depression and mental illness happiness
Coming To Terms With Being An Emo Girl In An Optimist’s World2/27/2012
I’m easily drained when I’m around other people for too long, so I prefer to be alone. I’m an introvert. I’ve completely accepted this ...
I’m easily drained when I’m around other people for too long, so I prefer to be alone. I’m an introvert. I’ve completely accepted this as a part of my nature; but when I consider my introversion paired with my inclination towards melancholy, I start to worry. Why can’t I be more like my more extroverted siblings? Should I see a therapist? Am I depressed?
Two years ago, I remember my life being in a state of what seemed like chaos when, out of nowhere, I experienced a momentary feeling of complete happiness. Instead of being grateful, I panicked. How was I going to hold on to this happiness? As is the case with most questions I have, I turned to the Internet first. In an age of social media self-help, it was easy to find the motivation to focus on changing the unsatisfying parts of my life. But there would always be moments where my life felt stagnant and I would slip back into feeling unhappy. Instead of allowing myself to sit with my emotions, I’d become disappointed for falling into a mood of sadness.
I started to perceive this supposed cycle of happiness, sadness, and disappointment as a failure on my part. Until I read an interview with Jamaica Kincaid, in which she makes some pretty bold statements about happiness:
I don’t know that there are any happy writers. But I don’t know that there is any happy person either. A happy person, to me, would seem to have the unique ability to shut out unpleasantness of life. I think happiness is something you run into from time to time. That’s why people take drugs and such. Happiness is not a natural state. If it were a natural state, there would be no word for it. You’d just sort of bump into it in the dark.
Kincaid’s forthright nature persists as she responds to a question about whether she is a pessimist or a realist:
I think I consider myself a pessimist. Which isn’t to say that I give up, but I think ‘Oh, it won’t work out’, but then I do it anyway. I don’t know if that’s a pessimist, but I feel I am a pessimist. It doesn’t stop me, but I am a pessimist. I didn’t think I would have success as a writer, but it didn’t stop me.
I don’t agree that happiness is not a natural state; but in my first reading of the interview, I felt relief. I was comforted by Kincaid’s very frank acceptance of unhappiness and pessimism. It’s a refreshing divergence from the streams of inspirational stories and quotes I often find in my social networks. I appreciate people sharing their inspiration for happiness, but rarely do they acknowledge that being sad is okay and that beauty can come from sadness.
I'm not advocating the pursuit of unhappiness nor do I think depression is something that should be downplayed, or even romanticized; however, we should accept and find value in all of our moods. As we see in Kincaid’s comments on her pessimism, we can persist and create even through our own gloom. In reflecting on my own creativity: I acknowledge that writing is a gift that requires solitude and observation – for me to see the world and to be alone with my reflections on it. It’s the perfect recipe for melancholy, so why deny it?
Nina Yeboah is a writer and black art enthusiast. She enjoys musing about her quarter-life transitions and her love for visual and written arts on her personal blog.