Feeling Bad for Feeling Good

I’ve spent so much of this blog talking about how to avoid feeling depressed and my journey with anxiety that I often don’t know when it’s okay to stop. How do I know when my coping mechanisms have indeed worked and I can press pause on the fight for a minute and just take a breath?

About a week ago I was at my bathroom sink just after waking up from what seemed like a restful night’s sleep (they all seem so, at least at first) and I was washing my face in my usual fashion, but when I finished drying my face in the towel I saw myself in the mirror and was kind of surprised for a second. I wasn’t surprised because of my appearance, but instead by the sensation that I felt a distinct lack of heaviness and sense of “ho-hum, I’m awake” that normally comes with daylight. I was surprised because for the first time in a long time I felt happy.

Now you’re probably wondering why it took me a week to write this. It’s not like I’ve got a whole lot else going on, and normally I rush to document things like this because they’re often fleeting. It took me so long because after the shock of how light it felt, I felt bad. I felt like I shouldn’t have been so shocked – after all, I had a delightful childhood and I remember what ‘happy’ feels like, and this is the sensation I’ve been fighting to achieve every day that depression or anxiety has taken hold.

I’ve always understood depression to be a come and go cyclical being, where it will wax and wane like the moon but in a much less predictable fashion, so why did this good upswing catch me so off guard?

The best explanation I’ve come up with was that I’ve become complacent and almost accepting of how I feel day to day. I understand how I feel is not normal but struggling to be what society dictates as ‘normal’ is usually harder and more detrimental than just being what you can and leaving it at that. Given that assumption, it makes a lot more sense that when faced with a typical ‘normal’ feeling I kind of panicked.

Once the shock wore off and was justified, I started feeling bad in a different way. I kept associating me feeling ‘normal’ with someone who doesn’t need help, and I was treating this feeling like it was permanent. All those times that my husband would call me from the field instead of texting me just to make sure I was okay felt like attention-seeking behavior on my part. If I’m feeling happy and not depressed right now, then did I really need those phone calls or was I just wasting his precious free time? When I messaged that friend who also suffers from anxiety and depression for advice and validation that I’m not broken, was that actually just me wanting to place myself in this tragic role?

Every mental health-related interaction I’d ever had with people in the last few months was coming to mind, and I felt like a fraud.

And then I started thinking about writing this post, which led me to think about this blog overall.

If I were a fraud, how would I have been able to express the feelings so specifically in various posts? If the phone calls from my husband were attention-seeking, then why would I feel glad that they were needed less frequently than before? If my messages back and forth with my friend back home were me putting myself in a toxic role, then why have they since switched from a lifeline to a catch-up conversation about happy events?

The fact remained that once my mind processed the sense of calm, ease, lightness and happy outlook everything was okay. I was free to simply enjoy this feeling, because it won’t last forever. I’m sure I’ll have a down-tick sooner or later but being present for the good times makes them gain momentum and makes the dark days seem more tolerable. The good days are the light at the end of the tunnel.

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