Why I Disagree With This Meme About Happiness as Someone With a Mental Illness
Seems simple doesn’t it? Just wake up and choose to be happy or miserable. Unfortunately, for some this may be an impossibility. Mental illness is not a choice, just like cancer is not a choice.
I wish people would stop feeding the stigma that mental illness, depression, or mania is a choice.
I feel this meme, as with many others, feeds the stigma that many, like myself, living with bipolar disorder or depression can wake up and make a choice to see the bright side of things.
There are many days when my eyes open and I realize that I have to get out of bed to feed my seven children, bathe them, homeschool them, that I would rather spend my day under the comfort of my giant blanket. I do get up, but I don’t want to. It is so very difficult, leaving me angered, irritated, agitated and drained by 4 p.m. It is not bright, sunny, full of smiles and laughter like I wish it could be.
Yet some days by the end of the day, I am happy I made the decision to force my feet to the floor, to pull my pants on, to make something somewhat reasonable for my kids to eat, to educate them, to hear them play with one another. Hardly a choice most days, necessity usually. I love these children, I owe it to them to care for them as best I can.
Memes such as this one can feed the idea to the masses that those with mental illness can just choose to be happy, choose to see the sunny side of things, not out of necessity, but out of happiness. Unfortunately, it does not work this way for those with mental illness.
Many of us with mental illness get out of bed out of necessity — not out of choice — on a daily basis. There are bills to pay, kids to take care of, appointments to make, meetings to attend. I believe you simply cannot choose to be happy, just like you cannot choose to be sad.
If I told someone who was happy right now to be sad, they would likely have a hard time doing so. The opposite is quite true. Just as if I told someone who was manic to be depressed, they might have a hard time as well.
Emotion is not a choice. I believe emotion is something to be felt, on a whim, when the moment or time strikes.
“Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little.”— Buddha
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