Sunday, February 8, 2009
When I was about 13 years old, one of my church leaders gave me a little mirror with the following question painted on it in bright red: "Happy?"
For a long time I shrugged that mirror off. Since it was tiny anyway, I couldn't use it to check how my nice case of high school acne was developing. And I couldn't really see much of my face because of the cheery red question mark plastered on the shiny surface.
But recently, I've been thinking about that mirror and what that question meant. Am I happy with what I see in the mirror? Am I happy with who I'm reflecting? Or is there a bright red question mark still emblazoned on my forehead when I look into the glass?
I've struggled with depression in my own way. When you're a kid, they tell you when you meet a frown to "quickly turn it upside down and smile that frown away." And while this is a great message for a kid who just dropped his ice cream on the floor or let his balloon go, it's not a great message for someone who is struggling with depression.
Maybe you've seen that funny episode of The Office where Michael and Dwight plan a stunt to inform their colleagues about the dangers of depression. I laughed awfully hard when I saw that, maybe harder than most, because situational depression happened to me when I least expected it.
I have never felt so sad in my entire life. I sobbed uncontrollably in the shower, cried at odd times in my English class and was completely paranoid that something horrible was about to happen to my family. Because of one triggering tragedy in my life, I went from a confident, happy university student to an insecure, emotionally-charged wreck. It would have been funny if I would have been able to stop crying.
When I finally went to a doctor two months later, something I never thought I would do, he diagnosed me with depression and gave me medicine that reversed my anxiety within a week. I wasn't crying during Shakespeare anymore. I wasn't calling my dad in tears anymore. I wasn't sickeningly emotional anymore.
Don’t get me wrong – pills aren’t the magic solve-all for everything. Sometimes you're going to have a rotten day, a rotten week, a rotten month. Sometimes you can't find a way to be positive – no matter how hard you try. But sometimes, if you can't seem to stop crying or feeling completely hopeless, you might want to destroy those misconceptions about depression. I'll be forever grateful to a doctor who shattered mine.
When I look into the mirror, I'm not perpetually happy, nor am I ever going to be. I don't have depression anymore, but I'm not always a bright ray of sunshine, either. I still sometimes see that red question mark hovering on my forehead with that invisible question: "Happy?"
I don't always have the right answer for that question. But I do know how to find it, and I do know how to look for it. And I'm learning how to create happiness internally. Maybe that's what the magic mirror is telling me.