When the Glass Isn’t Half-Full

9 Mar

by Susan Dennard

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Disclaimer: First of all, this post deviates some from the usual stuff.  It’s not really about writing as it is about life in general (which in turn affects one’s writing).

Secondly, this post is not about ME.  Yes, I use ME as an example because I’m the only person I know well enough to mention.  But, please, if you leave a comment, talk about YOU—what you think of the post, if you’ve ever been in this situation, and more importantly HOW YOU FEEL NOW.

Lately, there’s been some buzz on the internet about social networking contributing to depression.  I won’t reinvent the wheel, but instead send you to an article here.  Read it when you have time, and know that today’s topic stems from that hubbub.

I have to be honest: writing this post took a lot of…well, I’m nervous about your reactions.  It’s not something I want to discuss openly—especially in a forum as public as the internet!  But, I also think it’s this universal silence that makes me (and others) too scared to acknowledge what’s really happening.

Sometimes, I’m not happy.

And not just a little unhappy, but really, cruddy-life-is-blue-unhappy.

Sometimes there’s a reason, like I got fired from my job.  Or sometimes there’s not a reason at all…nothing tangible I can blame.

At first, my gloominess is something I can ignore. Something I can brush aside, hide with a smile, and pretend just isn’t there.

But then, sometimes it isn’t.

Like lately.  Lately, my melancholy has transformed into something darker and harder to deal with.  It’s a lack of desire to leave bed in the morning.  A loss of motivation to write or read or enjoy life.  And two weeks ago, it finally reached a point where I couldn’t smile and say, “Yeah! I LOVE my life!” because, for whatever reason (loneliness? hormones? vitamin-D deficiency?), I was at a real, unavoidable low.

The problem was tweeting happy blurps and grinning on my blog, when in reality, I was pretty lonely and worried.

The problem was seeing everyone else’s online “happiness” and thinking I had to feel that way too.  Thinking there was something wrong with me for being sad.  Thinking I should feel guilty for not being content all the time.

The problem was feeling sad but trying to pretend I wasn’t.

And like some nasty, untended tumor, that just made the problem WORSE.

But I finally realized something,  and it’s time to be open about it.

There’s nothing wrong with being sad or stressed or lonely or uninspired–whether you have a solid reason or not.

Happiness isn’t a constant state; it’s moments of joy that, when added together, outweigh the  moments of melancholy.

My favorite author, Ursula K. Le Guin, has an essay on happiness (called “All Happy Families”) in which she rants quite eloquently over why writers must be “unhappy” to be considered high quality.

I think the opposite happens these days, and writers (or rather ANYONE with an online presence) must be “happy” all the time.  Unhappy people are automatically lumped into this complaining, self-indulgent group of “losers”.  As the article from Stanford says, “You don’t tell your friends about how miserable you are because that wouldn’t be ‘cool.’”

People will think I’m whining if I tell them how I really feel.

My friends will think I just want attention.

They’ll think I’m a big, fat LOSER because they’re so happy and glamorous, and I’m…not.

Except that’s not true.  When I finally admitted to my husband that I was feeling down, I wasn’t doing it for attention or because I wanted pity!  I was doing it because it was too exhausting to keep pretending otherwise, and just admitting verbally that I was kinda depressed took such a weight off!  Just knowing he knew, just knowing I didn’t have to wear a fake smile and I could act blah/grumpy/sad without hurting him made an instant difference in my mood.

And when my mood swung back up, so did my writing. And the more writing I could finally accomplish, the higher and higher my mood rose.  (It didn’t hurt either that the sun finally broke through the clouds this week!)

Here’s a quote from Le Guin’s essay:

The enormous cost and complexity of ‘happiness,’ its dependence upon a whole substructure of sacrifices, repressions, suppressions, choices made or forgone, chances taken or lost, balancings of greater and lesser evils—the tears, the fears, the migraines, the injustices, the censorships, the quarrels, the lies, the angers, the cruelties it involved—is all to be swept away, brushed under the carpet by the brisk broom of a silly phrase, ‘a happy family’?

What she’s saying is that the word “happy” isn’t a uniform sense of never-ending well-being.  One person’s happy isn’t another person’s happy, and trying to hide all the “nasty suff” under the carpet, just devalues the true meaning and hard work behind the word “happy”.

NO, I’m not saying we should all start complaining and begging for attention.

NO, I’m not saying there’s something wrong with you if you really ARE happy 100% of the time.

And NO, I’m not saying we should all write literary fiction where our “unhappy genius” will be appreciated.

What I am saying is that we shouldn’t be ashamed if we’re unhappy—even if we have no real reason for it.

We shouldn’t feel like we have to wear a happy face all the time.  It’s okay to be just blah on Twitter, on our blogs, or with our friends.

And above all, we shouldn’t look at everyone’s smiling exteriors and assume there’s no strife or strain in their lives.

My life is mostly up, but sometimes it’s down.  When it’s up, I write well, work hard, and share it all with my online friends.  But when it’s down…well, I’m tired of pretending it’s always up!

And, I want you all to know that YOU’RE NOT ALONE if you feel this way too.  I’m here if you want to talk about it, or I’m here if you just wanna be able to say, “Look, I’m not weird!  Someone else has been through this.”

🙂

Tell me, do you feel this pressure to constantly wear a happy face?  Do you ever find your work or life suffering because you’re glum?  Do you think the online/social networking scene makes your “negative” feelings worse?

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90 Responses to “When the Glass Isn’t Half-Full”

  1. Sarah J. Maas March 9, 2011 at 2:18 AM #

    This is SUCH a brave, wonderful, and thought-provoking post, Sooz! I am so proud of you for sharing this (I don’t know if I would have had the guts to do it), and I can definitely identify. I’ve read so many blogs/bits of advice that say to keep your mouth shut if you’re feeling anything but confident/happy, and I’ve become cautious about giving off the wrong vibe/attitude. And you’re right: it’s exhausting.

    I LOVE YOU, SOOZ!!!!!!

    Also, I love your new pic!! SO cute!!!

    • Susan March 9, 2011 at 2:25 AM #

      Hahaha, the pic of me with Asimov. Yeah, I didn’t think my usual grinning face was quite appropriate…

      And thanks! I’m still anxious about admitting this, but I feel like it’s better people realize they’re not alone if they feel this way. They can talk to me about it, or they can just know I’m in the same boat. 🙂

  2. K@ March 9, 2011 at 2:33 AM #

    Sooz, you’re one of the most fabulous people I know, and I think this post really highlights that. It’s amazing to share something so personal like this with “strangers”, in a confident way, and with such vibrant reasoning.

    I’m one of those types who always keeps my low times to myself, partly because the way I deal with difficult/hard times is with humor. I hate crying, even alone, about myself, because it feels like I’m admitting that I’m not strong enough. (Also: snot is gross.) So I get where you’re coming from, and I totally agree that admitting to “negative” emotion can be a catharsis in itself.

    A lot of that, I’d say, is from our status as inherently social creatures. Knowing someone else, especially someone we respect, has gone through something similar can be a relief. And, as you say, pretending is exhausting.

    Super good post, Sooz. An important topic for discussion and reflection, definitely.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 3:10 AM #

      Thank Kat. Snot IS gross. And I hate how blubbery I get when I cry. No fun, so I also try to avoid it. Not always possible (especially when PMS is involved! ACK!), but usually I can push that stinging in my eyes and nose aside.

      You’re right, we are social creatures, and I think because of that, we can’t help but compare ourselves to each other. When we see everyone’s glamorous, wonderful, happy lives, it’s so hard NOT to feel down on our own. Ahhh, but what really lies beneath the Facebook veneer?

      You know the Tears for Fears song (and then the cover by Gary Jules) “Mad World”? I think that song epitomizes what happens to us growing up and then as adults. (But don’t worry, the suicidal themes of the song do NOT apply to me.)

      • K@ March 9, 2011 at 3:55 AM #

        It’s interesting the double-edged sword socialization can cause. Considering things like that makes me think of the Dalai Lama’s book THE ART OF HAPPINESS. I don’t remember a lot of it, but the thing that has carried with me to this day is the concept of balance and the middle way. Which is one of the central tenets of Buddhism (hah, “central” tenets. It’s like a pun). We can completely rebuff seeing part of other people’s lives and risk being isolated/fall out of touch, or we can immerse ourselves in them and lose oneself in the process (and also get overwhelmed or feel inadequate).

        And YES I know the song “Mad World,” though I’d only heard the Gary Jules cover before. I just checked out the Tears for Fears original, and I was totally shocked by the difference in tone between them. I think the original is much more ironic, whereas the cover is so melodious and tentative.

