I actually dig New Year’s Eve. Shocked? Sure, it can be depressing. It can be lonely. It can be disappointing. It can seem irrelevant to mark an arbitrary passage of time using something as silly as a solar calendar.
But all of that aside, I like to feel the end. And then the beginning. Most of all, I like to know I SURVIVED. I don’t always think I’m going to. I’m sure that sounds pretty bleak, especially to the kind of people who have mastered things like “positive thinking” and “gratitude.” But survival is sometimes the best I can do. And I like to applaud myself for doing it.
I recently read something that hit me very profoundly about how to cope with people in your life who are suffering from depression.
“Depression is an illness; not a perception.”
It’s not like this is really some brand-spanking-shiny-new thought for me, but I felt myself breathe a deep sigh of relief when I read those words.
I have an illness. I’m not just being negative, or looking at life in the wrong way. It’s not that I’m just a fuck-up who can’t master the art of positive thinking. It’s not that I don’t understand gratitude. It’s not that I’m trying to get you to feel sorry for me. It’s not that I’m just not trying. It’s that I am wired this way. If it was as simple as “changing my perception,” “thinking positively,” or “being grateful,” don’t you think I would have done it by now? Do you really think I NEVER thought of it? Never tried it? Never tried to do ALL of those fucking things on ALL of those fucking lists that tell you that happiness is a choice? If HAPPINESS was a choice, why wouldn’t I have made it by now? Am I really just overly attached to my misery? No. You may not believe me, but no. I am not attached to my misery. I don’t like being in pain. I don’t like being unhappy. I don’t like waking up almost every single day with the nagging doubt that I will even be able to get through it, but knowing I have to anyway because suicide is chicken-shit and rude. I don’t like reading articles like “10 Steps to Being Happier – NOW!” with pictures of women smiling on sandy beaches with their arms outstretched loving this wonderful happy new life that they DECIDED to have. That their deep breaths and gratitude jars and attitude changes somehow work for them in a way that they’ve never worked for me. That now, on top of being depressed, I have to feel like a failure, because I could be happy if I would just try harder, and do it RIGHT. Like this chick:
I hate the implication that I’m not happy because I’m not grateful. Fuck you. What an oversimplification of a complicated mental state.
It’s like when I struggle with my weight, which is complicated by middle age, years of disordered eating and hypothyroidism, and people think they are being helpful when they give me completely inane advice. Really? Do you honestly think I don’t know what foods are healthy? Did you seriously just advise me to consider taking a walk? Really. A walk? Do you actually think I’m so fat and so stupid that I can’t walk or never thought of it? Oh really, exercise burns calories? OMG! Who knew? And on top of that, just because Zumba and green tea or gluten-free Pilates changed your life doesn’t mean it’s going to change mine. Everybody is different, and I think one of the best things we can do for each other is be tolerant. I don’t know your journey, and you don’t know mine. But I think we can be respectful of each other’s experiences, and say if something works for you, great. If I’ve tried it and it didn’t work, believe me, I don’t need to hear the advice to try it harder or more or better. I need to find my own way.
So when I’m told to be more grateful, more positive or just decide to be happy, I feel like punching someone. It’s not that I haven’t tried it. I’m just tired of failing at it. All I can do is endure the bad moments, and know that sometimes, I really do get some good ones. They’re not all bad. Mostly bad, most of the time, but not all bad.
And though I don’t much care for getting older, it beats the alternative – and I don’t mean death. I can’t really judge death, as I haven’t been there yet. I just mean that the passage of another year means I did it. I SURVIVED. I ENDURED. I’m somehow still standing, in spite of my deep desire to go fetal in the corner. I’m a fucking miracle.
Maybe to those of you standing on beaches with your arms outstretched, smiling broadly as you feel overwhelming gratitude for the sound of wind, or the shiny taste of your new Paleo cleanse this sounds like I’m making excuses and giving up. But to me, it’s freeing. It’s freeing to know myself. I can outstretch my arms on sandy beaches too you know. Just not today. But sometimes. And I CAN be grateful. I can be grateful that I’ve learned compassion for others, and that I’m learning to extend that to myself.
I can pat myself on the back for surviving. I am hours away from completing another year. 2013 had some major ups and downs. Some really great stuff, and some really awful stuff. Some stuff so wonderful that I can’t wait to see what’s next. Some stuff so awful it’s impossible for it not to be lurking in the shiny new 2014, waiting for me to deal with it. But deal I will, because that’s what I do. Not by changing my perception, but by acknowledging exactly who I am. And I can be proud of myself. I feel like I am walking through this world with a handicap, a complete inability to have happiness come naturally to me, or even come to me with effort. When I laugh, smile, feel good or gleeful or hopeful, I feel triumphant. Like I pulled it off, even if it’s fleeting, I can pull off happiness in moments. If that can be enough for me, I don’t see why it can’t be enough for others. But I know it won’t be. I know people will get frustrated with me, some will cut me out of their lives and some will never see that trying to take another step is the best I can do sometimes. And that’s okay. I’m grateful for the people that not only put up with me, but love me in spite of all the dark, scary things inside me. Some people will “get me,” will know that when I say LIFE IS HARD, it is not my perception talking, it is my illness. I am just not cut out for this world, but I will warrior up and walk through it anyway.
Goodbye 2013. Like every year before you, I’m not sorry to see you go. You’re old news baby.
Hello 2014. I may not be happy to see you, but I’ve got some curiosity in my pocket…