I used to work with a psychiatrist who told me that people can not be happy all the time.
At the time, I thought he was a nutcase. No really. I thought he was an absolute loon. Not one to hide my emotions very well, he picked up on my reaction quickly. Over the course of our work relationship, it become somewhat of a mission for him to fully explain what he meant. There were many deep discussions about this topic. At some point, I started to understand what he meant (though I’m sure I didn’t let on just for the sake of keeping up the optimism).
He taught me that people basically need three things to be happy: Close relationships (which I have modified somewhat into including good touch which can be as minor as holding someones hand), fulfilling work, and helping others.
There were many, many discussions about money and safety. His thoughts on this were somewhat complicated, but it worked something like this…because safety and money don’t bring happiness, they don’t count. Sure, you can be very happy that you are safe and extremely happy that you came into some money, but to his way of thinking these were not sustainable. After all, daredevils were probably very happy and they weren’t all that safe and lots of people win the lottery and end up very unhappy (I don’t know if that’s true, but if I ever win the lottery, I’ll let you know).
Normally, I’m a pretty happy person. I love deeply and am loved deeply. All around me are the people and places that I love and cherish. My friendships are deep and honest. The work that I do is something that I am extremely passionate about and in that work, I do feel that I am definitely helping others.
And although I’ve met all of my Psychiatrist friend’s criteria, in his mind, I still could not be happy ALL the time. His reasoning was the balance of emotions. He said, “If one were always happy, how would one know that if one did not have unhappiness to compare it to?” Okay, I have to admit, that one did give me pause. And has continued to give me pause for all these years since our cheerful banter about happiness.
Recently, in the mental health field, we’ve been hearing a lot about the links between anxiety and depression related to the number of social media sites a person is using. The more sites, the higher the anxiety and depression. There are all sorts of theories as to why this is happening.
So as a result, I started watching my different social media sites. For the most part, it appears that things fall into two very broad categories. With phone cameras at the ready now a lot of people post very beautiful photos (here’s me at the pool, here’s me and my bestie chillin’, here’s me and my hubby on date night). Then there are those attention seeking post like the one I saw on my feed the other day – “REALLY! And you call yourself my friends!” Yeah, no explanation. Nothing else went with it. Of course, it wasn’t long before there were fifteen people asking what was wrong. And finally, the standard answer – “Believe me, they know who they are and what they did.” Sigh!
I’ve somewhat come to my own conclusions about why there is so much depression and anxiety regarding social media and it wasn’t really mentioned in the study. In my opinion, it’s because we have allowed social media to take the place of real human interactions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging. I’m sitting here at my computer writing out a blog on a social platform instead of talking to the real people in my life too. (Of course, they are sleeping, but that’s not the point.)
One of the best things and worst things to come along is text messaging. It’s great if it’s a quick reminder that keeps things going instead of having “pick up the milk” turn into an hour conversation about last nights rain storm that took out Aunt Myrtle’s patio furniture.
Not so great if there are big moments in life that you are missing out on by having that conversation in real voice versus a cumbersome text that leaves so much out. Those words on the small screen that don’t give you tone or inflection, so you have no way of knowing if it’s something said in jest or way more serious. And it’s finding out all those big things that should be shared with those closest to you first before it becomes “facebook or instagram worthy.” Like learning that someone you love just passed away or seeing the picture of the engagement ring right along with everyone else. It somehow diminishes the specialness of the moment for those that thought they were closest to you. And it’s hurtful.
The Dane and I found out that one of our kids was getting married because of a facebook post. It was very hurtful and disrespectful. And in many ways gave some foreshadowing of what was to come.
So while I’m going to post pictures of a bright shining smile, beneath that is a person that’s reflecting on life changes. Holding it together on the outside while pretending I’m not dying just a little on the inside.
And because I don’t want to be like that girl that’s putting out vague references about her life and then never giving any clue about why, I’ll tell you.
A few days ago, one of my high school classmates died. She isn’t the first one we’ve lost, but that doesn’t mean that her death doesn’t affect us just as much.
I graduated high school with something like a hundred and twenty kids. We all knew each other from first grade on. So it’s particularly hard to lose someone you’ve known your whole life. And it makes you reflect.
When I first found out about her death (facebook), my first thought was “facebook, really!” My next thought was, “we’re not that old!” And really, we’re not, even if fifty does sound old to some. But this death is from an actual illness and not…accident related. As a result, I suppose I started thinking about time and how it takes its toll on all of us. Later, I heard Stevie Nicks singing Landslide and I thought, “Yes, that’s how I’m feeling.”
So, if you are reading this, and see bright smiling faces on social media – know that it doesn’t mean that person never has bad moments, because it doesn’t. It just means that for some of the moments, a person was able to mask the pain.
Think about it…that photo at the pool might be a selfie that means that the person was bored out of their mind because no one else was with them. And that bestie photo? It doesn’t tell you that about ten seconds after it was taken, one friend left the other to go hang with a different crowd, leaving “bestie” alone and hurting. And the date night couple. Well, they did go to the movies and they bought the popcorn. It was a killer chick-flick and dear hubby was asleep inside of the first ten minutes. Yeah, things are not always what they seem.
I will offer this in way of advice. If you’re feeling a lot of depression and anxiety from using social media – take a social media holiday, see if things improve. If they do, great, you’ve figured out the problem. If they don’t, then seriously think about seeing a mental health professional.
As for the theory of happiness. The psychiatrist was right. We are not meant to be blissfully happy all the time. Neither are we to be sad and depressed all the time. Sometimes, there’s just a normal hum that let’s you know you’re living and that’s enough.
There’s an old saying – In every life a little rain must fall. Just remember, that’s what makes the flowers grow. For now, I’m just going to see if I can look forward to something to make me laugh; however, I am somewhat curious, does knowing the story make you see the photos differently?