        AND I LOVE GARY JULES’ VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N3N1MlvVc4

        It’s like the original flash mob.

        • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 5:54 AM #

          The middle way is a great approach…it’s just not the same for everyone. 🙂 Your middle way could be so much more than mine, and it took me a while to FIGURE THAT OUT. Seems so obvious now, but I honestly thought that what everyone else was capable of was what I was capable of. I mean, you’re a freaking DYNAMO, but…I’m just not. 😛

          And yes, awesome video. Have you seen DONNY DARKO? The song is from that movie…and I ❤ that movies sooooooo freaking much.

          • Savannah J. Foley March 9, 2011 at 10:16 AM #

            Mad World has been in my head for the past 2 days! It usually isn’t because it reminds me of high school when everyone was obsessed with that song, lol. Creepy, we’re on the same vibe!

          • K@ March 9, 2011 at 11:14 AM #

            That is totally true. Someone’s middle might seem completely excessive to another person or totally ascetic to yet someone else. And hey, I know for sure I could appear to be a lazy ass bum to many people considering how many hours I spend under my kotatsu. But it’s my “middle way” (at least for now), and it works. So though I don’t know where you get that dynamo idea, I’ll take it. Maybe someday it’ll come true.

            I’ve seen Donnie Darko so many times I can quote from it. “Why do you wear that stupid man suit?” ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ Now I want to watch it again. DIRECTOR'S CUT.

            • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 11:18 AM #

              OMGosh, my love for you knows no bounds. DUDE, I totally mispelled Donnie. ::facepalm::

              Gah, Donnie fan moment: What’s your favorite scene? Mine is when Drew Berrymore walks outside and SCREEEEAAAAAMS. Most beautiful image EVER.

              Gah, love that movie. Have you watched it with the director’s commentary?

  3. Ashley March 9, 2011 at 2:42 AM #

    I came of age when social networking quote on quote “took over the world”, so I could relate. First it was the friend number wars, then the bullying and consequential suicides.
    Seeing your worse enemy smiling in every photo,and showing off her supposed “fabulous” life can get depressing. I can admit jealousy and loneliness is one of the reasons I deleted my Facebook. I just got sick of feeling inadequate and depressed. I wanted to smile again, if that makes sense. Sometimes you have to step away from the trends and get to what’s real: you’re happiness and well-being.
    Sorry if this was ramble-y. 🙂

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 3:06 AM #

      Not rambling, Ashley!! It’s true! I closed my Facebook for similar reasons–it was exhausting me to get on and be inundated with EVERYONE’S PARTY PICTURES and STATUS UPDATES and NEW FRIENDS. I reopened it because I realize, as a writer, I need a “page”. But I stay off it as much as I can because it’s just not worth the stress.

      I feel a similar nagging sense of exhaustion and inadequacy when I look at people’s blogs or twitter or ANYTHING online, but I’ve been working really hard the last month or so to separate myself from the online media. Easier said than done, I’m afraid…

      • Ashley March 9, 2011 at 3:17 AM #

        I completely understand.

        I’m a stress eater so being on Facebook was not the best for my health, emotionally and physically. I was apprehensive to get a Twitter account just because I didn’t want to get the same feelings of “losery” that I got while being on Facebook. But like you, I see it as my “page”, a place I can go to be a writer and lover and hopefully future maker of books. 🙂

        I see blogs that same way as Twitter now. I place to learn and discuss the craft and meet like-minded people. 🙂

        • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 5:57 AM #

          You’re right that we should use Twitter and Facebook for that. And there is so much I LOVE about Twitter (okay, not Facebook. I hate Facebook.), but it does make it hard to sort through and understand how people REALLY feel. It makes it hard to find people who are maybe having a tough time like you are. I mean, come on! No one wants to see whiny tweets! So…we say happy, upbeat things ALL THE TIME.

          Yes, usually I am happy. But what about when I’m not?

          I’ve finally just accepted that I can disappear for a few days or weeks (rather than force a happy online face), and when I get back, the online community and my online buddies will still be there. 🙂

          • Ashley March 9, 2011 at 5:51 PM #

            That’s the great thing about the Twitter writing community. No one is there to pressure you into a Stepford existence. If you aren’t happy and don’t feel like forcing it, you don’t have to. Take a breather, and we’ll be here to welcome you with open arms when you return.:)

  4. kate March 9, 2011 at 2:57 AM #

    thank you.

    i think it is so important to acknowledge that life isn’t always sunshine and roses. that sometimes…sometimes the world from where we sit looks rather gray, and, as you say, susan, that there doesn’t always seem to be a concrete reason for it. that there may not be something that we can just fix and we’ll feel magically better.

    my dad calls me his sunshine girl. that’s unbelievably cheesy, i know, but that’s my dad for you. i’ve always been pretty upbeat, cheerful to the point of being perceived as ditzy–very glass half-full. but then…then a series of unfortunate events happened. the spring was stressful, the summer was filled with sad events, and my fall was a series of minor and not so minor disasters. and suddenly, i didn’t feel so sunshine girl-y anymore. when i went to work, it was all i could do to keep from crying; when i tried to write, no words came; when i tried to think—to muster some semblance of myself—my mind seemed totally blank.

    and i was *ashamed.* i was so embarrassed by my combination of grief and stress and general overwhelmed-ness that i didn’t want my friends to know, so i joked about how i felt.i thought i was becoming a burden and tiresome to my family and boyfriend, because i couldn’t help but fall to pieces when i talked to them on the phone, and so i just tried to put a happy face on everything. or, at least, a neutral face.

    but that became too much. eventually, late in the fall, i decided that i had to talk to someone that i wouldn’t feel guilty about unloading my problems onto. and i started to feel so much better. and as i started to feel better, i was able to be honest with those closest to me about how i felt, and could start to articulate my feelings, which helped loads, too, and then, things started getting sunshiney again.

    and so i’m back to feeling like me, again. but i think that if i had felt comfortable being honest about how i felt all along, the gloom spiral wouldn’t have taken me nearly so low. so, as acutely uncomfortable as it is to acknowledge that i–or we as a society–struggle with feelings of doubt and sadness and inexplicable bouts of lowness and depression, it’s important. because feeling isolated just amplifies all those feelings. and even though i really *hated* those months that i didn’t feel like myself, i’ve come out on the other side of them having learned that although it can be difficult to admit or acknowledge being in a seriously glum rut, we should not feel ashamed when we do feel like that.

    so this has been ridiculously long, but–thanks you, sooz. i think bad moods need all the positive, honest, press they can get.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 3:15 AM #

      Kate, thank you for sharing this. Reading another person’s honest admission about depression/stress is incredibly cathartic for me–not in a mean way! In a “thank God this has happened to someone else and I’m not a super freakazoid”.

      You’re so right: feeling isolated just amplifies the feelings, and so does being ashamed of it.

      In the last week, my moods have truly sky-rocketed, just like you, I’m back to feeling like my upbeat, cheerful self. It feels wonderful, but at the same time, I’m kinda scared, “What if it happens again?”

      And, while I wrote this post (and then your comment just reinforced it), I realized I just have to be as open about it as I can. Acknowledging the problem will ALWAYS be step #1 to any problem-solving, and for me, it’s one of the hardest and biggest steps!

  5. leslie March 9, 2011 at 3:51 AM #

    Susan,

    I want to thank you for writing this post. This post has helped me more than you could ever know.

    For the past couple days, I’ve been down in the dumps. I wasn’t happy with my life. But I kept it bottled up for too long. I ended up taking it out on my mom and my dad. I blamed them for making my life miserable and now, I feel awful for what I said.

    For months, I’ve been unhappy but I kept pretending I wasn’t. For months, I’ve been trying to find something to blame. Something to use as a scapegoat for how I was feeling. I never confronted MYSELF about it. I never talked to anyone about it because, frankly, I’m not the type of person who spills her thoughts and feelings to those around her.

    Reading this post made me realize it’s ok to be unhappy. I just need to accept my bad days. I need to be able to talk about it. I realized I’m not alone; everyone feels like this once in a while.

    Thank you so much 😀

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 3:55 AM #

      You are so very, VERY welcome. And it IS okay to be unhappy, Leslie…even more important, it’s NORMAL. It’s so easy to forget that with TV and internet and our neighbors all showing us how HAPPY they are All. The. Time.

      I did the same thing: I tried to blame my sadness living in a foreign country, the fact that my husband is always working late or working at home, the absence of sunshine. Yeah, I’m sure those things contribute to my mood, but ultimately, I’m sad because I am. And it’s okay, and I KNOW this won’t last forever.

