The first person in a relationship who said, “I’m happy if you’re happy,” was the biggest dipshit on this planet. Happiness and contentment – these feelings are a given in any healthy relationship, but living with depression taught me they’re also the hardest to feel.
Look, I’m all up for other people being happy. Most of the time. And if I’m being really honest, I mean just the select few that I can tolerate. If my friend is getting married and she’s happy, awesome! If someone aced an exam, maybe an audition, I’ll be like, good on you. But that kind of happiness just exists on the surface. It’s an “I’ll give you a big hug and a smile and text you ‘OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!!!’ with 20 emoji” kind of happiness.
It’s quick happiness, which comes and goes. It’s not real happiness.
There have been times when I’ve pretended to be happy for another person, like when my best friend got the role I wanted in the school annual play. I was devastated, but the first thing that I did was hug her, and tell her how proud I was of her. That’s when I understood how the runners-up of the Miss Universe crown must feel.
Is this jealousy? Sure it is. Is it insecurity? Most definitely. But isn’t it true that happy people are somehow always secure about themselves, and their surroundings? What happens when depression complicates any sense of well being one might have?
I’ve chased happiness ever since I was a child – and I’ve failed miserably all along. I try. I hold on to and pin down anything in my world with the slightest hope that it will pull me out of my misery like I’m desperately trying to win a wrestling match. But that’s all it ever is. A wrestling match where happiness is The Undertaker, and there’s no way in hell you’re holding him down.
A depressed person dating another who isn’t going through the same thing can lead to heartbreak. The mental graphs simply don’t match.
Now imagine being in a relationship where your partner’s happiness is a constant reminder that they have something that you don’t. When you have to wake up every day and be in the presence of genuine happiness, there are two ways that this could go. Either you could get inspired by your partner and try to walk down the same path. Or you could start hating on them. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just human nature.
How can you hate someone when you love them? It’s a conflict of interest, right? Well, it doesn’t work like that. The love is a 24/7 thing, whereas the hate springs forth in spurts.
My partner has always, always been a happy person. Once, he was going through a super busy phase at work: 16 hours of non-stop slogging, late nights, zero sleep. He had no time to rest, let alone have a social life. During one of those super busy days, he happened to have a little bit of free time. And by free time, I mean an hour in between transit from one meeting to another. You know what he did? He grabbed a cup of his favourite coffee, and went and sat next to the ocean for that hour.
When he rang me, I could hear that joy in his voice, and it was so, so real. And you know what I wanted to do? I wanted to reach out through the phone, and punch him in the face. Because his ability to feel contentment over such a small, mundane thing was driving me crazy. I could never do that! I could never drink coffee and smell the breeze and be like, “Wow. I’m so lucky to be alive.” Not even if the coffee were from Blue Tokai and the sea smelt nice. Of course, I love him, so I tried my level best to be happy for him. However in that moment, while listening to his unadulterated joy, I felt like I detested him.
A depressed person dating another who isn’t going through the same thing can lead to heartbreak. The mental graphs simply don’t match. They’re looking to soar into the skies while you’re trying to barely stay afloat in the water. Those with mental health problems are just as capable of doing what they want, but most of the times our mind is playing tricks on us. It convinces us that we’re not worth much, just like it convinces us that we won’t and can’t be happy. So we’re not.
I’ve often considered what it would be like if my partner and I were committed for the long haul. Would I spend my entire life resenting him? Feeling inadequate and incapable of feeling what he is feeling? I always fear the spurts of hate, for what if they turn into something stronger and more lasting? I know for a fact that it could ruin us.
For now, I think, we’re OK.
I can safely say that I have a harder time dealing with his happiness than he has dealing with my depression. I sound like a total prick, don’t I? I am. I agree. But don’t be fooled. I have never wished him less joy. I just wish I could have more of it. For now, I just have to try my best and hope that some of his positivity rubs off on me, and helps pull me out of this mess.
Until then, I’m sitting tight, and making every effort to feel happy… one wrestling match at a time.
Sehaj K. Maini is a young filmmaker and writer.
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