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Despite my depression I have always thought of myself as an optimistic person, until the day my therapist told me to stop…
People who seem to be the happiest are those that are the most optimistic. Because of this, there is a lot of push to be optimistic.
Now, I’m not saying that optimism is a bad thing, but it is a problem. A problem because, like me, most people do it wrong.
While in the eating disorder treatment center I kept putting on a happy face. I wanted to get to know and be there for everyone. I mean, we were all in this together right?
Wrong, it wasn’t girls camp. I was there to help myself and I wasn’t doing anyone, especially myself, any favors by pretending to be fine when I wasn’t.
The truth of the matter was that I didn’t want to face painful emotions. I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t okay. I didn’t want people to see me cry. I was horrified and full of shame at myself. How could I let other people see that? How could I let myself see it?
While participating in the treatment’s day program I would literally go home every night and break down. I would hide myself away and cry, which then led me to engage in a lot of destructive behaviors. Then, the next morning I would go back to the center all smiley and happy because despite the hard moments, I was going to be “optimistic.”
My therapist saw right through it. She told me I had to put down my happy mask. I had to face the reality of the situation around me and let myself be sad, upset, frustrated, ashamed, hurt, scared… whatever the emotions were that I was hiding. She put me in twenty-four hour care so that I couldn’t hide away when I could no longer hold the mask.
Being optimistic and positive doesn’t mean hiding behind a mask of everything is okay, I can do this, everything will work out. It isn’t, everything is happy, smiley, and sunny. Instead, it is being honest about the situation and feeling the true emotions that come with it. Then, and only then, looking forward with hope and confidence.
We don’t like to feel emotions because it hurts. Emotions are painful! We don’t put our hands on stoves because we know they are hot. Difficult emotions are the same way, we avoid them because they hurt!
It was so difficult for me to see inside myself and deal with the emotions and shame that was there. It was a deep, dark, and terrifying place, but only then was I able grab hold of the reality of what’s going on around me. I was then able to realize that I truly was okay. I could do this, but I needed help. I could get through this tough situation even if meant that there would be some dark days.