      And hell, if it hadn’t gone away, there’s always the possibility of seeking professional help–another thing we shouldn’t be ashamed to do!

  6. Stephanie March 9, 2011 at 4:55 AM #

    I completely agree that social media contributes to depression. I definitely tend toward social anxiety in real life, and I think I trick myself into believing that online social media isn’t the same as in person social interaction, when it really can be just as stressful and harmful if you’re not in a good place. I’m an aspiring author, have worked hard on multiple novels, and really feel like my time is NOW (the agents I’ve queried so far disagree). The blogosphere and twitter are chock full of debut author success stories. I feel like I should be a peer of these writers, not a bystander. And, now, thanks to social media, it’s like I have a front row seat to their book deals and tours, their agent stories, their happy families, their perpetually-smiling faces, their chirpy words of wisdom, their never seeming to have money issues–basically, their “togetherness.” All this can make me feel completely inadequate, not to mention the fact that I envy them so much. It got really bad a while back, so much so that I couldn’t even think about my own writing without some tweet or blog post popping into my head, completely taking the wind out of my sails. I eventually decided to unfollow the ones who most contributed to my feelings of inadequacy. I resisted doing that for so long because I really want to be part of this community, and they’re honestly great people–it seemed ridiculous that these nice ladies were at the root of my negative feelings. But, since doing this, I’ve felt so much better. I’m a lot better now about not comparing myself to others’ success stories. I’ve been able to be more productive and not sweat it so much when I get a rejection.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 5:53 AM #

      First of all, Stephanie, I’m really impressed that you could completely leave the online social world behind. Part of me really WANTS to do that, but…I’m scared to let it all go. I definitely have social anxiety (I am a textbook introvert right down to the letter), and it goes against my nature to be so active online.

      Second of all, I can absolutely relate to your envy, and I think you’ve done the right thing to just STOP. I should have done the same thing a year ago when I was stalled on my revisions for The Spirit-Hunters. I’m trying to do that now!

      Because I’ve gotten so exhausted with online stuff lately, I’ve forced myself to cut back. I allow myself 4 thirty-minute sessions each day for internet/social networking (I have a timer beside the computer, and it’s going to go off in seven minutes!). The first thing to get cut back was Twitter–I still tweet, but significantly less. The next thing to go was blogs. I trimmed my RSS feed to just a few important peeps in my life, and I leave them comments. But trying to comment on hundreds of blog posts a day? IMPOSSIBLE! Cutting that from my life has been immensely helpful. Now, I’m working on culling the emails…that’s trickier because I think it’s very important to answer every email I receive, respond to every blog comment, and let my online friends/readers know I’m listening. So, for that, I’m working on prioritizing emails (what needs to be answered now? what can wait until I have more time?).

    • Ashley March 9, 2011 at 5:57 PM #

      I understand what you’re saying. I’ve just recently overcome my own anxiety disorder, and although social networking isn’t exactly the same as outdoor interactions, it has helped me relearn certain social etiquette so that when I am meeting new people outside of the internet, I don’t feel the need to retreat back to my anxieties. It just takes confidence, and that fortunately can be learned. 🙂

  7. Laura March 9, 2011 at 6:02 AM #

    This was a wonderful post!

    I’m living abroad too (in Holland…where the sun FINALLY came out for two days in a row!!!!!!) and while I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, it is really hard being away from friends and family (although, I do have a Dutchman, so I can’t really complain haha!) Part of the reason I started writing was because I felt really isolated here and missed English. My boyfriend is incredibly supportive and gives me as much private time as I need to write, so I feel really guilty having ‘bad days’ (which seem to be frequent lately). They usually come from being sucked into the internet, reading blog post after blog post/tweet after tweet about crazy-high daily word counts/agent offers/blah blah and me falling into a vicious cycle of reading more and more and feeling more and more guilty that I’m STILL working on the same story a year later. However, as luck would have it (?) our modem conked out on Friday, and was without internet for 5 days. I was able to just sit, write, daydream and feel ok about what I was doing without worrying about everyone else! I’m sure I’ll still have crappy days, but it’s awesome that you are inspiring people to talk about them! I don’t feel quite so guilty anymore 🙂

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 7:51 AM #

      Ahh, missing English. I can REALLY relate to that. Yes, my French husband I speak in English, but it’s not his first language! And, no I wouldn’t want him to be different, but I do wish I lived somewhere where I wasn’t the ONLY native English-speaker. 😛

      And thanks for opening up, Laura! It’s such a relief to see other people feel the same way I do. I’m not GLAD you have sad days, but I am GLAD you can share it here. 🙂

      Um, and I started disconnecting my modem on the days I felt really crappy. It helped a LOT!

  8. Ruth Fanshaw March 9, 2011 at 8:50 AM #

    I am just coming out of a bout of clinical depression. I think. Sometimes I relapse, but generally, I like to think I’m convalescing from it.

    It came on because I suppressed – even to myself – the unhappiness I was dealing with. Bottling it up just made it worse.

    So yes, this is spot on! Don’t bottle things up – let them OUT!!! 🙂 Talk to your friends. Share with people you trust. Honestly, it’ll be for the best. 🙂

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 10:52 AM #

      Thanks for sharing your story, Ruth. It seems silly that “letting it out” was such a revelation and game-change for me, but it was. It wasn’t the “obvious” solution…and, honestly, I feel REALLY vulnerable because of this post. Now not just my husband knows how I feel, but EVERYONE.

      But you’re right, that ultimately, sharing with people is for the best. 🙂

  9. Cheyenne March 9, 2011 at 9:43 AM #

    I can relate to this in a huge way.

    I am blessed so much to have had not one but TWO life-long dreams come true, both before I hit 30. I moved from the US to the UK (dream 1) and somehow managed to meet and fall in love with the right guy, finally, after endless relationship shenanigans (dream 2). So two major dreams accomplished before turning 30. I should be ecstatic, right?

    I think some people are genetically prone to having more low thoughts/blue times than others, but it can be fought. I agree with you that, sometimes however, you just need to stop pretending everything’s peachy.

    The internet does play a role, but I think it just has the propensity to feed on what’s already lurking in our mind. I’m worried, frustrated and sensitive about the fact that I graduated with a top degree in June, and have spent the past year as a full-time job-hunter and application-filler-outer (and for a lot of lame jobs too), and checking into Facebook where I see some of my course mates with hot jobs in London makes me feel even lower. But I’m already feeling bad about that.

    I think it means we’re becoming an age where we compare ourselves even more to everyone else around us, which is dangerous. I’m trying to fight it and only now realising it’s not just me, it’s this stinking lousy economy! I know I have a brain, talents, abilities, experience and am a hard worker. So one of these days, someone will pay me. But I don’t want to base my self-worth on that, or what people on FB think about it!

    Anyhow, awesome post 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 10:55 AM #

      Thanks, Cheyenne. I too am REALLY blessed, and I am SO grateful for how wonderful my life is and how many dreams I’ve managed to achieve (just like you!).

      I think you’re right that some people are predisposed to melancholy, and I’m definitely one of those people. Even though I don’t get low that often, when I do, it’s a real, life-altering LOW.

      But, ultimately, I also have brains, talents, and am freaking awesome! 😉 So I just have to remember that, and eventually the sun will come back out!

      • Cheyenne March 9, 2011 at 11:01 AM #

        Amen sister!!! It might sound cheesy but I was forced by my bf to make a list of positives in my life and about myself, and gradually it’s helped me, even a teeny bit, during the low times. I think it’s easy for us to forget how those times come to everyone because all we see is your total awesomeness and upbeat encouragement. Make a list and pull it out when necessary!! 🙂

  10. Catherine Stine March 9, 2011 at 10:00 AM #

    I appreciate an honest post, so thanks! I do think that sometimes reading a zillion blogs and comparing yourself to all of the people on them, can be totally overwhelming. I think at those times, it’s healthy to step back and take a break from trying to keep up with it all. I mean, it doesn’t feel good to watch TV for more than a few hours, right? So, why would it feel good to be on the Net reading and posting for too many hours? It’s a balance, because it’s wonderful to read posts that resonate. And no, no one expects you to be up all of the time! Don’t be too hard on yourself.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 10:58 AM #

      You’re definitely right, Catherine. I hate TV, so I’ve never had much trouble with wasting time there. But if I play video games for a few hours? Never feels good.

      And I think sitting at a computer ALL day for work doesn’t make me feel that great either. 😉 Taking a break really helps. Lately, I’ve started doing yoga (a few sun salutations) every hour and half to help my body and my mind while I work!

