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What It's Like to Be a 'Happy' Sad Person

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I am a happy sad person. While these two words seem to contradict themselves, for me at least, they fit perfectly.

Mostly because I am happy. But I am also sad underneath it all. I can smile and laugh like everyone else, but there is a hidden layer of sadness hiding below the surface.

I have so many things in my life that I love, but I also have so much that keeps me in a constant state of sadness. I get up every morning against my better judgment. I go to school. I make a lot of jokes and go out of my way to appear funny, smart and joyful — so that’s often how I am described.

No one sees the exhaustion I feel when I get home every night. No one would describe me as beautiful and happy when I am collapsed on the couch crying for no reason other than the fact that I have to get up and do it again tomorrow.

There it is. I’m a happy sad person.

Of course, everyone deals with a wide range of emotions, so what makes my situation different? I mean, compared to the rest, my problems seem like chump change. Sometimes I think, Who cares that your parents are divorced and the most important person in your world hates you, when there are people dying every second of every day? It can feel like no one cares. As long as I put on a happy face and go about my business, it doesn’t seem to matter how broken I feel on the inside. As long as I plaster foundation on my face, no one will ask why I look exhausted. As long as I eat a little lunch, no one will care that my rib cage hurts from crying and my appetite has been nonexistent for the past 24 hours.

But why? Why do I, and so many other people around the world feel like we have to be happy all the time?

To understand this, I want you to picture two very different types of pain. First, I want you to think about what it would feel like to break your arm. Extremely painful right? Loved ones are immediately there to rush you to the hospital right? Now imagine you ate way too much at dinner and your stomach is in knots. You tell your family and they brush it off. Over time, every stomach ache becomes less important until the point when you don’t even talk about them anymore. Does that make the pain go away?

Now suppose you struggle with depression. The major setbacks bring lots of attention, but the days where you feel sad for no reason are unimportant. after a while you stop talking about it. Embarrassment floods in and you become ashamed to feel pain. Isn’t it logical that you too would put on your best fake smile and go about your business?

I’m afraid that is what it means to be a happy sad person. It means wearing a mask every day out of shame. It’s making a joke so that no one knows how bad you feel. It’s lying to yourself and others. You tell them you feel on top of the world even when you’ve never felt so low. If you feel like this, I know you. I understand you. I am you.

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Thinkstock photo via Victor_Tongdee

Originally published: November 13, 2017
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