Happily Depressed

Oh the alcoholic afternoons
when we sat in your room
they meant more to me than any
than any living thing on earth
they had more worth
than any living thing on earth.

- These Things Take Time, The Smiths

Happiness is a strange beast. I feel more comfortable with fear and sadness – they are the ones who stayed with me through everything – and allowing myself to walk away from those emotions and embrace the positive is surprisingly difficult at times. Yet, occasionally, happiness slips in unnoticed.

When you have depression, being happy is a constant balance; a tightrope you could slip off at any moment. You wait for the fall, you anticipate the crash. Using the words ‘depression’ and ‘happiness’ in the same paragraph probably won’t make sense to everybody, and I suspect those who have never experienced long-term chronic depression will wonder if I can truly be depressed if I can feel happiness, if only in occasional fleeting visits.

You can. Sometimes the depression abates for a while, and lets a little light through. Oh, it always lurks in the background; waiting for a minor slip so it can worm its way back in. Depression doesn’t just go away because life has offered a bit of respite. It can, however, become the least important thing in your life for a while, and although I often find it difficult to find the blessings in my life, I’m grateful for the brief holiday the black dog has decided to take today. I like to think it’s gone to the seaside and will, hopefully, get stuck on a sandbank and drown. I can dream.

I once told somebody that I was happy being sad; that depression defined me, and I wouldn’t want to change. To an extent I still believe this, but over a decade has passed since that bold teenage statement and I now know that there is a level of depression which is entirely pointless – it brings me no creative genius or wonderful personality changes – and which simply scratches away at my being over time, dulling my mind, stealing my memories and filling me with pure apathy.

The last time this particular dog visited me was a couple of months back, and since then I’ve been teetering on the edge of sad and happy – never quite one or the other for any length of time – trying to find a comfortable balance. Most of my life is about balance, because few things about what I experience are perfect, and most is taken up by a mixture of confusion, the need for control, and anxiety.

However, there is one aspect of my life with which I am entirely happy, and this goes against everything I’ve learned from living with depression throughout most of my life. My relationship with S. The happiness I feel from this seeps into other parts of my life, and sometimes it’s difficult to feel apathetic when I know I have something so rare; a relationship which has never faltered, not even for one second. How many people experience that? A few? Certainly not many, I think. I began to think tonight that perhaps this happiness could be the doorway out of depression. A way of unlocking the door which has kept me in the dark room since puberty. I have never felt such happiness before – without the added jealousy and anxiety which has always destroyed past relationships – and I’m wondering if perhaps this can be the start of something; a way to unclip the black dog from his lead and kick him out of the van.

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  1. I’m pretty sure you know that I understand what you’re talking about with depression and happiness. This sounds like a great remission, and those can last a long time! I’m thrilled for you and S.; this may well be the time in your life when you can at least lock that damn dog in the doghouse for awhile! I’m pulling for the two of you… With love, Judith


    • I do know, and I’m always thankful that you respond to my posts so eloquently. I know this sounds strange, but I often think of you and hope you’re doing well.

      I’m very aware that I’ve been hopeful before, and things have come crashing down many times. However… this is probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. In the past I’ve always damaged relationships to keep myself on my own, but somehow I’ve not even considered it with S. I haven’t felt the slightest tinge of jealousy or clingyness, even when I’ve been incredibly low. That’s a huge thing for me, and it gives me a lot of hope for the future.


  2. definitely know what you mean when moving from depressed to happiness with the sad negative feelings moving in to push all the good feelings away. the happiness can be fleeting which is good for the others around you because they see you as ‘better’ but for anyone with depression it makes the bad times worse. why this is fair I DONT KNOW but i definitely don’t like it. i avoid relationships because i am scared that something will go wrong. i mean i think that you have shown incredible courage to let that person in :) well done you
    keep smiling


  3. I’m glad you posted this! It’s hard for people who don’t suffer from depression to understand those who do what they go through. My husband suffers from it-and I didn’t now this until about a year ago and I’ve been married for 29 years. Yeah, lovely, I wonder what else he has I’m not aware of? But I have a couple friends who suffer from depression and they said it’s kind of hard to explain what you go through. You’ve helped me understand what one feels. It’s not like a switch you turn on (like you really want to be depressed) and off. It lurks and sneaks up on ya. And I guess when you feel it coming you try to keep that “balance” as you call it and hope you can keep it at bay.