  11. Holly March 9, 2011 at 10:07 AM #

    I have definitely been some dark places through my life. Some of them I didn’t think I’d ever make it out of. And you’re right, it’s not something I ever talked about. I was too scared. It’s not easy to talk about it even now — when I’m not in that dark place.

    For me, it was always writing that pulled me through. I journaled mostly back then, but eventually it turned into a memoir, then a novel, then another novel…and eventually…I broke free of that darkness, with a fuller understanding of myself and my feelings.

    I don’t know how much social media played into it back then, but it definitely effects my mood now that I’m so involved in many different places. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. And I always, always try to keep my happy, positive face on in front of people. I always have. But maybe it’s time for that to stop.

    This is an excellent post, Sooz, and you’re very brave for opening the forum for this. Big, huge hugs!! You’re awesome. 🙂

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 11:02 AM #

      Oh gosh, Holly! You’re, like, the cheeriest person I know. I can’t even IMAGINE you sad, though I know you’ve been there.

      You’re, like, my hero because you pulled yourself out of that dark place and transformed your life into this bubbling cauldron of HAPPY! Granted, I only know your “online persona”, but you’re always so open/honest on your blog, that I’ve taken it for granted your “online person” is accurate.

      I think that’s amazing that writing has been your outlet. It’s always been in and out of my life–storytelling or journaling never seem to stay constant. But when I do write, I feel better…so maybe I should start seeing it as a solution to glum moods. I mean, sharing things with a journal can be just as cathartic as sharing with a person!

      Thanks for commenting, Holly. ❤

  12. Savannah J. Foley March 9, 2011 at 10:19 AM #

    Wonderful post, Susan. So proud (is proud the right word?) of you for putting this out there and daring to talk about it. I just wanted to say that you’re absolutely right; talking about not feeling so good will instantly make you feel better, even if it’s only a little bit.

    A few months ago I was feeling very down (again, for no real reason. I think it had to do with writing, or maybe it was work… funny now, I can’t remember), and I finally confessed to Chris that I was exhibiting signs of clinical depression and just wanted him to know. And it got better on its own, but what if it hadn’t? I think talking about it was really key, instead of just holding it in and panicking.

    I feel ‘satisfied’ with my life a lot. I think when we think of being ‘happy’ we really think of being gleeful, when I think happiness is more contentment-related.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 11:05 AM #

      You’re so right, Savannah. Satisfaction and contentment are more what true happiness is about. And I feel both of these things most of the time–honest! 🙂

      And I’m glad you talked to Chris about how you felt because it really does HELP! Acknowledging the problem is such a big, frightening hurdle because 1) it makes us vulnerable, and 2) it admits we’re not perfect–it shows our flaws to the world.

      BUT IT’S NOT A FLAW! Or, I’m not going to let vulnerability and “imperfection” hold me back from being honest. At least, not anymore. 😉

  13. Meredith March 9, 2011 at 10:32 AM #

    This is a great post, Sooz. You’re so brave to be able to stand up and call attention to this. And you’re absolutely right — it seems like we’re conditioned NOT to talk about these things. I went through a really, really dark period when I was in law school, and for the longest time ever I didn’t want to talk about it. And then when I finally did, no one could deal with it. My mom’s answer was to throw a pot holder at me and tell me to just get better. (Fortunately she’s come a long way since then).

    I think the world just wants us to smile and pretend like nothing is wrong, which … why? The deeper you dig, the more you realize just how many people suffer from forms of depression or other related illness. Yet there’s still a reluctance to admit anything is wrong. It’s baffling, but I hope that we as a society are able to move to a point where it’s not as difficult to cope and get help.

    Big hugs to you! You’re so amazing to be sharing this.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 11:08 AM #

      Thanks so much, Meredith. You’re SO right that our society wants us to smile and push problems aside. I don’t know if that’s more a Western thing or a universal thing, but it’s kinda scary. We idolize tough people, and while sure, that’s valid, it also implies weakness is bad. And for whatever reason, depression has gotten labeled as a weakness.

      I hope we can move past that too, and maybe just admitting how we all feel here is a good start…? I guess we’ll see. 🙂

  14. Rowenna March 9, 2011 at 10:42 AM #

    Susan, incredible post. Thanks for saying what I think most of us are thinking at some point. I am perpetually cheerful at work…even if what I really feel like doing is crying. I have to fake it at work…why would I fake it online? With people I consider friends? Great point. I think our online selves start to become personas–not really us, just projections of what we think other people want to see. And that’s not all bad–there’s a part of online presence that requires professionalism. But isn’t there also room for being real, being ourselves, being honest about our fears and concerns and just plain old rough patches? I have enough issues, of course, with being open and honest about not being 100% strong and fearless all the time with people I’m close to (hi, welcome to my issues…)–so being open and honest online is scary. But so is the thought of lying to the world about who I really am.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 11:10 AM #

      I have enough issues too, and the last thing I want is to seem like I’m WHINING! I don’t want sympathy or even an “oh that sucks”, I just want to know that no one will think less of me if I don’t smile ALL THE TIME!

      I think there is room for us to be real without hurting our professionalism online. I’m not going to broadcast every mood swing to my poor Twitter buddies or blog readers, but I REALLY want people to know that, despite my smiling picture or happy tweets, I DO get sad and stressed and down and lonely.

  15. Jan Patterson March 9, 2011 at 10:42 AM #

    You should be proud. You dealt honestly with your feelings. I agree with what you are saying. Normally I am a glass is more than half full, but sometimes it seems to spring a leak.I am in the medical profession and often see people with physical & mental hurdles. When I can reach out to help someone else,it boosts me too.Even a smile of encouragement for someone else–helps me feel better. I have learned that I will be happy again–i just need to believe and be honest with myself and my friends.
    I don’t spend as much time on line when I’m down-I tend to do something for Me like read or watch a movie I want to see.Everyone has their own special way to treat themselves–and they should pamper themselves occasionally because we are worth it.
    Thanks for your honest feelings. Life is ups and some downs–that’s normal.Being able to share honest feelings–priceless.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 11:13 AM #

      Wow, what a GREAT line: “normally I am glass is more than half full, but sometimes it seems to spring a leak.” SO TRUE, and expressed perfectly.

      I definitely agree that helping others helps me. That’s why I do Query Day, why I answer EVERY email, and why I try to help every writer that contacts me for help. But sometimes, it’s better (like you say!) to just pamper myself and be totally selfish. I’m TRYING to do this more! I want to do more reading, movie-watching, chocolate-eating. 😉

      Thanks for your comment, Jan!

  16. Liz March 9, 2011 at 11:01 AM #

    Hi Susan! LTWF lurker here. I’m (going to be) in the same boat as you, Cheyenne and Laura. In July I’m going to become one of the dreaded “trailing girlfriends,” following my boyfriend to a faraway land. Obviously, I’m scared, not only by the not-so-impossible prospect of being exploded by a nuclear missile by living 5 hours south of the world’s most heavily fortified border, but because my boyfriend has everything worked out for when he gets there while I don’t: visa, job, apartment, language training, instant social group, are all provided by his job. I’m pretty open about talking to him about my worries and the ridiculous stress of applying for jobs in a foreign country, but the constant barrage from Facebook of seeing all my friends getting advanced degrees, moving where they want to, making lots of money, and pursuing more permanent careers is pretty overwhelming given I’m doing just about the exact opposite. I’ve learned to recognize what info from FB gets me down and to block/hide those people without feeling guilty. If seeing that girl I didn’t really like anyway in high school posts two times a day about her awesome life and it is getting me down, there is absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t hide her presence from my life. Quite honestly, we’re the first generation who hasn’t been able to escape our past or pare down our acquaintances through distance and silence, and I think I’ll do just fine without updates from non-friends (over being self-punishing by then checking out the pictures of her awesome life despite recognizing it will only make me more down). I’m still anxious, but I know that it’s part of the process, and in a few months I can comfort myself by knowing my non-friends will be hiding my obnoxious status updates about my awesome life, too.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 11:22 AM #

      Oh wow, now I’m super curious about where you’re moving!! 😛

      I think that’s GREAT that you hide those FB people. I just don’t get on. EVER. Not even because I compare myself, but because ultimately, I’m a full introvert and don’t CARE. Only my closest, dearest friends really matter to me enough to want to follow all day long. 😉

      And you are SO right that distance and silence are no long ways to “shrink” our list of acquaintances. And that can be totally exhausting! I’ve never been a particularly social person, per se. I have a handful of very close friends I want to spend time with. Friends I know will be there even if we don’t talk for five years. 🙂 But FB gives us the illusion of having a huge circle of “friends”, and it makes us feel obligated to keep up with everyone!

