Thursday, April 16, 2009

Positivity and Optimism vs. Depression and Reality

So, this may not be a very popular post, but I feel the need to vent on this particular issue. Most people these days seem to believe in the "power of positive thinking". I am not saying that they have no basis. I believe that having an overall negative view on life makes life harder to live. However, for a lot of my lifetime, I have suffered from major depressive disorder. I've been treated since age 13. Mostly, my medication is very helpful, but I've had bouts of suicidality throughout adolescence and early adulthood.

At this point in my life, I feel that I am no longer a depressed person, but I still definitely have days or weeks or longer periods of time where I feel very depressed about my situation. And guess what? That is normal, especially with chronic pain and chronic illnesses. It is actually okay to spend one day really crying about my situation, especially if I can wake up the next day, and return to this place of acceptance. SADNESS IS OKAY!!! I know it is. It's normal and it's part of accepting illness as my reality. If I couldn't accept some sadness in my life, I wouldn't still be here. I feel that I've come to a more realistic view on my life. I don't have really high hopes and unrealistic expectations. I don't expect myself to be happy every day. I even think that it is okay to feel discouraged at times. As long as I don't dwell in this feeling for too long, it is okay to temporarily lose hope.

I think that resilience is much more important than optimism. I do not always have a positive view of my situation. I am not happy to be sick. I am not happy to lose half the years of my life to illness. THAT'S OKAY. As long as I don't feel completely hopeless, I will always be okay. As long as I know that I have a few people that will always be there for me, I will be okay. As long as there is the possibility of a light at the end of this very long tunnel, I can keep pushing through the darkness.

That is why, when I was told there were no more surgical options or possible treatments in the year 2005, I went to a very dark place. I did become suicidal, because I didn't have a reason to hope. All I need is a reason to have hope. And this upcoming surgery, whenever it may be, is my reason to hope. Knowing that I'm not alone in this struggle is my reason to hope. My future life with Gustavo and surrounded by family is my reason to hope.

So, I may not be optimistic all the time. I am certainly not Miss Sunshine full of positivity all the time (even though that may be the image I try to project). Those that are closest to me know that I have times of negativity every day of my life...some more than others. I believe it is better for the people who care about me if I try to keep the negativity to myself sometimes. But other times, I need to be able to vent my frustrations and fears and grief. Thankfully, I have people that are willing to listen.

A grieving process really does take place with chronic illness. And it actually needs to cycle around and repeat itself at times, when further acceptance is needed.

So, all I ask is that you not demand consistent positivity from me. I have days of depression. I have a realistic understanding of my circumstances. And I have guarded hope that they may improve in the future. Realism is the only way that I can survive this...not positivity.