Brave Reflections: International Day of Happiness 2018

Some days are better than others. Today is International Day of Happiness 2018 and as I write, I try muster a smile. While it's a lovely sentiment, my mental state isn't where I'd like it to be.  It's all very well celebrating happiness, but not everyone can turn on the happy switch at will.

Being depressed when the world expects happy is 100% okay.  When you have depression and you are fighting an invisible battle, happiness seems like a faraway dream. But even if you don't have depression, it's okay if a low mood sets in. It is not in our nature as human beings to be 100% happy all the time, and trying to be happy when you are facing a difficult time isn't helpful.

And that takes me to the next point: forcing yourself to be happy could actually worsen your mood. Better to allow happy when it comes. That's the time to celebrate. Happy moments are such a blessing when you have depression. And the sad moments too, can remind us of a deeper truth.

There is room in this beautiful life for happy and sad. Life can show up as intense joy or unspeakable sorrow. Allowing the full spectrum of life to shine through isn't easy, but it's something we can practice.

All Life is constantly changing and rearranging. Moods come and go. But what remains unchanged? Who watches as the clouds gather, storms come and the finally, the sun shines through?

As the days begin to brighten, one thing is becoming clearer to me. Pinning my hopes on a Spring remission is like trying to catch a sunbeam. Life is inviting me to accept the reality of what I am dealing with.

For those of us with depression, every smile is a direct achievement.  But forcing yourself to try and think positive can be incredibly draining.  Depression is not something you can positively think your way out of.  The only way out is through.

On this International Day of Happiness (or any day) know that it's totally okay to feel depressed. One in four people in the UK are fighting an invisible mental health battle, but in reality we actually don't know the true extent of this illness.   So when you see those happy "good vibes only" antidotes always remember, you are significant even (especially) when it feels like you're not.

There are so many stories and ideas about what depression is (or isn't). Current cultural approaches either dance around depression, or barb this condition with the stigma of shame.  Depression is nothing to be ashamed about.  The notion that mental illness needs to be fixed, or healed is an over simplified view that only compounds the intense pressure and overwhelm.

Depression is not a personality flaw, it's a serious and life-threatening illness. If you are reading this and you think a depressed person can just snap out of it with a positive affirmation, they can't.  Please do not confuse low mood with depression.

Let's be brave together... 

When we stop the mental stories created around what depression is (or isn't) we experience the power of brave determination.

Brave determination is being aware you want to push the low mood down, or away and making the decision to stop engaging in the story, to stop believing the stigma.

Depression isn't a character flaw.  

Life is a mixture of happy, sad and everything in between.  Depression doesn't discriminate.   When happiness comes, celebrate. But don't fall into the trap of striving to be happy. Embrace your mental health and let the hope in your heart walk you through the difficult times. 

Being brave is moment-to-moment. Dealing with depression requires great courage, clinical support and the ongoing support of friends and loved ones. When we have the courage to lean into acceptance, hope whispers in our ear, reminding us we are strong.

Let's be brave and embrace this day, so together we can change the story.

Stay Strong,