      And yes, your non-friends will be the super jealous ones soon. 😉

      • Liz March 9, 2011 at 1:58 PM #

        I’m moving to Seoul. Every time someone asks me about it I add, “If it doesn’t get blown up by the North Koreans by then.”

        As for Facebook, I wish I could get rid of it, but I need to have an account for work. Besides, if I didn’t have it, I have no idea how I’d convince my sisters to (gasp!) email their updates instead…

        • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 3:38 PM #

          I was so hoping you’d say South Korea! It’s my DREAM to visit there, so NOW, we’ll become buddies so I have a reason to go. 😉

          But seriously, I am jealous and can’t WAIT to hear great updates about how wonderful it is there. (I’m kinda a K-drama, K-pop addict!)

    • Cheyenne March 9, 2011 at 3:33 PM #

      Hey Liz, definitely know that there are others of us who can relate to those sorts of circumstances! I didn’t meet my partner until I moved and was settled into a life over here (in all actuality, I had things all planned out and then he came along ;). But it’s so tough being far away from family and lifelong friends and familiar sights and sounds. I’m lucky in that I’ve been able to go home at least 2x a year over the past 4 years… but the economy and my lack of income is going to probably make that tougher. There are days when I can do nothing but think about my family, but then I know this is where I want to be right now.

      Visa stuff, job stuff, social stuff… it is a bit of an uphill climb, but you’ll get there! I came here originally for university and now that I’m graduated, I’m on a ‘post-study work visa’ but I can’t even FIND work, so right now I feel like a complete misfit. And I made friends at uni, but now we’re spread all around the country so it’s almost like I’m back to square 1.

      You’ve got the added stress of going somewhere that’s got safety concerns, so I can only imagine what pressure that adds!

      I’m with you on the FB thing. I’ve cut way back on it though, using it only for the people I genuinely want to keep in touch with – I’ve deleted the people from high school who I never really knew very well to begin with because as you say, you just don’t need to be reminded of certain things.

      I’m sure though that loads of your friends and online acquaintances are going to be envious of your exciting move and seeing the world; when I get down about not ‘being where I want to be’ yet, one friend or another always tells me how they wish they had a chance to move away and try something new. Best wishes with the prep for your move!!

  17. Jess March 9, 2011 at 11:10 AM #

    Hm. So many different thoughts to say, where to start?

    Okay. First, GREAT post, Susan! That’s the easy spot to start. 😉 Truly, it’s awesome you put this out there. Kiersten White had a post recently about the intersection of SM and our emotions, too, and suggests taking Internet breaks is a GOOD thing when you’re feeling down. Very true.

    Generally, my other thoughts are (and warning, I get heavy): the problem with feigning happiness is its isolating, because you’re not only cutting yourself off from the entire spectrum of human experience, but you’re ignoring the fact that everyone else has the same spectrum. People feel closer when they bond over hardship than good news; check survivor stories, etc. Because they’ve gone deep with each other and actually *lived*. So no one wins when we all pretend to be happy, or only share the happy even if we don’t pretend otherwise. Also, not talking about it has the damaging effect of reinforcing the negativity – it can confirm our feelings of worthlessness, because we assume no one cares or wants to hear about our pain. Even when that’s not true!

    If you check my archives in Oct 2009, I posted about the time I spent in the hospital being treated for what we decided later was an acute breakdown. In the post I talk about why I’m bothering to tell the Internet I was there: because I had nothing to be ashamed of. Someone said it above, some people are more prone to blueness than others; this is true. Depression is a clinical problem, not just a case of things not going right for you and now you feel bad. That happens, yes, but depression is soul-sucking and while it can have a trigger, especially in those with chronic depression, there is usually no cause. It can be like flipping a light switch.

    If you know you’re prone to depression, avoiding social media, especially when you feel yourself spiraling down, is actually a safety measure. Because we like to brush off our moods, oh it’s just PMS, or oh I’ll snap out of it, etc etc, but it IS a health concern. I don’t say this to be melodramatic, but seeing that one twitter update about someone else’s awesome thing you wish would someday happen to you but never ever will because you suck? could mean you’re back in the bathroom with the razor on your thighs again. It IS that serious, and until we stop pretending it’s not, we endanger ourselves.

    And lest I be a complete downer, something else struck me: happiness is based on happenstance, or our circumstances. So yes, that wavers. But we can learn to recognize our own warning signs for when the switch flips or we start to spiral. I’ve been able to turn my despairing depressions – the kind where you don’t get out of bed – into irritated or agitated depressions, where I’m just angry at the world – you wouldn’t think that’s an improvement, but I can function out of bed when I’m angry but not when I’m desperate, so if I just tell my husband what’s going on and he stays out of my way, we can soldier through an agitated depression together, and hopefully the length of time I spend that way will get less and less, or whatever. It can get better. Even if all you do is learn when you need to get help, or to admit you need some in the first place, there is no shame in that, either, that can be a BIG step. And when you’re depressed every step forward needs much celebration.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 11:25 AM #

      Wow, Jess. Thanks for sharing this and for being so honest. At this point, I am not (I don’t think) clinically depressed. I haven’t ever had suicidal thoughts or wanted to hurt myself, and my sadness ALWAYS passes eventually (though admittedly, this time was the longest “sad phase” I’ve ever been through).

      BUT, my story does NOT equal everyone else’s story, and I think everyone should know YOUR story. You are a survivor in the truest meaning of the word, and you’ve found a way to live with your depression. That’s amazing. It takes courage and strength, and I think a LOT of people can learn from that.

      Do you mind leaving a link to your blog posts? (If you do mind, then no worries!)

      • Jess March 9, 2011 at 4:51 PM #

        Sorry, didn’t mean to imply you were, but just thought if we’re going there we might as well go all the way there. 😉

        The post is here: http://www.jessicatudor.com/?p=1410 During my hospitalization the ward doctor thought I had a mild bipolar disorder, but further therapy ruled that out. I’m actually grateful for the original misdiagnosis because it forced me to not just brush it off, oh, hey, depression, no big deal.

  18. Aurora Blackguard March 9, 2011 at 11:25 AM #

    This was truly an inspiring post and really, it shocks me how well I can identify with it. You can slot me into that “Always Keep a Stiff Upper Lip and SMILE THOUGH YOUR HEART IS BREAKING” group. I remember a quote from Julia Quinn’s book. “Yellow is a happy colour and men want to marry happy girls.”

    Seeing all these upbeat and quirky/funny/kooky posts on FB and LJ puts me in the mindset that if I don’t have anything inspiring/smart/witty/un-complainy to say, then I had best not click POST on my entry. Thanks so much for sharing this, Sooz! It’s great to not feel alone and to know that no matter what, we’re never really alone.

    As my CP Tahra so aptly taught me, there are just too many things we don’t understand about our own existence for us to assume we are a single person in our suffering.

    Thanks Sooz!

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 11:28 AM #

      Oh wow…yellow is, like, the WORST color on me. Glad my hubby doesn’t seem to care. 😉

      And double wow to your CP’s comment. It’s so true, but hard to realize when NO ONE will admit to how they’re feeling because there’s a stigma associated with it.

      I’ve had more than a few blog posts I didn’t click “POST” for, so I definitely relate! I was SOOOOO anxious all yesterday about THIS post, but I’m really glad I swallowed my fears and shared this.

      WE AREN’T ALONE, and that’s really GREAT to know. 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Aurora.

  19. Brooke March 9, 2011 at 11:32 AM #

    Mood totally affects my writing. I had health problems for the last few months and felt so out of control. There was nothing I could do to fix it. Coupled with rejections of my manuscript and not so stellar writing days, I fell into a slump of self-doubt and misery. My writing suffered. I went from a steady 2000 words a day to 1300 and then to 900, 500, 300, and even as low as 150 words a day. It took about 5 months to get to this low point. I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to blog. I just wanted to stay in bed and wallow in my depression.

    I bottled it up. I put on a happy face when I had to and the rest of the time, I stayed silent. I became insanely jealous of other people. I turned bitter at others’ success. I became angry. I felt worthless, insignificant, and stupid. I started to hate everything and things that I used to enjoy, I became indifferent to them. I just existed, like a shell of a person. I continued to blog, though it became more and more difficult. I continued tweeting but less and less, and my tweets became negative. I didn’t Facebook, but I haven’t been active there since I started blogging. I wanted to hole up, but I had an obligation to blog and tweet because my followers expected me to. So in that regard, social media helped to keep me afloat, even though I wanted to drown.

