Edson de Assis

Stop Saying That Happiness Is A Choice

We all know someone whose Instagram grid is filled with pictures of what I am sure they believe are inspiring words or quotes. “Happiness is a choice.” “I wake up every day and choose to be at peace.” “Change your mindset, change your mood.” You know the kinds of words and quotes I am talking about. The ones that make you roll your eyes, consider the words for a minute, wonder how on earth this person found their way to enlightenment all on their own, then roll your eyes again and continue scrolling. 

I hate those captions, those words, those quotes, that ‘mindset’, to use their words. If it works for them, fantastic. But I resent the implication that I am choosing to be unhappy, because I am not. Am I even unhappy? Most days, my answer would be no. Does that mean I enjoy every day and feel great and energized and productive and content? Also no. And that’s okay; that’s what depression is. I know I like my life, I know I have as many parts of it give me happiness as I can. But I also know that biochemistry, my brain, my neurons, and so many other parts inside of me will not always allow me to see it that way. When I am in the midst of a depressive episode, I cannot snap my fingers and be okay. I cannot choose to feel great that day. If waking up and choosing happiness is all it took, the pharmaceutical community and a whole lot of therapists would be out of business. I cannot just will away my lack of serotonin or my neurons misfiring. 

Don’t get me wrong; I do believe in the power of thought. I believe that meditation is an incredible tool and I believe that you get from the universe what you put into it, thought and energy wise too (and I mean energy not by how many miles you could run that day, but the types of vibes you put out). However, I also know that there are limitations for me that don’t necessarily apply to everyone. I am glad that those people on my social media feed can just wake up and be in a positive mindset. I truly hope they do not know what it is like to feel debilitated just by the thought of getting up or speaking to anyone or even paying a bill and knowing that your life is actually pretty good, but your own body is not letting you feel that way. I hope they truly do not know the despair and hopelessness of doing everything ‘right’, of eating well, keeping a schedule, working out, doing self care activities, surrounding yourself with good people and still suddenly not being able to get out of bed. They will probably tell you that they have bad days too and they’ve been in a dark place and it just took a change of mindset. And I hope, as much as it irks me to hear it, that for them that was true. But I also know that that is not what depression is.

No one would ever post a picture of their healthy body and caption it something along the lines of “Today I woke up and chose to be cancer free.” We all know that’s not how it works. So, please stop saying that happiness is a choice. It is not inspiring, it is frustrating. The posts I find inspiring are the ones that tell me that it is okay not to be okay sometimes, that if all you achieved today is having something to eat or brushing your teeth, then that’s a success too. I want to see posts about how I am not the only one in my struggle, because I know I am not. Yes, I also want to see posts about people thriving because I love that for them. But don’t tell me it was simply a choice, because I know damn well that I did not choose the neurodivergent life and mental health struggles. I know very well that I am choosing not to let it define me, but I know that some days it does win. I know that choosing to have things in your life that bring you happiness is possible, but I also know that snapping your fingers and changing your mindset does not change your biochemistry.

So, please stop telling me that happiness is a choice, because it is not inspiring, it just makes me eyes hurt from all the rolling and my heart ache for a life of acceptable serotonin levels without the help of SSRIs.