This is going to be a delicate topic to cover. Of course, I don’t want to offend anyone but I don’t want to shy away from covering this either. I had two experiences recently that led me to want to explore ‘the naturally happy’ a little more. This isn’t about whether you can ever really be ‘naturally happy’, but more about those who appear to be, those that don’t question the desire to live and thrive and be happy as a reason they are in this world and can’t seem to see the other side of the equation.
The first incident was when I was on holiday. I was a little emotional on the last day, which isn’t like me. I don’t get upset in public, but I had a lot on my mind and such a heavy mix of emotions about things that I couldn’t help it. Ever been like that? Where your mind is telling you to cool it, but your body doesn’t comply? I’m an ugly crier, and uglier still why I try to stop it; my face gets all scrunched up and it’s not a pretty sight.
Someone I’d got to know while I was there said something to me that I found both offensive and pretty ignorant. I didn’t expect anything, not even a shoulder nor compassion, and certainly not sympathy or empathy. But I didn’t expect what I did get. Comments that included something along the lines of “Do you think you’re the only one with problems?” and “I’ve seen starving children in Africa, those are real problems and reasons to be sad”.
It wasn’t said angrily, but I felt scolded. Like I didn’t have a right to be upset. Not only did I feel stupid, I felt small and ridiculous and guilty. He doesn’t know me, the way I feel, what my life is like or what I live with. I couldn’t help it that night, I didn’t want to show the sadness I felt, but I didn’t blurt it all out either nor did I say why I was ‘sad’. I didn’t expect the response I got.
The second incident was in town a few days ago. Someone saying to me near the bus stop that I looked sad and to “cheer up, things could be worse”. Then there were the comments about “what’s to be miserable out, life is good, the whole point is to be happy”.
The latter type of person and comments received I don’t find as bad. Sometimes people feel the need to say something, even if the receiver feels them to be unwarranted. I wasn’t looking particularly sad; okay, I didn’t feel happy at the time, but the face I was showing certainly wasn’t one of despair or crying or anything of the like. Sometimes people think this may help, to say something to instil cheer and serve as a reminder to “lighten up” a little.
The ‘naturally happy people’, as I will refer to them, don’t always seem to understand mental health. They don’t seem to ‘get’ that you can be sad, feel depressed, or suffer depression even, without there being a particular reason, a certain event that’s caused it.
They don’t seem to appreciate that for some, happiness isn’t the meaning of life and that some people are a little lost, a little brokenhearted. They tend to have that survival instinct – above all else, they put their needs towards the top and happiness is what it’s all about. If faced with danger, they will fight to live. They don’t seem to understand that some of us simply don’t seem to have this, that some people don’t have the energy or the drive to fight to live in the same way.
It’s also as though temporary sadness over something is not okay, not unless it’s deemed worthy in their eyes. Your cat has just died? Get over it, that’s nothing to be sad about, because it’s not something that rates on my list of things to be sad about, there are worse things in the world. But find something important to them – their job perhaps – and they’re allowed to be upset about the smallest of issues as much as they want. There’s a degree of imbalance here, where other perspectives can’t be seen and empathy in some areas seems to lack.
I’m generalising hugely here – and I apologise. As I said, I don’t want to cause offence, nor seem totally narrow minded. But there does seem to be a divide with some of these ‘naturally happy people’ given the experienced I’ve had with those that share these characteristics.
If I were to be honest with the first person I’ve given as an example, perhaps I’d say :
I am not sad just because of having a stoma bag, possibly forever, and all of the problems and worries this causes.
I am not just sad because my muscles, joints, my whole body hurts. That my body is exhausted, that I live with pain, with headaches, with sickness, with physical illness. I am not just sad that I am unwell and I know that there are people doing it far worse than I am out there. I no not ask for sympathy, I do not feel I deserve it and I do not want it. But sometimes, I get tired of dealing with it. Telling me there are worse things happening in the world only increase my guilt, of which I feel I have enough.
I am not sad just because I lost my job, because I am totally lost with what I can do when it comes to work in the future, or because things are so uncertain as to whether I need more surgery. I am not sad just because I seem to have endless appointments with doctors, surgeons, hospitals, that complicate matters.
I am not sad just because I have no friends to hang out with. I am independent and haven’t needed anyone for a long time. I don’t need your suggestions to join a bloody book club. I have learned to be okay on my own.
I am not sad just because my home situation is difficult. Maybe you look after your family, ill or ageing parents, and can understand. You do what you can, and end up doing things for others more than for yourself. Maybe you can understand the worry when those you love are not okay.
I am not just sad because there are people out there that I talk to that are struggling, who I can’t help, because I feel so useless sometimes.
There is a difference between sadness and depression. There doesn’t have to be a reason for being sad or depressed. You may feel lost and broken and hurt for no reason, or for several. Sometimes you can smile and be okay, sometimes you can pretend to be okay. Other times, you are tired. You don’t want to keep going the way you are.
On the other hand, the perspective of the ‘naturally happy person’ can, at times, be refreshing. It’s a reminder of what’s important, to take a step back from the problems or emotions you’re facing and dealing with, to appreciate the value of life (even if you can’t see it the same way).
What do you think? Am I being totally unreasonable? With the first person/example, was I wrong to feel offended, to feel insulted and guilty and small as I wasn’t allowed to feel sad at that point? Do you have any similar experiences with ‘naturally happy’ people?