    I realized I had actually become depressed. I was exhibiting all the signs (I knew because I had been clinically diagnosed with depression before), and I was at an all time low after several years of unlimited happiness. When I realized that, I stopped hating myself. I knew that the only way out was with others’ help. I told my husband and my best friend how depressed I was and they did their best to help me, but my underlying problem was my health. I had been in and out of the doctor’s office for months and still hadn’t gotten better. I thought the worst, which was eating away at me, and there was absolutely nothing I could do.

    I shared my difficulties writing due to my depression on my blog and hit the heart of what was really wrong. I was afraid. writing that blog post made me realize just how scared I was. Of writing. Of publication. Of agents’ opinions. Of strangers’ opinions. Of failure. Of having cancer or some fatal or life-altering illness. I had hidden this fear away, buried it deep in the recesses of my subconscious until it was forgotten. I hid it behind my happiness, and as long as I was happy, the fear never surfaced. It stayed in its dark hidey-hole. But when I became unhappy, it surfaced.

    I would like to say I faced that fear. I overcame that fear. I got better.

    I didn’t. I’m still afraid. But my health returned to normal and now I’m okay. Had it not, I would probably still be depressed. My depression was completely out of my control, and it was all I could do not to let it take over me.

    So my point… My friends helped me each day with their support. Twitter was kind and encouraging when I didn’t meet my daily word goal. I survived. If I hadn’t talked it out, I would have been in a much worse spot in my life. I surrounded myself with supportive friends, books, and positive attitudes, and I managed to live through it. I probably would have come out of the depression on my own eventually had my health not improved, but luckily it did. I would have survived with the help of friends and good books, just like I did the first time.

    Great post Susan. It always helps to know there are others out there struggling. I apologize for the length of my comment; it’s a blog post on its own.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 11:41 AM #

      Don’t apologize, Brooke! Reading your comment really helps me understand how all this “sadness” works, both for me and others.

      It’s interesting you mention your health, because if I had to go back to a time when my low moods started, it would be when I started having strange health issues the doctor couldn’t explain. That “out of my control” feeling was AWFUL.

      And fear plays such a big role in sadness. For me, it’s fear I won’t ever fit in here in Germany; I won’t ever be able to communicate well in German; I’ll never see sunshine again (sounds silly, but after a 6-month winter, it was a REAL fear of mine!); and I’ll just never be ask happy as I used to be. But…after opening up to my husband, we’ve taken each of those fears and I’m dealing with them one at a time. 🙂 Just knowing things ARE in my control really helps.

      I’m really glad to hear that Twitter and your blog were POSITIVE. I think that’s how social networking SHOULD be, and it’s how I want to use it. And I’m glad to hear your health is better, and that even if your fears are still hear, at least your depression has subsided. Good friends, good books — great tools. 🙂

  20. Ellen March 9, 2011 at 12:29 PM #

    I’ve totally been in this position a couple times. In high school, I was dealing with my own issues on pretty much a twenty-four hour basis, and nobody knew about it. My parents had an idea, but I put up such a convincing happy front most of the time that they didn’t know just how bad things were. I finally had to tell them, and even though that was the first step in a long line of many, it felt so much better just to admit that there was some kind of problem.

    Lately, one of my family members has been in a similar situation. She’s been better now than she has been in a while, but last year was downright awful for everyone involved. I’m half tempted to have her look at this post, just because I think it could help.

    I really admire you for putting this out there, and writing about it in such a public place. Years later, it’s still hard for me to talk about my problems. This was really inspiring.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 1:05 PM #

      I’ll be honest: posting this in such a public place was hard. I’m nervous even after having out there a whole day. 😛 BUT, being open about it is a good thing. Like Jess said in her comment, there’s nothing WRONG with being depressed. It’s hard for the person, hard for the person’s friends and family, but acting like a) we aren’t sad, or b) being sad is “wrong”, just exacerbates the issue.

      Thanks for sharing, Ellen.

  21. Choppy March 9, 2011 at 12:51 PM #

    Thank you so much.I’m usually a lurker on here and never felt an urge to leave a comment- although the other posts have been helpful. But this…perhaps it’s because im going through a rough time and my mom-although indirectly- said i shouldn’t share these feelings i have right now because SHE is going through a hard time also and she doesnt want to feel bad for me and my siblings right now, but this really got to me. Just to make it clear though, she’s not a bad mother, she’s stressed…but when she’s stressed and complains to us for weeks, i get depressed along with my own teen problems and i’ve been crying alone for a while. I try to keep a happy face not to worry others though.

    But, after reading this, i cried. I felt so much better, and although everyone in my class (im reading this while in school)dont understand why and are leaving me alone right now, I’m feeling better.

    Thank you.This came at a right time.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 1:08 PM #

      Hey Choppy. Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you could have a good cry, even if you’re at school. 😛

      I can relate to the whole stressed mom. My husband has been really stressed with work, and that’s made it harder for me. BUT, unlike you, he doesn’t tell me to keep the feelings to myself. That’s gotta be really hard for you (and for your mom if she’s asking that of you!), but I’m impressed you’ve been able to hold it in. School is so rough, and then having a high-anxiety home life too?

      I’m sorry you’ve had to cry alone, but know I’m here. You’re always welcome to email me (susan @ susandennard . com) OR, since you’re more of a lurker than a speaker, just know I understand. We all do, and you’re really NOT alone.

  22. Amanda March 9, 2011 at 1:18 PM #

    I constantly feel this way! Being a teacher, I don’t have a choice but to put on the happy face at my job (for my students’ sake), then I get home and I work hard to keep the happy going for my son, and then when he goes to bed sometimes I just want to curl up and cry. Not for any reason, nor is it a regular thing, but I often wonder if my pretenses magnify my negative emotions. My poor husband. lol

    Then the online thing. Oh gosh, I have to fake it so much. I own a parenting forum and I can’t allow myself to get overly emotional or bummed because it affects the overarching success of the website. Then on my writing stuff, I just get nervous people will tag me as some weird emo writer and I’ll lose people’s respect.

    I’m glad you wrote this, Susan, because I think more of us mask how we feel than don’t.

    And tell Seb to start looking for a job here so we can hang out more often. 😉

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 3:36 PM #

      Man, Amanda…I wish we’d had time to hang out more. BUT…it sounds like you’re an introvert like me, so maybe hanging out wouldn’t have worked. 😉

      Seriously, though, it never occurred to me how EXHAUSTING that must get as a teacher. All I have to do these days is smile online… When I worked in offices and labs, I had a hard time staying “upbeat”, but I could always hide behind a computer or over a test tube. In a classroom? With students? Jeez…

      And your husband is AMAZING, and I know he supports you just like Seb supports me…though, no doubt they get tired by all the tears sometimes. 😛

      Thanks for your honest, open comment. I really appreciate reading it.

      • Amanda March 10, 2011 at 8:44 AM #

        I am an introvert, but when I like people, I enjoy hanging out with them. lol

        When you come back this summer, we’ll get together again and hopefully have more time to actually talk!

  23. Jennifer March 9, 2011 at 2:24 PM #

    Thank you so much for writing this, Sooz. It’s reassuring to be reminded that I’m not alone in having negative feelings. I’ve been having a low spell, and this has helped. =)

    Forgive me if it’s TMI, but I’m going to be long and ramble-y, brutally honest and personal here. I’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety disorder for over a decade. In that time I’ve learned that I do a lot better when I do tell people my feelings. Middle school I kept them to myself, things ended badly. In high school I confided in friends, and I did better. Then I realized that I relied too much on my friends being my woe-sponges, and that for them it was a burden to “take care of me” and made them uncomfortable, so I stopped telling them, period. Long story short, I was hospitalized. Now I’m in my third year of university (it took me two years to find my niche and make friends, and those years also sucked), and overall I’m in a really good place. One should not be ashamed to confide negativity in friends, but there is a point where it’s too much. Admit your feelings, reach out and ask for help. Just don’t make a scene over it. It’s normal to feel down as well as up, so it’s not bad to treat it as a regular occurrence. With social media and online transparency, I feel like people are simply afraid to try and find where that point is, so it’s happyhappyhappy (or complaining about the injustices of school systems/politics/pop culture) all the time, rather than actually speaking about oneself.

    Social media these days feels a lot like fishing for comments. On sites like Livejournal, Deviantart, and Facebook, it’s become more about getting “feedback” than conversation, feeling verified that you’ve been heard simply because someone said something, even if it’s only a smiley face. I used to use LJ to document my dark spots along with the good, but then my friends wouldn’t say anything, which in turn made me even more depressed. (I don’t use those any of those sites much these days.) But Facebook is the chief offender. It provides a false sense of intimacy, (as in “I read about you, but don’t know if you read about me because you never say anything to me and never reply when I say stuff on your page, but I feel like I’m involved in your life even though I’m really not”) which is several different kinds of sad.

