Chatting to a friend over lunch yesterday I became aware of a frustrating misconception about depression which hadn’t really occurred to me before – the notion that the opposite of depression is happiness and that depression is simply the experience of being very sad for a long time.
Sometimes I rather wish I had just been sad for a while. Sad, I think, I could have done. Sad doesn’t crowd in during the threadbare hours to chase you out of yourself; it doesn’t turn out the lights, one by one; it doesn’t steal the things you care about and taunt you because you can’t find their whereabouts. Sad isn’t a menace threatening to stay by your side for eternity; it doesn’t convince you to abandon all hope, love and laughter. Sad doesn’t take your life away, incrementally, until the only thing left to do is jump off the cliff edge it has led you to.
It’s funny where a throw away comment can take you, isn’t it? My friend simply said ‘I’m really glad you are feeling happier’. It was meant as a kindness and an encouragement, and it was taken as one, but behind the scenes it got me thinking about what I’m really trying to achieve here. Is this a search for happiness? My conclusion, I think is ‘no’. For me, trying to recover from depression isn’t about trying to find happiness, it’s about trying to find health. It’s about getting myself on a mental and emotional even keel which allows me to experience a range of emotions safe from the harm that my dark passenger can and does inflict.
Sad is sad. It’s the opposite of happy. Depression is depression. It’s the opposite of well and the opposite of what I’m striving to be.