that? Of course. Of course not. I won’t in an hour, at least, and I don’t even know if I do now, but now it feels like the right thing to say. Right now, whether or not it’s true doesn’t matter; what matters is that it reflects my mood.

I’m not saying it because I want you to believe it. I don’t. The only reason I’m saying it is so that you can see into my mind. So that you can understand why I hesitate when you ask me to smile.

Would you smile if these meaningless thoughts kept returning to your mind?

Stop ignoring me! Stop pretending that she is better than me, because she isn’t! She, the other me, the one who smiles without being told, the one who gives you inspiration that’s fresh and new and meaningful at the drop of a hat. She exists, but so do I. We take turns; sometimes she’s in charge, sometimes I am. And sometimes, she leaves me holding the bag, struggling to fill in for all the things she does, all the jobs she told me she’d be able to handle.

“Smile, dear. The other you does.”

I know. But I’m not her right now.

“Give us a happy story, dear. The other you does.”

I know. But I’m not her right now.

“Well, when will the other you be back? You’re tiresome and annoying; bring her back.”

I can’t. I can’t just summon her from thin air. She needs to return of her own accord. And until then, I’m all you’ve got. I’m sorry that isn’t enough for you, but I’m trying. Believe me, I’m trying so fucking hard, that I literally cannot do any more for you.

And why do I have to be her anyway? Why do I have to pretend for you? Why does every story need to be wrapped up nicely with a happily-ever-after? Why does every face need a smile to be considered polite? She’ll come back eventually, and when she does, you’ll get all of those, but in the meantime, why do I have to lie for you?

I don’t want to pretend. We shouldn’t have to. We should be allowed to feel how we feel, regardless of how we were yesterday. Because sometimes, we’re going to be happy, and sometimes we’re going to be mopey and tired and depressed. Both are perfectly alright. Both are part of being human.

Consistency is overrated; we are ever changing. Be who you are today, whoever that may be. Love who that is, and don’t compare them to who you were. Because fighting ourselves, forcing ourselves to be someone we want, is only going to make those moments of depression longer and harder to deal with.

She, the other me, the other you, will come back. But for now, don’t deny who you are.

 

Advertisements

All Happiness is Valid

Enjoy life to the fullest.

Talk about your passions, even if you suspect that the people around you might not be quite as invested in them as you are.

Get excited, jump up and down and scream, speak in a high-pitched, squeaky voice and don’t worry about the possibility that you might be annoying other people.

Love things. Love things deeply. Love material things and non-material things. Enjoy the feeling of sun on your face, or the way that ink spills easily out of a new pen. Enjoy wasting hours away on the internet. Enjoy every bite you take, whether that bite be out of an apple or a doughnut.

Read books that you want to read, rather than the books that you think make you look or sound most intelligent.

Play video games on easy, because you don’t have to be good at them to enjoy them.

Shave your head because you’ve always wanted to know what you might look like with it, or dye your hair a funky colour because you have the opportunity to.

Dress up a bit more than the occasion calls for, for no other reason than because you enjoy looking good.

Look good for yourself, rather than anybody else. Try out that new make-up look or wear that outfit, even if you think people won’t like it.

We don’t need to justify ourselves.

Because, here’s the thing: life can suck. In fact, at one point or another, life will suck. It’s unavoidable. We all deal with hardships, and we all have traumas from our past that we are struggling with, and we all have moments where everything just feels pointless and difficult.

Many of us, in fact, will even feel like giving up every now and again.

So, all of that considered, it seems sort of silly to deny ourselves pleasures, even seemingly small, insignificant ones, just because we’re worried about what other people might think.

Life is hard, and we all need those things that will get us through the day. Some of us are fortunate enough to have a network of supportive and loving friends and family to pull us out of our dark times, while some of us have little more to look forward to than the sun on your face. But we all have something. If we just allow ourselves the chance to search for it, we will find something that brings us even the smallest amount of joy in the most bitter times. And sometimes, all we need to pull ourselves through are those small, fleeting moments of happiness.