    I truly feel you need to get out of that house and live life! Easier said than done, I know. I’m going through a similar situation myself. But I love the feelings you have for S! And you always are your happiest with him! That’s where you need to be!


      • I’ve said those exact words about 20 times in the last three months! My issues are different than yours but yep, it’s the stress and financial issues that are plaguing me from doing what I want to do. Things happen for a reason. I refuse to accept that. But it’s the most frustrating feeling. I feel like I’m NEVER going to get the hell out of here. I’m going to be stuck in the mundane routine and die with so many regrets. All I can say for you and me and others is keep the faith. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!


  4. Praying for you that you find peace. I was over a year ago…. never thinking I had a choice out. Well, the Light, Jesus came into my heart and soul. I trust him in everything. I now say with my disorders. They are like swatting at flies from time to time. Oh, I still have them. I am not cured. I am working, volunteering, have friends, church fellowship. He made me leave my old self behind and be who he wants me to be. God love you, I am praying things get better.


  5. Dear Halfway,

    When you write that you know depression more than the sneaky happiness filtering in… I get that. When my first truly manic episode manifested, I was like,”At least I knew the major depression was slow, and could be made comfortable, and was not brash.” Even if it stole stretched-out time.

    I like this post- a lot.



  6. “I feel more comfortable with fear and sadness”

    Wow – I can so identify with this. Thanks for visiting & following my blog. Not sure how you found me, but it’s great that you did. It’s good to connect with others who are on a similar journey.


  7. Oh man, I know exactly what you mean. I feel somewhat on edge when I’m happy, because I know it can disappear so quickly without warning. I guess that’s why depression has become a comfortable feeling, in a way.


  8. I’ve been following you but haven’t been seeing your posts when I stroll through “the blogs I follow”. I know I have been missing out because I can understand the balance you are talking about here. Sometimes life seems better when you settle into a semi-depressed state. Don’t expect much, don’t get dissappointed much. I am going to put you in my favorites so I don’t lose you again.


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  10. “When you have depression, being happy is a constant balance; a tightrope you could slip off at any moment. You wait for the fall, you anticipate the crash.”

    Having been through depression myself, I think you describe the feeling perfectly – the anticipation – the fear of the bottom dropping out, or falling off the rope. So happy for your relationship with S. and best of luck on your scary but exciting road ahead! Wonderful post, really hit home for me as well.


  11. I watched an English movie yesterday, A Taste of Honey (1961), with Rita Tushingham. RADIOHEAD was in town yesterday as well, so it was sort of English day in Colorado, I guess. I didn’t get tix fast enough (and didn’t have the money anyway) for the concert, so I watched the movie instead. I thought of you because it was filmed in Southport, and I don’t know where you live but I think it’s in the Liverpool area by the seaside, and much of the movie showed the ships and sea in that area. It was a sad and raw but very honest movie, humorous at times, and I liked it. Tushingham’s other films from the sixties were also very good, I thought. Anyway, I just wanted to ramble about that for a bit. Take care.


  12. Hope you like it. I think it won the English equivalent of the American Oscars back in 1961. I thought that it must have really captured life in Southport back then. I like movies that transport me to other cultures and environments while still holding a theme common to all people, in this case, I think, that life often sucks big time, but somehow we make it through.


  13. Pingback: Depression – why it was never about sadness. « Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars

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  16. Hi there, found you whilst googling an image to use for my own post….and did not read your post until after I had done so. What serendipity! You have written how I feel and I understand precisely where you are coming from. Good luck on your journey, regards Jackie


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