By Giana Masso
For as long as I can remember, I have been trying to entertain other people. When I was younger and people came over, I’d sing or dance, trying to make these people happy. As I have grown up, this has influenced the way I communicate with other people. Being someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I try to deflect a lot of situations which would make me upset. I acknowledge that this is unhealthy, but it is a reflex at this point. My defense mechanism is jokes.
If I feel a conversation growing sad on my end, I quickly snap out of it. Sprinkle some self-deprecation into the conversation, quick laugh, topic change smoothly. I don’t realize I’m doing it sometimes. My close friend who I admire very much once said to me, “You’re allowed to feel things. You don’t have to be funny all the time.”
My personal experience with coping is not the same as everyone else’s. Others may turn to more harmful methods of avoiding confronting anxiety or depression, whereas others may confront it head on. No matter what one does to cope, however, I believe that it is notable that we feel the pressure to be happy people. When someone asks how you are, answers of “I’m fine” or better are the only acceptable ones. You have to be believable too. Smile more. Show the world how “happy” you are. I had learned to put on a happy face so well, it was like an artform. However, as my mental health declined, that started slipping. My right hand shakes when I am anxious, so my “I’m great, thank you!” became invalid to other people. My lack of happiness made them uncomfortable. Somehow, I was burdening these people with something out of my control.
Why is it that honest emotion makes people uncomfortable? Perhaps it is that happiness seems universal between all of us, something that we can all understand on the same level. It seems simple. Whereas sadness, anger, fear, these feelings are messy and complex. We could avoid the expression of negative emotions because we are running from negative feelings ourselves, and seeing other people express them freely makes us confront them on our own.
Regardless of the discomfort, we should make conscious decisions to be more accepting of uncomfortable, messy emotions and conversations. This is not only in other people, but in ourselves. When the fire in your gut is ablaze with anger, let yourself feel it. Let your blood boil, and then act after you have allowed it run its course. Give yourself permission to be sad. Cry when you feel it, whether you are alone, in front of someone you love, or even in public. There is no reason to be ashamed for feeling intensely. When fear takes hold of you, and you cannot possibly be still, let your stomach do backflips. These feelings are all valid. If all we felt was happiness, then we would be stagnant people.
As much as it sounds like something sappy that’s embroidered on a pillow, we learn the most about ourselves when we are working through periods of complicated emotions. While we strive to enjoy life as much as we can, we cannot run from how we truly feel, no matter how uncomfortable or awkward experiencing it is. Likewise, when you see someone else displaying strong emotions, do not perceive this as weakness. Living emotionally is one of the bravest and most rewarding things a person can do.
Giana Masso is: Writer. Visionary. Musician. Mental health advocate. Lover of art, pugs, and all things comedy. Follow her on instagram at @Gianamasso.