annabell asks: I’m not feeling very happy with life. I have a great family but I can’t talk to them – I can’t talk to anyone. I’m just not good at talking. I feel so sad. Everyone thinks I’m a happy person but that couldn’t be more wrong. I really don’t see the point in my life. I’m trying to stay positive, but I can’t, and each day I feel worse and don’t know what to do. When I’m home alone all I do is cry like I have a pain inside me. I feel so alone, and I don’t know why I feel this way. I always wish I was dead. In fact, if it wasn’t for upsetting my family, I’d do it. I just don’t know how to pull myself out of this.
Hi annabell –
Okay, so I want to start with two things. First of all, what you’re feeling is something everybody goes through at times. There’s nothing strange or wrong in it, and it will pass if you let it – I promise.
Second, I want you to promise me that you won’t hurt yourself. If you’re feeling a real push to do something harmful, you can call a therapist or a counselor, or even your local police department, and they’ll hook you up with someone who can help you get through this. Again, everybody goes through a time like this. You just have to get to the other side of it without doing anything damaging.
Okay, now that those are out of the way…!
It sounds to me like you’re going through a big transition in your life. I don’t know your age, but maybe you’re a teenager turning from a child into a grownup. Or maybe you’re an adult learning that you have strengths you didn’t know you had (or that you don’t have some strengths you thought you did). If I’m right, you’re going through a very normal state of Depression that comes during these transitions. The rules your brain has followed all your life aren’t making the same sense they once did, so everything’s shutting down. It’ll be okay once you get through this and all the “lights come back on.” In fact, your life will likely be better than ever.
And if this goes on for much longer, I would again recommend you find someone to talk with about this, as a therapist or psychologist can help you get through this phase faster and with more understanding. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy or anything, just that they can help you progress through this difficult time.
But I also want to strongly encourage you to make one little change at the same time: Stop pretending to be happy.
We dogs are great at not pretending. When we’re happy we jump around in circles, our tails wag, we bark for joy – you just can’t miss it. And when we’re sad, our heads and tails hang low, we whine, we move slowly… it’s just as unmistakable. And do you know which one of those modes makes us unlovable or disliked? Neither! When we’re happy, we make others happy, and they want to play with us. And when we’re sad, we make others feel our sadness, and they want to pet us and hug us and make us feel better. What brings their love is how real and feeling we are.
Now I’m sure that, when you were younger, people (probably your parents at least) told you that people will like you better when you’re smiling and cheerful. And that wasn’t completely untrue – people do prefer a friendly smiling face to a pout or a scowl. But that doesn’t mean people want you to be fake either. You should be able to show your family and friends how sad you’re feeling. They should see the degree that someone they love is down and blue. Because that’s the only way they can respond and help you out.
You see, your letter made me feel sad (and a little scared) about you, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to reject you or run away. Instead, it makes me want to walk up to you and lay my head in your lap, or bring you a toy to throw so I can chase it, since I find that usually cheers humans up.
So please, annabell, do me these favors. Trust that you’ll get through this, talk to someone about it, stop putting the fake cheer on, and, biggest of all, don’t do anything to hurt yourself. You’re absolutely right that it would upset your family if something happened to you. In fact, it would devastate more lives than you can even imagine.
These clouds over you will pass. Your inner sun will come out, and you will have days so full of joy and laughter and love that you can’t picture now. Your job is to get through this time, and learn what you need to from it, so that you can get to those better ones.
I know you can do it. Writing me was a great start. Now just take those other steps forward, and prepare for the best life you’ve ever known.
All my love,