    But on Twitter, I post whatever and whenever I feel like. I don’t feel pressured to keep in touch, or to shout my achievements to the world. And more importantly, I feel the freedom to just say whatever without the expectation or hope of being replied to. It’s wonderful, and all the Facebook-loving Twitter-haters can’t take that away from me. =)

    My biggest struggle these days is that I can’t write! I can still hand-write notes for new and old stories, but for two years now when I sit down at my computer to work on my main projects, nothing comes. Writing used to be my outlet, so this is a special kind of depressing. But I’ve come across blogposts in the past few weeks talking about similar situations (a reason to not give up the blogosphere), so I’m trying to embrace this as part of my journey as a writer. After all, we all have those, and each is different and wonderful in its own way.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 3:46 PM #

      Not TMI, Jennifer. We’re all being BRUTALLY open here because it needs to happen, and now seems to be the time for it. 🙂

      You’re right that relying on others too much is detrimental (I love your word: “woe-sponge”!), but that we do need to at least be honest and not hide how we feel.

      AND WOW. You’re analysis of social networking sites–spot on. “it’s become more about getting “feedback” than conversation, feeling verified that you’ve been heard simply because someone said something” This is SO true, and I think you’ve helped me finally see why I hate FB so much. It’s ALL about validation, and I have a hard time validating people when 1) I don’t really know them, 2) I don’t CARE because I don’t really know them, and 3) I usually don’t even agree. And yes, that is “several different kinds of sad”.

      Yes, getting back into writing was hard for me, and maybe I should write a separate post about that… The gist of my solution is this: BICHOK. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. I started with 1000 words a day, and I gave myself 1.5 hours in which to do it. After that, I didn’t force myself to write anymore for the day. I mean, it was TOUGH to get those words out! Then after a few days of that, I moved it to 2000 words a day in 2 1.5 hours slots…this has now progressed to 4K per day and the floodgates are FINALLY open again. It was a slow process, though, and I still have to BICHOK it every day and work in 1.5 hours slots. But it does flow now, and I feel really good about what I’m writing.

      Good luck, and thank you so much for sharing your story.

  24. Rosie Lane March 9, 2011 at 3:00 PM #

    Excellent post. I’m guilty of it today. My family has just suffered a bereavement, and yet there I am chirping all over the blog and twitter, because I wouldn’t dream of announcing in those places that I’m feeling sad and a little bit lost. It would never occur to me that I’m contributing to someone else’s problem by turning my frown upside down.

    Part of the reason for my bad news blackout is that I have seen teenage relatives broadcast their growing pains to the world on facebook and wince at the thought of doing the same thing. If you are going to tell the world you feel down, I do think you should pick who you want to tell, say why you are down and give those people a chance to interact with you and help. I am very impatient with people who just announce a vast unhappiness to the world at large and then drop out of sight again, leaving me to wonder what the heck that was all about. To me, there’s genuineness and then there’s attention seeking. If you want to discuss problems in your life and get some support, I’m right there. If you don’t want me to try to help, don’t bother telling me.

    I do think there is an effect of real human interaction that we don’t realise when we’re down. If we go out when we’re sad, paint a smile on and pretend to be happy, eventually the smile sinks in and becomes a real one. Does that happen on social media? I doubt it, not to the same extent.

    • Rosie Lane March 9, 2011 at 3:03 PM #

      Um, I should add that the ‘you’ in question is the generic ‘somebody out there’ and not the ‘you’ who made this excellent post and opened a proper discussion.

      Sorry.

      • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 3:51 PM #

        Don’t worry, Rosie. I didn’t think you meant ME. 😉

        It’s funny you say that about your teenage relatives. My biggest fear about this post was that I would look just like–as if I was broadcasting my pain to world and just looking for attention. That wasn’t it at all, but gosh, I didn’t know if people would be able to tell or not!

        And, you know, the way you word it–“feeling sad and little bit lost”–is really succinct and honest, and it’s very much how I felt. Lost. Sometimes REALLY lost, sometimes just a little. And sometimes like I was so lost I just wanted help, but it was all so out of my control that it didn’t matter if I had help or not. A rather ridiculous cycle of self-doubt and true, deep sadness.

        Like you say, though, real human interaction can help so much. Talking with my husband–REALLY talking, not just avoiding the subject or blaming a temporary “bad mood”–was so cathartic. And, this post and everyone’s comments (though it’s all online) has been incredibly empowering for me. And I hope for everyone else as well.

        Thanks so much for commenting, Rosie!

  25. Tracey Neithercott March 9, 2011 at 3:04 PM #

    Wonderful post, Susan. It hits home, too. I’ve been dealing with serious illness that causes excruciating pain for hours and hours a day. Sometimes it’s hard to be chipper when all you want to do is curl up into a ball. There’s definitely pressure to be upbeat, especially on Twitter and blogs. But getting it out there isn’t going to ruin people’s perception of you. I write a health blog in addition to my writing one and as soon as I told my readers about my condition and the pain, they rallied around me. It felt good to get that off my chest and just say, you know, my life kind of sucks right now. I don’t think complaining nonstop is a good idea, but in laying it out there you might actually find support.

    The hardest thing is keeping in mind that all of those upbeat, funny tweets don’t prove a person’s happiness. We’re all very good at faking it.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 3:54 PM #

      Oh wow, Tracey. You put on such a chipper face, I certainly didn’t realize you were ill! And I’ve even seen the link to your health blog, but…it never occurred to me that “health” mean “illness and pain”.

      And yeah, we are all very good at faking it…no doubt about that! Both online and in person.

      Thanks for opening up here, and thanks for showing me people will rally when there’s a valid cause! I’m seeing that firsthand today, it makes me really, deeply HAPPY and GRATEFUL.

  26. Heather Anastasiu March 9, 2011 at 3:24 PM #

    Thank you for this post. Yes, there is certainly the pressure to always be happy/funny/upbeat online. But I’ve struggled with depression in the past, and the worst thing is having to paste on a false happy face for family or friends. It just makes you feel that much more lonely and separated in your sadness.

    And what’s awesome, is that by talking *out loud* here on your blog about the thing we all keep silent about, as you can see by your comments, you’ve opened up a well of what is lurking underneath for a lot of us. Thank you.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 3:57 PM #

      Thanks, Heather. You’re right that these comments really reveal how we all genuinely feel. More than a few comments have brought tears to my eyes, but it’s almost all “happy” tears. We all feel so alone, and yet we’re all so NOT!

      Pasting on the happy face both online or in person is really painful, and sometimes, it just makes me feel THAT much worse. Pretending I’m having a good time can just make the urge to cry and hide that much stronger. But..it helps knowing so many other people go through this. It helps so, so, so much.

  27. Christina March 9, 2011 at 3:30 PM #

    I couldn’t figure out how to start out this comment, but I cant even begin to express let alone explain the feelings I had when I was reading your post. It was like you were me in a way, the exact same trouble that I’m still going through. I know its cliche and I know I’m not alone in feeling this, but actually having someone (you) confirm this and talk about it made me realize that I really wasn’t the only one. I just felt like I was SO so so unbearably sad, and there was no reason, so I didn’t know what to do. I would sporadically break down and cry at random things.

    Sitting down and trying to write, I can’t even do it anymore which just made the sadness all the more worse. How did you get yourself to start writing again?

    It’s nice, really nice, to “actually” know that there is someone else that is or was going through the same things. Thank you Thank you and Thank you so much for sharing that. I thought I was the only one that didn’t just get sad, but so painfully sad I didn’t even know what to do.

    Thank you.

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 4:01 PM #

      Ahh, Christina. Sporadically breaking down and crying–I can definitely relate. And, like you say, I *thought* people must feel like I do, but I didn’t really *know*. I was SO anxious about this post and how it would be received, but it has actually opened up a can of worms that really NEEDED opening. And having everyone talk about and share their stories–we all needed this, and I’m glad that I swallowed my gut-twisting fear and wrote about it.

      Thank you for sharing your story.

      As for the writing, I’ll copy/paste what I wrote in my response to Jennifer (if that’s okay with you), and if you want more “tips” or suggestions or just an ear for listening, email me (susan @ susandennard . com). Here’s what I did:
      “Yes, getting back into writing was hard for me, and maybe I should write a separate post about that… The gist of my solution is this: BICHOK. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. I started with 1000 words a day, and I gave myself 1.5 hours in which to do it. After that, I didn’t force myself to write anymore for the day. I mean, it was TOUGH to get those words out! Then after a few days of that, I moved it to 2000 words a day in 2 1.5 hours slots…this has now progressed to 4K per day and the floodgates are FINALLY open again. It was a slow process, though, and I still have to BICHOK it every day and work in 1.5 hours slots. But it does flow now, and I feel really good about what I’m writing.”

