Pessimism: When disappointment doesn’t surprise you.
Living with depression, for me, has made this a way of life. Whether that disappointment comes from something that I was excited about, or something that just didn’t pan out, pessimism has become a security blanket that assures me I’m never wrong for doubting. If I’m never surprised or disappointed, I can continue on with my life at a perfect level, right? I’m never too distraught to halt whatever it is I need to do and never too excited to lose focus on my goals. As safe as this has been for me to have this disposition, surrounded by negativity isn’t how one should live their life.
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be,” – Abraham Lincoln
Sure, being skeptical is healthy, but the degree that I have seen within myself is something that can warp how you see the world around you.
I may be content with something in my life, but I’m never satisfied.
As a writer, I can be told that what I wrote was great; how I made good points and how it’s good that I wrote about whatever thing. To me, those accolades don’t matter. Deep down, my opinion of what I do is my measuring stick for happiness. That becomes a trial if I don’t take time to recognize it.
I am in a constant competition with myself and others. Trying to top what someone else wordsmithed or what I have previously done. My life is in a constant motion of self-improvement, but to the point that I do not recognize what I have done as something noteworthy. Only the next achievement matters (until it doesn’t).
In the moment, I feel really good about what I am writing, but once it’s out of my hands, I’m over what I’ve written. Once I’m done I need something new to write, as writing cycles go, but whatever was done is done. Taking the time to congratulate yourself matters.
“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action,” – William James
With depression, every day is going through the motions. Eat, sleep, exist, repeat. Constants and variables turning together to the point of not being extraordinary unless something broke the repetitiveness that is my life and left enough of an impression on me. That becomes impossible if deep down my own pessimism won’t allow it.
Hey, something nice happened! Great, eventually that was bound to happen.
Hey, something crappy happened! Oh, but of course, I’d expect no less.
This kind of thinking is what causes me to stay in my own stasis when it comes to acting to bring my own happiness. Once you feel powerless to what goes on around you, you either don’t act or act with deliberate focus. I used to succumb more to the former.
I took a passive backseat to whatever good or bad thing that may have come. If something seems like it is bound to fail, I either didn’t act to prevent it, or gave minimum effort to go about solving it.
What I’ve come to learn is not to expect every action to birth success. You’ll fail somewhere down the line, but you learn and grow from that.
“Happiness is where we find it, but very rarely where we seek it,” – J. Petit Senn
Along the lines of not allowing myself to be disappointed or surprised, another aspect of my depression is in mourning events before they happen. Logically, if I’m never shocked or distraught, I can continue moving forward without interruptions. Whether that’s an event not turning out as planned or the death of someone close to me, I mourn the idea of that happenstance so that I can move on from it before it happens.
When I was five, I was struck with a sharp realization. I started crying and someone had to get my mother to figure out why.
When she asked what was wrong, I told her, “You’re going to die one day.”
My mom sort of laughed at that being the reason as to why I was crying.
“Well of course I am,” My mother said “But I’m here now.”
In mourning events before they happen, I don’t allow myself to live in the moment. You never know what can change your outlook on life if you aren’t actively present in the now. Admittedly, I will still mourn events at that degree before it happens so that I can move on, but being aware of that, I know that I will allow myself an opportunity to grieve when that time comes.
“If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time,” – Edith Wharton
What sucks about depression, besides the obvious, is that the cynical side of me becomes the first thing that is seen by others. I can mask it in a joke or a snide remark, but it exists. Sometimes that comes down to feeling like you have to be different people with others in order to maintain that image that you’re okay. You joke around with people at work and get more “real” with those privileged (or in some cases not so) to see that side of you.
Juggling those aspects of yourself becomes taxing. If all I do is joke around with people, that’s all I feel that people see me as. A guy with some jokes. Putting on a face that might not represent a true you.
An easy armchair solution is to say, “Hey Isaiah, have you tried being just one Isaiah?”
Well geez, I didn’t see it that way. Maybe because a change in one’s self isn’t as easily movable as sand. Depression is stubborn. Trying to be happy becomes a task if you approach its achievement as such a simple change. Although that sort of question is something I roll my eyes at, it is important to try to be you. By you, that means not ignoring the negative side of yourself, or even only focusing on the positive.
“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes,” – Hugh Downs
Having a positive outlook on life doesn’t mean ignoring the crappier parts of your life. I like to consider the premises of positivity and negativity pragmatically.
Imagine a two-sided scale. One side is weighing the things to be happy about. The other are things to be discontent with. At the end of the day, the side that measures what you should be happy about will outweigh what makes you feel discontent. Whether that’s enjoying those things you take for granted; food, entertainment, and those around you will outweigh what are essentially small inconveniences. It is however dependent on the person as to which part of the scale they decide to focus on. That thing that may seem like a small thing to be upset about matters if it bothers you. How you weigh how that affects you is
“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy,” – Lucille Ball
Depression lies to you. Wrestling with depression was much like debating whether to write about it. Would it come off as too woe is me, he wrote a diary in a newspaper for all to see. No one likes talking about it and it’s an awkward subject to read about. I can’t control how you, the reader feels in reading this and my depression would try to get me to make this make as much sense as possible. But this is my own life with depression, whether it lands with you or doesn’t really in the long run doesn’t matter. What matters is that nothing happens or will change without the courage to talk about it. In sharing my story I hope I inspire others to talk about theirs.
“Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward,” – Victor Kiam
If you are reading this and feel that you need someone to talk to, contact Campus Wellness Center at Laramie County Community College at (307) 778-4397 or Grace for Two Brothers at (307) 256-3344.