For so many of us who suffer from depression, it seems an eternal struggle to reach that point where we can say that we feel happy. Why is it that happiness seems so elusive? One reason we seldom think about is our own resistance to feeling better. Sometimes the greatest barrier to feeling happy is you.
I must point out that this is not some diatribe to place blame or deny the existence of depression as a real neurobiological disease. I am not saying that your environment, past and present circumstances, life stressors, and your biological make up does not contribute to your depression. I will not ever utter the cliché about picking yourself up by the bootstraps. What I am saying is that sometimes we may fear what is over on the other side of our depression more than the depression itself. There are times when it seems that remaining depressed is easier than fighting for our happiness.
How do we sabotage our happiness and why do we do it?
When I was about ten years old or so my mother was taking business classes in order to become a secretary. I was especially proud of her not just for having this aspiration but also because my mother had so many knocks against her. My mother has a severe mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia. She was doing well at the time with taking her medication as directed and I had never seen her so mentally well. But with only one class left to complete her degree, she abruptly quit. My mother blamed me for her decision. She claimed that I needed so much help with my homework that she did not have time to finish her schooling. This was a total farce as I was a straight "A" student and seldom needed any help with any homework. I always wondered why she had quit right before she would have obtained her goal. I realize now that she was very afraid of her own success. The reason for her fear is why many of us, particularly those of us who have a mental illness, sometimes sabotage our own success.
I believe my mother was frightened that had she completed her schooling and had gotten a good job then she would have the pressure and expectation of maintaining her mental wellness. As anyone with a mental illness knows, it is very hard to stay well consistently. By using me as an excuse, my mother could bow out of this tremendous responsibility more gracefully than had she consciously admitted her fear to herself.
One of the reasons we may sabotage our happiness is that we fear the expectation to maintain this level of wellness.
The fear of success is really the fear of failure. When we are sitting at the bottom of our emotional well there is nowhere to fall. But should we rise up to feeling and doing better we risk experiencing the fall to the bottom again. We subconsciously tell ourselves, "Why bother trying because I am just going to sink again." My mother was just not ready to take this risk.