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To The Depressed Person Who Feels Guilty Because Your Life Got Better

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Have you ever experienced that moment where after a long period of turmoil, it finally happened… things got better? All the days where your strife was contributing to severe bouts of depression, anxiety, and flare-ups were all worth it because you made it to the other side? 

It’s such a surreal feeling. For the first time, you can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you expected yourself to be excited and relieved but instead, you’re not. The closer you get to your “happily ever after,” or things just being OK, the guiltier you feel.

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a friend who is studying psychology. They mentioned how you can be addicted to unhappiness and sadness because it activates the same reward center in the brain. When you’re so used to feeling a certain way, and good things start happening, adjusting to the good can be very uncomfortable due to the fact that you’re simply not used to it. What makes it even harder to appreciate the good is when you may be getting out of the trenches, but the people around you aren’t. 

It can be nice having friends who understand what it’s like to live with health conditions. You don’t have to always explain what it is you’re going through. They know now. On top of that, it’s almost a team-like effort. It’s why pop punk songs hit so hard when you’re depressed. The lyrics are always about sitting with your friends during the bad times because they’re what makes this silly life worth it. When it’s been one band, one melancholy sound for God knows how long, and you start playing a different melody, it’s awkward. You typically hear about survivors’ guilt when it comes to people who have been through traumatic experiences, not for the people who simply made it out of depression. 

Yes, they want what’s best for you and vice versa, but that guilt and addiction to sadness don’t make things easier. In fact, it can make it harder. You’re watching your life get better while the people around you are still having a hard go of it. You look at your plate, full of food you earned, feeling horrible because the people around you don’t have as much to eat. Compassion is a needed human emotion that makes humanity better, but what happens when overwhelming amounts of compassion mix with your brain just not being used to allowing good things to happen? The resulting guilt can be unbearable and stop you from enjoying all of the things that you continued living for. Hell, the guilt can even make you sadly hide your wins.

You are a wonderful human for caring about the people around you so much, but you deserve good things. You fought for your come-up, and you should relish in it. You’re worthy of success, and what makes you worthy is that you’re human. You deserve every ounce of good that can come your way, regardless of what your brain may tell you. 

Just like you made it out of that dark hole, the people around you will too. There’s room for all of you because you all belong. Celebrate your wins now; that way. when the time comes, you can celebrate theirs too.

I love you. You got this.

Getty image by Jonathan Knowles

Originally published: August 24, 2022
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