“It’s not about being happy, that’s the thing. I’m just trying to get through each day. I can’t keep asking myself “Am I happy? “ It just makes me more miserable. I don’t know if I believe in it; real, lasting happiness. All those perky, well-adjusted people you see in movies and TV shows? I don’t think they exist.”
– Diane Nguyen (BoJack Horseman)
I’ve recently have a revelation of sorts. Like most life-changing lessons, this one was partly inspired by television – Netflix’s very own BoJack Horseman, to be precise. That show is an unending fountain of knowledge, so it’s no surprise it’s had a part to play in this epiphany.
Those of you who’ve been following this blog for some time will know that I came out of a depression a while back. Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a long time will know I’ve been in and out of it pretty much all of my adolescent life. And those of you who suffer through something similar will probably know that there isn’t really an end to depression.
You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to be happy. There’s no revelatory moment where everything gets better and all the shit you’ve gone through over the past how many months or years just washes away. Even as you start to recover and move forward you’ll still feel the weight of that time, eager to drag you back down to that dismal darkness.
What I’ve begun to realise is that emotions aren’t states of being. At least not in the way that “employed” or “male” are. Emotions are fleeting. They are temporary states of being, only ever existing in the here and now. To describe yourself as a happy person is like saying you’re a sleeping person, or a showering person. Sure, sometimes we get stuck in a rut of one particular emotion, but even that’s a simplification of the truth.
When I’m depressed I’m not just “depressed”. It’s more of a continuous cycle of negative energy on repeat. I’m unmotivated, self-conscious, tired, exhausted, enraged, indifferent. They take turns at the steering wheel of the depression bus, destination suicide. To sum it all up as “depression” is just dismissive.
The same goes for happiness. Even as I’m emerging from this fog of depression, I still have shitty days. I’m not a happy person. I feel happiness on occasion, but not in an ever-present state. I feel sadness on occasion (admittedly on a fairly regular basis), but not permanently.
Emotions are sort of like food. We eat when we’re hungry (or bored), and then we stop eating. Most of our lives are just spent on autopilot from one source of food to the next. To say I’m a “chicken teriyaki” person implies that’s all I ever eat, at every waking hour of my existence. Sure, I like chicken teriyaki, but I also like spaghetti and pizza and toaster strudels (god, I love toaster strudels). And sometimes I have to eat things that taste bad, because they make me stronger.
See, the problem with life is we take it too seriously. We harp over the bad stuff and we try in vain to cling to the good stuff. The solution is to stop. Stop trying to control what is so obviously out of your hands. Enjoy the good stuff while you have it and let the bad stuff shape you, mould you into something stronger. None of this really matters, so stop acting like it does.
Savour the food while it’s in your mouth, but for god’s sake don’t constipate yourself in an attempt to prolong it. Just let the food pass through you, and move on to the next meal. After all, there are only so many before we die, and there’s no sense missing out on what’s to come just because you were too busy holding onto what has passed.