I struggle with depression and anxiety. Funny that someone with these issues would be writing a column called “On a Brighter Note,” right? Well, it’s ironic at least.
“What do you have to be depressed about?” I was asked in my youth. “Your life could be so much worse.”
Firstly, no kidding. Secondly, that sentiment is probably a big reason why most of us struggling with bouts of depression, or other similar conditions, tend to suppress our feelings rather than discuss or deal with them head-on.
When I was a child and I felt the black cloud of emotional gloom hovering over my head, I would try to shame myself out of those moods by comparing my life to the lives of starving children in third world countries. I rarely talked about my feelings and I learned that a smile, even a fake smile, was what the world wanted to see.
When I grew older I started writing out my feelings, particularly my darkest ones, since that seemed to help me escape my funk. I can’t tell you how often I’ve typed away with tears streaming down my face. Sometimes I could even envision the black cloud above me start to dissipate.
The other thing I’d do is people-watch. Who among us hasn’t felt joy and sorrow, love and loss, success and failure? Observing others and reminding myself of that fact has helped me to feel less alone in my own troubles. Even the smiling, happy faces that look like they haven’t got a care in the world obviously do, or will in the future. None of us gets out of this world unscathed.
I started writing this column because I wanted to share my experiences and life from a positive perspective. I believed that no matter what my circumstance, happiness is just a mindset, and I could either choose to be happy, or to be miserable, and it was a choice I’d have to make daily. I still believe that, and I’d like to be able to report that I’ve always chosen radiant sunshine, but I haven’t. On some days, I just let it rain.
Feelings are feelings and sometimes we can control them, and sometimes we can’t, even when we have loving friends and family to support us.
Recently I decided I needed some professional help. Even as I write this I feel slightly ashamed that I couldn’t just figure it out by myself. But I couldn’t, so I’m doing what I felt I needed to do. If that makes me seem weak, I’m okay with that.
When I first started writing this column four years ago, my mother-in-law asked my husband why anyone would want to read about my life. She didn’t mean it in a negative way, she was genuinely perplexed as to why complete strangers would be interested.
But I guess it’s comparable to my affinity for people-watching. Most of us are naturally curious about other people and that’s why we read, watch or listen to stories about others. It can help us feel less alone in the world, it can help us figure out how to deal with the vast array of emotions we all have, and it can give us the courage to reach out for help when we need it.
On a brighter note, I’ll keep looking for the silver linings. All the clouds have them, as you know.
Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. You can contact her at LoriWelbourne.com