How often do we grapple with the notion that “Life Sucks”? How often do we feel judged for it? I certainly have. This statement, more often than not, evokes a strong adverse reaction and is associated with weakness, laziness and the idea that we are not trying hard enough to be happy. This could not be further from the truth.
The reality of the ‘life sucks’ reasoning is that there is a strong disconnect between people’s desired statuses and their actual circumstances. Individuals with mental health issues really do try. We try to forget the mistakes of the past, we try to accept the reality of a brighter future, but we are constantly plagued by the here-and-now. It’s in the present that we must manage all the things we regret and combat doubt for the goals we have laid out for ourselves. Most people really do have dreams they would like to achieve, but attaining them is difficult. It is very important to encourage people, even when their attitudes appear pessimistic, because people with mental illness have a voice in their heads constantly telling them things will never get better. My own thought process is as follows:
“As a gay man I don’t know where I will end up. I have never been a traditional person, and even with options of marriage and children now available I don’t know if either are meant for me. I want to pursue a career in performing but it seems impossible to be successful and half the time I don’t even know what I want out of life.”
None of this seems very unusual and most people would argue many people feels this way. This reasoning is problematic because it means these issues are not to be taken seriously and are only ‘first world problems.’ Our mental health is struggling because we often devalue our own state of mind. There will always be someone worse off than us, but our issues, no matter how severe, are still issues. We use this ‘first world problem’ belief to enable our own self-stigma and remain silent.
“Since there are people starving in the world, I should really just stop complaining about my petty problems and accept what I have.”
This way of thinking is very unhealthy and can be destructive. It begins with someone having a goal, then feeling hopeless when their goal is not achieved, followed by feelings of guilt and judgment when people do not take their concern seriously, and finally the individual becoming depressed and withdrawn, or acting out in other ways to cope with their feelings of failure.
It is true that not everybody will become a famous actor, fall in love, or achieve their dreams. This is not something anyone has any control over. What people can do is listen to others and validate their feelings. Life is indeed very difficult and we will experience more failure than success, but having negative feelings is not always a bad thing either. The worst thing someone can say to somebody who appears unhappy is “Why aren’t you smiling?” In that moment, maybe they do not want to smile; in that moment, maybe life really does suck.
Society has forced us to put on these ‘happy masks’ and made us feel we live in a Starbuck’s-style world where feeling bad is not acceptable. Negative emotions are still emotions and have just as much right to be expressed as positive ones. There are many times I get ‘stuck in my head’ and am wrestling with so much doubt on the inside that I appear melancholy to people around me. As much as I dislike being viewed this way, I just cannot be cheerful all the time. No one can. We need to be much more true to our thoughts and emotions and understand that since we cannot see inside another person’s head, we do not have the right to belittle how they are feeling. It’s a harsh, competitive, dog-eat-dog world out there, and facing criticism about our thoughts and emotions makes it even more difficult. Not everyone will achieve everything they set out to achieve, but at least they have the right to have have their true feelings respected and the acknowledgement that yes, life may suck today, but there is always hope for a better tomorrow.
About Mark Rob
Mark Fraser is a 30 year old man who has lived with depression, anxiety and obsessive thought for much of his adult life. Since coming out as gay in high school he's had difficulty relating to others in his community and has experienced self-doubt and a pensive outlook for his future. Mark moved to Toronto in 2012 and has become involved in Second City Improvisation classes as well as personal training in order to maintain his physical and mental health. He has expressed interest in blogging with Healthy Minds as a means of reaching out to others who feel isolated and as a way to express himself in a positive space. You can connect with Mark on Twitter or Facebook.