My first time in any serious therapy, my counselor told me I was depressed.
I laughed. It was kind of high-pitched, as if someone had twisted a treble knob too tight.
“I’m not depressed,” I tittered. “I’m the happiest person I know! I’m happy all the time!”
Thinking back to my cockeyed optimism, I wince, imagining twittering cartoon birds circling around my head. I mean, my denial was hackneyed it belonged in a bad YA novel.
Because I was depressed, no matter how cheerful I thought I was.
I have a weird relationship with my cheerfulness. That is, I can’t tell whether I should be cheerful or not. After that therapy session I saw, only too clearly, that I could be optimistic even while falling over a cliff. Into shark-infested waters. While wearing bacon pants.
I sure prefer to think of myself as happy-go-lucky. Learned or genetic, I’m usually chipper. I like optimism. Or, perhaps, I don’t like “wallowing”. I tend to downplay the hard parts of my story so much that it’s only through therapy and writing that I realize how much they hurt.
But for the last year, I have not felt cheerful. No: I have felt like a medieval crier, wandering around ringing a bell, and shouting, “WOE.”
It started when I faced the spiritual abuse I went through in high school and learned a whole lot of ugly things about it—like the malfeasance of a former pastor at my church at the expense of his own daughter. Or a parade of other churches who welcomed our abuser onto staff despite people from my congregation making phone calls and begging for him never to be in ministry again.
At about the same time, I faced the crap that happened in my family and decided I needed to be honest with family members after years of insisting everything was fine, wonderful, happy-all-the-time.
So last winter, I started having these horrible conversations with people I love. Every night, I felt a knot of nauseating fear in my stomach thinking of the next hard thing I had to say. I was terrified. I was afraid someone would commit suicide, or, more optimistically, I imagined people I loved falling ill from grief.
Facing each conversation was like marching towards a door in a spooky, abandoned house, the screechy violins playing, the audience yelling at me to leave the damn door alone.
I opened them anyway. I opened door after door after door. And I don’t even watch horror movies…
I’m over at the Mudroom today talking about figuring out my cheerfulness and my grief. Won’t you join me there?
Image Credit: 白士 李