What It’s Like to Be Optimistic and Depressed at the Same Time


This piece was written by Kelly Bishop, a Thought Catalog contributor.

Being a happy, optimistic person with depression is a strange combination. When there is talk of someone struggling with depression, most people assume they’re miserable. They can’t laugh, they can’t smile, they can’t enjoy themselves, they don’t feel happiness.

Depression can be enveloping, it can take over your life and dictate your mood. It can make you think irrationally and feel unreasonably and make you feel completely and utterly alone in the world. But it’s possible to be a happy person with depression.

I’m one of those people.

I am a naturally sad person. I can’t help it — it’s just who I am. No matter how much fun I may be having, or how happy I may feel, there is a permanent sadness lingering in the back of my mind. But I’ve learned to live with it.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never feel as blissful as I once did when I was very young. I will always know too much and feel too much and hurt too much. I have a freakishly broad range of emotions and they can be hard to live with at times. But even though I’m a naturally sad person deep down, it doesn’t mean I can’t feel acute happiness and intense optimism. I am in a good mood a lot of the time. Even if I’m not, I’m able to get myself there and at the very least appear to be in one.

I don’t like feeling sad and being in a bad mood and I don’t like others to witness me in a bad mood. There is a really fucked up, dark side of me that I don’t like people to see. I can obviously relate to someone who has an unknown source dictating their emotions without their control. It’s horribly frustrating and leaves you feeling defeated and broken.

Depression is a war within your own mind and it feels as though you are constantly losing. But I still refuse to let my depression control me. I refuse to let it put me in a permanently sorrow state. I refuse to let it affect the people around me (for the most part). I’m someone who is passionate and loves to laugh and smile and have a good time and I’m not going to ever let depression take that away from me.

It’s a very odd combination to live with, that’s for sure. When I have revealed to people I struggle with depression, spent time in therapy and toyed with the idea of taking antidepressants for quite some time, they’re usually surprised. I don’t mope, I still smile and appear to be genuinely happy almost all the time — and that means I can’t have depression in their eyes.

But it’s what’s going on on the inside that really matters. And that is what no one can see. They don’t see how I am when I’m by myself. They don’t see any dark thoughts. How could the idea of suicide ever enter someone’s head who is always so cheery? Well, I’m here to tell you that just because you don’t see that darkness and gloominess on the outside, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist somewhere deep on the inside.

Those who can feel the saddest and most fucked up feelings can also experience the most joyful and elated feelings. I appreciate what is around me more, and I can sympathize more with others who are in pain. Pretty much, you don’t have to appear wounded on the outside to actually be wounded on the inside. I’m happy, I’m positive, I’m optimistic and I’m depressed. But I live with it. The world is both a beautiful yet hauntingly dark place. And we have no choice but to accept that, right?

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