Why Am I Not Happy?
Recently, I got a wonderful review from a journal called Publisher's Weekly. The book in question is BLUE GENES, a memoir that comes out this Fall.
I read the review (bookstores read the journal to decide what to buy for their clientele) and said, "That's marvelous, but who are they talking about? Not me, surely."
In other words, I downplayed the review. Why?
Well, I didn't want to get my hopes up that the book might sell well. I didn't want to jinx myself. I didn't want to believe that I had actually written a book as good as they said. I was depressed.
I think all of the above are accurate readings, but that my life-long depression is the most important.
You probably know exactly what I'm talking about: someone says you made a mistake or aren't as competent as you'd like to be, and you take the criticism seriously, maybe even going into a blue funk for several days - or longer.
But if someone says how competent you actually are, or praises your behavior or output or clothing, you dismiss it. They can't be serious. They're saying that just because I'm a friend. They're saying that to soften me up for something. And so on.
This characteristic of the depressed person is very familiar to me. All my life I've focused on the glass half-empty and not on the glass half-full. I have downplayed the praise and worried excessively that I wasn't perfect.
If there are good reasons for me to be fearful of disappointment, or cautious about praise or "good times," the built-in genetic predisposition to depression makes sure that I emphasize those feelings as opposed to the, "Hey, that's great. They like me!" response that is equally reasonable. After all, with all those years of looking at things through a dark pair of glasses, surely I'm entitled to see things through bright ones.
However, the little devils inside my skull keep telling me otherwise. They say that I shouldn't enjoy myself too much: I might be disappointed.
I'm learning, however. And with the help of those little pills I wrote about in my last essay, I may eventually learn to take good news with a little grace!
Do you recognize these reactions? Do you chalk them up to "life," or do you think, "what's wrong with me that I can't enjoy the good things that happen to me?"