Choose Yourself, not Happy: an Open Letter About Depression

Nadia Starbinski, Editor-in-Chief

As a 20-something college student nearing the impending doom that is graduating into the real world, it’s very easy to get caught up in the stresses of reality.

Managing to preserve GPAs and simultaneously applying to resume-building internships, all while trying not to forget to eat and sleep.

When was the last time you took care of yourself?

When was the last time you were genuinely happy?

Did you know that in today’s job market, a Bachelor of Science is equivalent to a high school diploma?

Who decided that putting ourselves in $100k+ of debt wasn’t enough?

Did you know the average hireable college graduate suffers from depression, despite nailing a 6-figure salary job right out of school?

You aren’t working overtime at the part-time job to cover your bills and tuition costs because it makes you happy. You’re doing it because you’re told you have to in order to gain this endless happiness and success.

We’ve been conditioned to believe success equates happiness; to be afraid of showing any emotion other than joy in fear that our feelings aren’t validated or benefit our growth.

But since when was this fear of unhappiness a motivation to fall into an unwanted routine?

The stigma of mental illness is alive and well despite many efforts in advocacy.

Coming from someone who has struggled for years with the definition of “happiness,” I find the best way to cope is to choose yourself, not an emotion.

Sometimes happiness is fleeting, like laughing at a friend’s joke, but sometimes it decides to stick around and make a home for so long that we forget how to breathe without it.

So, when happiness decides to move out, what do we do? How do we go on without its exhilarating warmth running through our veins, without its beautiful song playing to the beat of our hearts?

Those of us suffering from anxiety and depression have convinced ourselves that feeling anything other than bliss is undesirable, that we are empty without it.

But other emotions are what makes us humans, complex creatures that can love and hate and scream and cry.

If we are just blindly happy every second of the day, it would stop being special, wouldn’t it?

Constantly striving for this desirable emotion should not determine how we live our lives. Following the stream shouldn’t come with the price of a diluted and colorless life.

If you want to travel the world, buy your tickets tomorrow. Try and take an extra semester to complete your degree if you need to. If college isn’t right for you, leave and pursue what sets your soul on fire.

Life is about trial and error. You make mistakes and you learn from them. You take the roads less traveled for the experience, or whatever it is Robert Frost was cultivating.

Forced happiness is the saddest kind of unhappiness.

So, the next time a hurricane threatens to take over your body and you feel like your tears could end droughts; cry until you can swallow that lump in your throat.

When your heart is shattered and you feel like the only person who can fix it is the one who broke it, turn on some sad music and engulf yourself in the safety of your bedsheets until you’re ready to face the world again.

Life can’t go on without a little rain.

When you think the fires in your heart threaten to burn down everything you are, dance in the thunderstorm and scream at the heavens until the only thing burning is your throat.

When your hands tremble with anger and hurt, take a deep breath and let yourself be mad at all the ways you’ve been broken until the weights lift off your shoulders.

We are all human, and it is by feeling that we know we are alive.

Instead of throwing away our lives on things that don’t excite our souls, we can learn to nurture our passions.

We can be brave without being selfish, and we can be happy without the facade.