And nobody should ever feel silly or insignificant for the things that bring a smile to their face.

So, please, the next time that you see someone thoroughly enjoying something, even if you don’t understand it yourself, allow them enjoy it. And the next time that you are enjoying something that other people might not understand, allow yourself to enjoy it. We all deserve our happiness, no matter what form it takes. All happiness is valid, and all happiness is necessary. Because you are valid, and you are necessary, and nobody should ever make you feel otherwise.

Is Happiness Really a Choice?

I think we’ve all heard the phrase “happiness is a choice” tossed around every now and again. Sometimes we hear it used seriously, by people who actually, genuinely believe that it is true. Sometimes we hear it used sarcastically, by people who are struggling, in one way or another, and cannot imagine how such a thing is possible.

And I have to admit, coming from the perspective of someone who has dealt with depression and who, chances are, will always live with anxiety, I do come to this phrase with a slightly… different perspective from what might be considered the average person who takes it seriously.

I mean, I know that happiness sometimes isn’t a viable choice. When my depression returns, and my mood takes a shocking dip into not-okay territory, I can’t instantly stop that just because I don’t want it to happen. If I could, I would do it, because you know what? Being depressed isn’t fun. I don’t like waking up and wondering what the point of my life is. I don’t like feeling like I haven’t contributed anything to the world, or like nobody would really care if I stopped being here. Those are all feelings that I would choose to avoid if I could.

The same goes for my anxiety. I mean, have you ever had a panic attack? They’re embarrassing at best and exhausting at worst, and most of the time, even I’m aware that they’re about nothing. I know the world won’t end if I don’t finish this project on time, or if I take on something new, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t worry me.

That’s just the nature of living with a mental illness; you can’t just banish it because you don’t want to deal with it. Trust me, I wish I could. I have wasted hours, even days of my life, wishing that I could just think and be like any neurotypical person would.

But at the same time, I still sort of believe that happiness is a bit of a choice.

And I know, I know; what I just said sounds incredibly contradictory, and like I’m turning my back on my mentally ill brothers and sisters. But hear me out:

While not everyone who uses this phrase will understand that happiness isn’t an immediate choice for people living with depression, anxiety, or any other breed of mental illness, I don’t think that means that it can’t be a long-term choice.

We can’t banish a depressive episode because we don’t want it. We can’t suppress a panic attack because we choose to. But what we can do, what we do have power over, is how we choose to react to the fact that we have these issues.

You have two options when you’re faced with these issues: you can choose to seek help, in whatever way that might mean. You can try to talk to people, whether that be a friend, a family member, a doctor, a therapist, a support group, a journal, an online blog, your guinea pig, or whatever. And, yes, sometimes this can be a bit outside of your control too: sometimes the people we choose to talk to don’t understand us, but that doesn’t mean that we stop trying. And if we feel comfortable and if we can afford it, there is also the option of medication, which has been proven to improve the lives of countless people living with mental illness – not by making them neurotypical, necessarily, but by making the more dangerous and harmful parts of their mental illness easier to deal with. Not only that, but there are several other options that have been proven to make life easier for people living with mental illness, such as healthy eating, exercise, and meditation.

Or, you can take the second option: you can choose to suppress it. You can not talk about it. You can not seek help. You can never awknowledge that there might be something causing you to feel the way that you do, and as a consequence, you can continue to suffer under the weight of your mental illness. That is your choice.

And I know – trust me, I understand that sometimes, the lines between these two choices get blurred when you’re dealing with a mental illness, especially if you haven’t been diagnosed yet or you’re still questioning whether the way you feel is valid or not. When you’re depressed or anxious, your mind – which is, I repeat, ill – might repeatedly tell you that you’re wrong, that you’re just looking for attention, that there’s no way to help you and you should just give up. But there are options for people living with mental illness. If one doesn’t work, then you try another until you find something that does. People can and have found ways to make their life not only bearable, but happy and worthwhile, despite dealing with mental illness.

