Tea Reflection: The guilt of being happy

Today’s Tea Reflection is, I feel, a heavier topic than usual. My reflections are usually positive, and a lot of my blog posts are also about the positive things I experience in my life (and there’s been a lot of positivity since I my last real life update in March). However, a couple of things have happened recently that brought my attention to this feeling I have — that kinda has always been at the back of my head ever since I moved, started my degree and became visibly much, much happier — but that I haven’t talked about before, partially because I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I was feeling and why.

But today, we are tackling this feeling — and what this feeling is, is guilt. Specifically guilt for being happy.

Firstly, what prompted this? About two weeks ago, I was catching up with a few people on Facebook, and something quickly transpired: these people were going through a really bad period. Some of them were dealing with severe depression, others with anxiety. As someone who dealt with suicidal depression in the past, I of course tried to be supportive and gave advice that helped me when I could.

However, as it happens often in conversation, after they had opened up to me, they would ask a question back: “How are you?”

And this is where it all started.

I would reply honestly, but in my honesty, I would feel guilty. I’d say that I was doing well, that my artistic projects were keeping me busy, I would mention some of the things I had in store for the future or that I was working on (my own film, my Youtube channel, the podcast, etc.)… I wanted to be honest, I wanted to share some of the things that were making me happy. However, this led me to also feel guilty.

Why? Because I knew that these people were going through a bad period. I felt like I was bragging; and I felt rude for sharing — if I was in their shoes, wouldn’t hearing about somebody else’s happiness make me upset?

Is it rude to share your happiness and the good things in your life when some of the people you are talking to are going through really hard struggles?

I don’t know if there is one objective answer for that — I imagine, just like everything else, that everybody feels differently about it. All I can say is that, while I definitely felt rude, I am not sure in what other way I could have shared or talked about how I was, that wasn’t dishonest or lifeless. My degree and my projects are taking up a huge chunk of my life at the moment — they are a big part of me. How can I answer the question, “How are you?” without mentioning either of them?

And so I answered, honestly — but the guilt in me grew.

I spent a few days thinking about this feeling. Is there anything weirder than feeling guilty for being happy? How is this possible? Do other people experience this?

Does it even make sense to feel guilty in the first place?

Nobody in life is ever 100% fine all the time. We all know someone — either a friend or an acquaintance — who is going through a hard period. If we are the happy party, should we hide our true feelings? Should we downplay our achievements? Should we avoid talking about what’s going on in our lives altogether? Would doing this help the person we are talking to?

When we share our happiness online and in real life, why do we sometimes feel like we’re coming off as bragging? Isn’t feeling like this just hurting our feeling of happiness in the first place?

I am a believer in honesty and in spreading positivity. I believe that the reason we share happy news and our happiness in places all over the internet and real life is because we are simply trying to record it and to make this feeling last as much as possible. Sometimes this feeling is fleeting — it makes sense to enjoy it to the fullest while it’s there and to want to write about it for posterity.

My personal reasons for sharing my happiness on social media, on my blog, or even my Youtube channel, are that I want to spread positivity; I want to make others believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel; and yes, I also want to enjoy this feeling — I want to enjoy the fact that I am finally happy.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, if you’re my friend or you’ve followed me on social media in the past 3 years, then you already know that I’ve been through a really horrible suicidal depression that lasted from spring 2016 to the end of summer 2018, with a few short periods (maximum of three months) in-between where I was okay — not happy, but just ‘okay enough’ to keep on going with life as usual. I went months — one could argue years — without really feeling happy — without experiencing happiness as people envision it. It was, needless to say, not a time I enjoyed or particularly want to remember.

However, it did happen — and specifically because it happened, I am now more inclined to share and focus on my happiness in my online spaces.

I shared a lot of my negative feelings in my private journal and on social media back in the day, because I desperately needed a place where I could let it all out. While that was incredibly helpful in some ways — it helped me get the negative thoughts out and helped me not ruminate on them — it does also mean that my journal and my social media, when browsing the entries of the past 2 years, is indeed a space very much filled with negativity. I cannot go back and read my diary, because it just reminds me of the horrible feelings I was experiencing. And I really do not like that.

My purpose with writing blogs and journals over the years was always to record my life — but especially what made me happy. I have very fond memories of writing happy journal entries on my LiveJournal as a teenager — and yes, sometimes I do go back and read them, because it puts a smile on my face. Even though my writing and my English wasn’t as good, I absolutely prefer to read those happy teenage entries over ones from my most recent private diary — for the simple fact that they are just not pleasant to read. As a result, I feel like, even though I did write a private diary, I don’t have a record of my life between 2016 and 2018 that is worth keeping or going back to read from time to time, specifically because it’s so negative.

And I really, really want to counter and make up for that now — by writing happy entries here, posting happy things on social media and making positive videos on Youtube. I’m done with only recording negativity — now I want to focus on happiness as much as possible. I have been doing that and posting about that ever since my life and my mood improved in autumn of 2018. I am doing that partially because I feel like I deserve a respite from everything that I went through — I deserve to be happy, to feel happy, to enjoy being happy. I do not feel like anyone should be begrudged for enjoying their happiness, especially when they were deprived of it for so long.

I am not sharing my happiness with the intent to make others jealous — that I would call bragging. I am sharing my happiness for other people, to help them — to show that it is achievable, no matter how dark the tunnel seems, and to help them decide to not give up.

I read Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig in 2016 and it inspired me to keep going; it inspired me to read a person’s journey through depression and coming out of it strong and happy. It made me believe that I could do that, too.

That’s what I want to do — help others feel the same way I felt those years ago, when I read that book. Maybe I won’t be able to do it on as big a scale as Matt Haig with his books, but if I can help even just one person, then I’ve done my part.

So I would conclude this post by telling anybody who might be going through this or feeling like this at times: it’s okay to be happy and it’s okay to share it. Do not let your anxiety or your self-doubt make you think twice about it — because sharing your story might just inspire somebody to not give up.

2 thoughts on “Tea Reflection: The guilt of being happy”

  1. Yay! Thank you for sharing this – it was interesting to see the feelings and thought processes you went through, before you arrived at perspectives you felt more confident in. And I’m glad you’re ready to share what’s positive in your life, and are able to see how it isn’t about triggering jealousy in others or bragging, but rather a sharing of a positive example, and your own happy energy. Shame has a funny way of trying to bring us down, and get us to deny or suppress the selves that we may not understand, but feel good while being. Embracing and expressing the fullness of that being is a beautiful thing, and it’s good to own it! Being able to share it is being able to share you, and indeed, sometimes in the dark periods you may not even be able to share yourself, when you might not be as centered in yourself! All the more reason to embrace the centered time when it’s there. And also of course, I’m happy for you for where you’re at : ) Here’s to you continuing to thrive, and embracing your inner you ^_^

  2. My personal way of dealing with this is to wrap it up in my own past experiences; I was talking with a girl on twitter about relationships and I told her about finally finding someone, how we had been together for 12 years. But like you, I wasn’t bragging; as you know it took a lot of painful lessons and an abusive relationship to get there. I told her all this, and I told her why I was telling her the good part. I wanted her to know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been on both sides of the coin; I’ve felt bad for being happy and for going through a rough patch. Someone has just said they’re having a great time and then asked that question, and it’s like, how honest should I be? There’s that same pressure to cover up negative feelings because we don’t want to ruin the person’s happiness and honestly, both are complete bull. If your friend is your friend then they WANT to know if you’re struggling and will smack you on the head if you’re not honest with them 😛 Friendship is about sharing and caring for each other whatever that entails.

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