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?