We talk about people who are depressed or anxious or otherwise mentally ill as though there is no possibility that they can ever lead a happy, fulfilling life, but that just isn’t the case. I might get depressed from time to time, I might have to make a point of moving gingerly around my anxiety lest I set it off, but that doesn’t mean that, overall, I’m not happy with my life. I am. I am taking strides to make life easier for me in the long run, and I am working toward my goals and dreams as best I can.

And when we say ‘happiness is a choice’, I think we too often confuse it for ‘constant happiness is possible’. It isn’t. Even if you aren’t dealing with a mental illness, there are going to be times when life, quite frankly, sucks. Sometimes, people die, or tragedies strike, or our relationships crumble, or we get let go of jobs. And when that happens, of course you are going to be sad, of course you are going to be hurt and angry and resentful. But the difference between people who choose happiness and the people who don’t, is that those who choose happiness eventually try to do something about their bitterness, and even if it doesn’t work immediately (heck, it very well might not), they do eventually let go of it and move on. Those who choose otherwise don’t. They hold onto their pain like a lifeline, feeling justified in being cruel and miserable because life wasn’t fair to them.

I have known too many people who have become addicted to misery, who feel lost without something to complain about and feel slighted from. And by knowing these people, I came to the conclusion that I never wanted to be that. So, while it isn’t always easy, while it’s not consistently possible at every moment of the day, I work hard for my happiness.

And that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have panic attacks that make me miserable and pull the proverbial rug out from under my feet. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still have depressive episodes that last for days, sometimes even weeks. All that means is that, when I hit rock bottom, my goal is always to pick myself up and start climbing again. And maybe all that is difficult and exhausting, and maybe it sometimes does feel impossible. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthwhile.

I don’t choose constant happiness because that isn’t an option; what I choose is overall happiness.

 

Why We Need to Let the Ones We Love Make Mistakes

When it comes to relationship advice, pretty much anywhere you look, the word ‘trust’ will come up. In fact, in our society, trust has come to be up there with love and loyalty as far as traits that make a successful relationship.

But what, exactly, does it mean?

Trust that our loved ones won’t cheat on us? That’s certainly important; you can’t build a healthy relationship while simultaneously getting offended every time that they talk to someone of the gender or genders they’re interested in.

Trust that our loved ones won’t hurt us? Well, we have to trust that they won’t hurt us intentionally or excessively, but a little bit of pain is just part of the territory every now and again.

But what about trusting them not to do something stupid? Trusting them not to put their foot in their mouth? Trusting them not to make mistakes or royally fuck things up in their own lives? Is that sort of trust important?

Because sometimes, it can be really, really hard; I get it. We are talking about someone you care about, and when they start to do something that you not only disagree with, but that you can see potential ramifications for in the near or distant future, you might want to get involved.

You might want to steer them away from saying that thing that might fuck things up.

You might want to tell them not to do something that poses a potential risk, just because you don’t want to see them get hurt.

You might worry about them, and worry about them a lot, because they matter to you, and their happiness and wellbeing matters to you. And we all know that everyone makes mistakes every once in a while, and you might start to think that, if you can help them just avoid those mistakes beforehand, tell them what to do and how to act now before anyone gets hurt, then you’re just looking out for them. You’re just being a good partner to them.

But let’s go back to that idea of trust now, because I’m going to suggest something here: you need to trust them to be able to handle their own lives.

And I’m not saying that relationships aren’t a partnership and that you shouldn’t work together; you should. But when it comes to your partner’s life, work, hobbies, and friendships, that is their business. They might talk to you about it. You might be able to give them insight and input about what they can do about it. But end of day, that is their life, and they should be free to live it. And you need to trust that they have the judgement and intelligence to live it well.

And I know what you might be thinking now: but what if they don’t? What if they fuck up? What if they say the wrong thing to the wrong person, and they lose a friend, or they embarrass themselves, or they get themselves punched? What if they lose their job? What if they make the wrong decision and regret it later? Isn’t it better for me to guide them and make sure that they can avoid all of that?

Well, in my opinion, no, and for a few reasons.