      • Christina March 10, 2011 at 10:19 PM #

        Thank you! 🙂 It means a lot to me! I will definitely have to do BICHOK 🙂 And again, thank you so much for taking the time to write about this and share. I really don’t think you know how much this meant to me and probably to everyone else. It was something that helped me and probably others realize we werent alone.

        Thank you so so so much again!

  28. lbdiamond March 9, 2011 at 3:40 PM #

    I think people want to see the “happy face.” But it’s not always easy to keep up the ruse, and sometimes pretending to be happy is more harmful than just being how you feel.

    Nice post!

    • sdennard March 9, 2011 at 4:02 PM #

      Thanks, Laura! We do *want* to see a happy face–no one likes a whiner–but…we honestly can’t be happy all the time. It’s not natural, and I think just accepting that there’s nothing WRONG with being sad, is a critical first step to helping us all feel a little better.

  29. cgmason March 9, 2011 at 8:45 PM #

    Great post! And one I can definitely identify with. Sometimes facebook or twitter can get me down because seeing everyone’s (frequent!) party pictures, or all the amazing traveling they’re doing, or the status updates of their amazing new jobs, just highlights all the things lacking in my own life. Especially when you’re sitting at home on a Friday night browsing through it haha.

    It’s a hard subject to talk about out loud, and I admire you for putting it all out there.

    • sdennard March 10, 2011 at 4:35 AM #

      Thanks CG. Definitely agree that browsing party Facebook pics or seeing Tweets from people out having fun makes you feel all the lamer since you’re at home on your computer!

      I don’t use FB for anything other than work, and I’ve found my “niche” on Twitter. BUT, I’m also making a conscious effort to spend a very limited time on them (on the internet as a whole!) each day. It has helped my moods immensely!

  30. Happy March 10, 2011 at 1:38 AM #

    Soooo- I felt a little silly typing my name in above 🙂 But seriously, this is something that really needs to be talked about and I love that you just went for it here, Susan. I was named after my grandmother, and she was a really wonderful person- truly deep, truly fun, truly happy. BUT she was also a survivor of tragedy and trudged through plenty of difficult times. She certainly wasn’t always happy, but she had an awesome sense of who she was and really gave of herself to others.

    I believe there is not a person in the world who has not experienced these feelings you have shared. Everyone has a heartbreaking story to tell about themselves- if only we could be real with one another more often and just tell the truth. Life is difficult. Heartache surrounds us. And I think that the more we embrace this fact the sooner we can journey through the pain and back into joy. Because that’s what it’s all about to me: inner joy. I think it’s our God given right. But that doesn’t mean I’m never going feel sad! It means that somewhere underneath the sadness and the darkness and the frustration is a knowledge that that the joy is in there somewhere and I own that too.

    As far as the internet, I was just thinking about this the other day and wondered if I ever annoyed people with my FB posts. I don’t post that often, but when I do it’s always something super upbeat- so then I wanted to post something more real–but I stopped myself because I thought–no one will “LIKE” it! AGH! lame lame lame.

    You wrote something in one of your how-I-got-my-agent blog posts that really resonated with me: you said that believing in your dreams was really important. I think you are so right. I also think that believing in your right to happiness can work the same way.

    Thanks for your courage Susan! Here’s to embracing all of our feelings!

    • sdennard March 10, 2011 at 4:46 AM #

      Thanks, Happy! (I love your name, btw. I always think that when I email you!)

      You’re so right that inner joy is critical and something we all deserve. Easier said than done, of course. 🙂 But, the bit about dreams is, imo, really important. Dreams and working hard for them are what make me HAPPY (ack, it’s your name! ;)). But what happens when I reach my dreams? Like…last November when all my hard work suddenly just PAID OFF. I had a lot of work ahead (still do!), but no new dream…?

      Long story short: I made myself a new dream, and working for that has really helped bring my mood back to it’s usual high. 🙂

    • sdennard March 10, 2011 at 4:47 AM #

      AND, yes! Here’s to embracing all of our feelings! CHEERS!

  31. Jeff March 10, 2011 at 4:03 AM #

    Earth to Sooz: you’re not alone. There’s a huge taboo in the world about being real. The hardest thing anybody ever has to do in life is to become fully self-intimate. I was about 20 when I realized something so unbelievable about myself that I could barely function for a few weeks. It was just such a hard thing to admit to myself. Well, I’ve probably said too much. Here’s a song I think you will like: (Message in a Bottle – by The Police)

    or
    http://listen.grooveshark.com/#/playlist/Esoterica/41237370?src=5

    • sdennard March 10, 2011 at 4:50 AM #

      Thanks for the comment, Jeff. I think you are officially the first guy to leave an answer, and that’s really heartening!

      I asked my husband about it–“Why aren’t any guys coming out of the woodwork?”

      “It’s a LOT harder for a guy to admit he’s weak and sad because there’s a lot more pressure on us to be ‘tough’. But trust me: we feel the same way.”

      SO THANK YOU! For being a really brave man and joining in the discussion. You’re so right: becoming self-intimate is nigh impossible but SO valuable. I’m working on it… 😉

  32. Cassie March 10, 2011 at 3:13 PM #

    I completely agree. I have this gigantic thread with a bunch of my friends on Facebook, where we post little blurbs about our day or something interesting that happened or just thoughts we want everyone else to corroborate, since college has separated us all. There are times where I will write out an entire rant of how I’m truly feeling (on a “meh” sort of day) only to select it all and delete it immediately afterwards because my bitching and whining will ruin the upbeat mood of the thread. I know it’s wrong of me to think I can’t even talk to my friends about how I’m feeling, but, like the article mentioned, their lives seem so glamorous and great and my stressed post would only serve to dampen the mood. I hate it, and I hate that I think like that, but it’s a tiny solace knowing I’m not the only one who has this mindset.

    And I’m not saying this to be cliche or pretentious or what have you, but writing is literally my therapy. I have a folder saved under the name “DIARY” but it’s really just this massive story I created one day about three years ago. Instead of the normal “Dear diary, today I’m feeling sad because blah blah blah”, I created a character, Callie, who instead does the bitching for me. If I got fired from my job, Callie is the one explaining why and going on tirades about how she never liked that particular job in the first place. She will find another, better, job in the end. Callie is me I suppose, or more like my alter-ego. Whatever crappy thing that happens to me, happens to her, and it is the greatest thing I’ve ever written because it’s all true and so raw. I don’t allow myself to edit a single word (beyond spelling mistakes), which is definitely saying something considering I’m incapable of finishing a story due to my habit of “write, write, edit, write, re-edit, write, re-re-edit, select all, delete, write, edit, rinse, lather, repeat…”

    This was a great post and I feel the need to thank you for writing it.

    • sdennard March 15, 2011 at 3:31 AM #

      Wow! That’s such a cool idea of using a “character” to express all your anger and hurt and emotion.

      And yeah, the whole “their lives are glamorous so I had better seem happy too” gets so exhausting. I find that on Twitter, I have my little niche and I don’t see all that. But on Facebook and sometimes in the big blogosphere too, I definitely feel that way. BUT! We’re all in the same boat… 😛 (Trust me, their lives aren’t as glamorous as they make you think.)

  33. Eileen March 11, 2011 at 10:59 PM #

    Whoa! I know this isn’t about you, so I have to wonder if you’ve been following me around with a hidden camera! Maybe it’s a planetry thing~

    Thank you for your eloquent description of what I see as an emotional “black cloud”, that seems to stalk me.
    I suppose it makes its rounds, hanging over all of our heads at one time or another…

    As for the social networking sites, I think they’re great for seeing what friends, both old & new, are up to, but I don’t always feel comfortable commenting.

    Instead, I end up reading other people’s comments– which makes me feel like a creepy voyour. Ewww…(That’s depressing in itself!)

    Figured I’d step out of my own comfort zone, since you were brave enough to bring it up.

    Thanks for reminding me how to exhale…

    • sdennard March 15, 2011 at 3:33 AM #

      An emotional black cloud–I like that. Pretty accurate description of it. 🙂

      And I TOTALLY agree about the creepy voyeur thing. I think that’s one of the biggest things about FB that used to bother me–who looks at my site? and why am I wasting so much time prowling these people I barely know? YUCK.

      Thanks for your comment, Eileen. It’s been great to hear from so many new and old faces!

  34. Hannah August 28, 2012 at 12:16 AM #

    Thank you for the thoughtful post. I know it was written a while ago, but I want you to know it was very meaningful to me, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks!

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