“I thought about your question before you asked it, and I can come up with theoretical feeling. I remember that I would call thoughts happy at some point, but I’ve been struggling with pretty severe depression for a while and trying to figure out the best way to deal with it. So now my sense of what my happy moments are seem really theoretical, it’s hard to connect with them emotionally, but I can look back and know that I think I called that being happy. So with that proviso, let’s see now.
More recently I was very happy when I got accepted in an MFA program for writing with a full scholarship, but then I discovered that I did not get a full scholarship and I couldn’t go. So, maybe that’s the depressive thing talking. Sort of like saying, ‘Yeah, I was really happy and it was an illusion.’
But that would be one thing, but it was a mistake and I ended up feeling foolish and wrong.”
After a pause, he continues.
“I was very happy when my son was born, but it was so much mixed up with sheer terror that it was an especially inflective happiness, almost kind of a hysterical happiness. So that was something.
I was happy when I was accepted to art school for the second time. The first time I was too young and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I felt really ambivalent about it, but it was three or four years later I applied to a different school. I was happy for that.
I was happy with my first show in New York.
More recently I was really happy when I got a novella published in a journal that I had been trying to get into for years. Two or three years, and I had been working on this piece for eight years, sending it out and had it rejected for seven or eight years. When it finally got published, I felt really good.
It’s hard to remember, honestly. I think my feeling about happiness is a tiny little increments of ‘I got through this day, I think I did a pretty good job in this class, very tiny modest bits. So my sense of happy is much smaller.
I was really happy when I fell in love with someone, but then they dumped me. You see, depression is kind of like that.
Depression changes my perspective. I can’t remember ordinary pleasures, the kind of happiness when you have that first cup of coffee in the morning, or you have a nice conversation with somebody, you work out and feel good, that kind of stuff I can’t even remember.
You know what happened, it’s sort of like a theoretical appreciation of it, but I don’t remember the feeling. So that’s the worst part of depression. I think I’m a pretty proud, fairly stoic person, so trying to be this open is something I’m working on, because I think it might help. But I take pride and doing my writing and doing my artwork everyday, whether I feel really terrible or not, so that’s something I do that I think helps. But feeling hopeful about the future is something I can’t even remember.
I have been feeling this way a long time, but I think I’ve masked it or taken medication for many years that made it more manageable. More recently I’ve thought maybe I should try not to take anything, so that’s been one of the reasons that all of this is much more acute, but I thought maybe I can learn or do therapy, get a better handle on what is going on. Make it better.
So I think fundamentally I am doing better, I am doing this to get better.
Everything is really dark and small and no hopefulness or joy, ordinary joy. I don’t expect happy, you know the kind of thing that gets you up in the morning and makes you feel like there’s stuff I wanna do, and I can give things to people, and it’s good to alive, that kind of thing. I miss that.
I get so self-conscious about talking to about this stuff. I know that it’s gotta be making people feel bad, but to a certain extent it is a really good thing to do. An awful lot of people feel this way, and it’s okay to talk about, and we can help each other and it’ll be alright.
When I talk about this stuff, people say it’s okay, but some people don’t talk about it because they feel ashamed or stupid. And you don’t want to make other people feel bad. Or, like awkward because they don’t know what to say. You know, you don’t have to say anything,” he laughs, “just listen to me. It’s okay.”
Madison Community Discourse is creating a platform for discourse. We are studying happiness to connect our city through experience. We are interviewing 200 people all over Madison to create a ‘portrait’ of happiness. If you are interested in being interviewed, please email madisoncommunitydiscourse [at] gmail.com.
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