First of all, maybe your partner will make mistakes. It’s totally possible; we all do, after all. We all say stupid things from time to time and make the wrong decision. We all lose friends or jobs or pride. It happens. And that’s the point; it happens to all of us. It’s a human experience, and it happens for a reason. We make mistakes so that we can learn from them. We say stupid things so that we can realize that they’re stupid and not say them again. We make the wrong decision so that we can realize that it’s the wrong decision and fix it later. It isn’t always as simple as that, no; sometimes it takes time, and sometimes that time is spent in regret or depression or anxiety, and it can be very hard for us to see our loved ones experience that, but sometimes they just have to. That’s just part of life, and you can’t keep them from living life. Chances are, you wouldn’t even want to.

Secondly, you might think that you are helping them avoid mistakes, but you can never really know for sure. Though your heart might be in the right place when you lead them toward making a certain decision, they might later decide that that was the wrong decision, and that the alternative would have been preferable. And maybe they would have chosen the alternative if they had just gone with their gut rather than allow themselves to be influenced by outside parties. It’s hard to say; not one of us living has all the answers. If we did, we wouldn’t run into these conundrums in the first place.

When it comes to relationships, we need to trust our partners to be able to use their own judgement and their own intelligence. We need to have faith that, when faced with difficult choices, they will make the one that feels right to them, and hopefully that choice is the right one. And if it isn’t, if it’s the choice that leads to pain and heartbreak, then we need to try to be there for them to the best of our ability. But end of day, we should not try to tell our partners what to do and how to act, because that isn’t actually doing them any favours. When we do this, it doesn’t actually help them to grow as people, but leaves them stagnant, relying on you to tell them right from wrong, which is not a healthy way to lead a life. And when we do this, we are communicating to them that we do not trust them to lead their own lives. We place ourselves in the role of parent and them in the role of misbehaving child, even if that is not what we intended. And though our hearts are in the right place, it is not fair to our partners.

So though it might be difficult to trust that the universe will be fair to the ones that mean the most to us, we need to at least trust our loved ones to have the ability to navigate their way through it. Have faith in their abilities, because they are much more capable than you might even realize.

What I Am Going to Be

I have a picture in my head of what I’m going to be.

I’m going to be big. Not too big – I’m not going to be talked about hundreds of years from now like Shakespeare or anything. I’m not going to last long enough for people to start arguing about whether or not I actually existed. But still, there will be people who will know my name, people who I haven’t met before. That would be enough for me.

I’m going to be stable, and I’m going to land my dream job, and I’m going to be satisfied with it. I’m not going to go home after a long day at work and feel like nothing I did mattered, or like it was all just a big waste of time. No, I’m going to change people’s lives. I’m going to make a difference in this world.

I’m going to be happy. I don’t entirely know how yet, but when I look into my future, I see it. I see me, fifty years old, smiling and serene and satisfied with my lot, proud of my past self for not giving up. I’m going to have a system of support around me – friends, colleagues, a partner maybe (if I get really crazy with the happiness).

In short, I’m going to be okay. I see it. I feel it there, just there, just beyond my reach, and if I just keep trying, just keep reaching for what I want, I know I can get there, I can, it’s just…

It’s hard.

It’s hard to remain convinced that what I see is real, it’s achievable. I can get everything I want if I just keep trying. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to spend all my life trying and trying and trying, and it’s never enough, no matter what I do, because regardless of persistence or resilience or talent, I just wasn’t born in the right place, to the right family, knowing the right people. That would never happen.

Right?

But at the end of the day, do my doubts even matter? Because, hell, maybe my doubts are correct. Maybe my vision of the future is a lie that I tell myself to make these meaningless work days go by a little bit faster, these constant rejections feel a little less final. But either way, I think I need to live as though this vision of the future is real. I need to pretend that I can be big and stable and happy, so long as I just keep trying. Because at the end of the day, I know that I can’t give up now. If I give up, then that vision of the future is guaranteed to be a lie. If I keep trying, then how can I know for sure?

So I’ll keep trying. And I’ll keep telling myself that that picture in my head is what I am going to be. Because that’s what I want. More than anything in this world, that is what I want.