Common sense concludes that it is better to be happy than sad, and that a good day is a gift to be celebrated. Most people enjoy times when they are feeling carefree, and enthusiastic. But, for me, feeling good is accompanied by the dual emotions of vulnerability and danger.
Growing up, my family used my joy as a blank slate upon which they could write their own unhappiness. They reminded me of trouble with relatives and my obligation to make everyone feel better. The unwritten rule of dysfunctional families is that you can only be as happy as the unhappiest person. Enmeshed in other people, my feelings did not belong to me, and were subjected to the judgement of family members. They labeled me as selfish and uncaring when I experienced satisfaction with an accomplishment.
Experiencing the lack of safety which was attached to my personal experience of happiness, I learned that being dissatisfied and depressed were more acceptable states of being. While uncomfortable, these feelings became familiar, and were the only way to avoid being emotionally exiled from my family.
So, I have spent too much of my life feeling down and despairing. That demeanor gave me an excuse for not meeting my overestimated expectations that I imagined other people had of me. How could they expect me to participate in activities when I was so low?
Depression grew into the only way of being which allowed me to say,”no.” But it almost killed me. Having to experience despair as my only way of staying safe, morphed into a lifetime of isolation, fear, and dreams of escaping my life.
My goal these days, while emerging from my most recent depressive episode, is to have the courage to be happy and honest at the same time. No longer do I need an excuse for owning my own (sometimes negative) feelings. I am free to be myself, and not worry that my joy is hurting other people. What a relief.