Charlotte Ashlock

You Don’t Need to Be Happy for Me

August 12, 2014 My Life Social Change 4

sad-sad-genieI’m very upset about Robin William’s suicide. He was my favorite actor. The characters he depicted were in terrible, tough situations and dealt with them using humor. I’m wondering now how much his characters were based on himself.

Society treats depression like a character flaw you can overcome using willpower. People feel they have a duty to fake cheerfulness for the sake of others. What this boils down is people hiding their depressive symptoms until it is too late to get help.

I’m so thankful for my family and the many very kind Bard College friends who got me through my own depression during freshman year. I remember crying on the boulder on the path between Cruger Hall and Kline Dining Commons. I thought I was hidden behind plants, but an older classmate named Marisa Lanni saw me crying and had many kind words. She urged me to talk to her any time I felt like it.

I was too private and ashamed to take Marisa up on her offer. But just the fact that she saw me and cared, was enough to help me keep moving. Her reaction to tears is actually extremely rare. Most people react to tears by being embarrassed, ignoring it, or pressuring the person to stop or get out of sight. But Bard is a special community. Another girl at Bard who saw me crying (I never learned her name) quietly slipped a purple letter full of love and smiley faces into my books.

I think the reason we encourage people to hide their suffering is it reminds us of our own capacity to suffer. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking my happiness is an achievement. It is not. It is a blessing from God, and from all of you.

My friend Erin shared Josh Groban’s song “You Are Loved,” on Facebook and Twitter as a reaction to Robin William’s death, and I have to say listening to it a few times made me feel better.  I’ll embed it here for you:

 And anyone: if you want to come and be sad around me, just be sad. You don’t have to be happy for me. We can sit back to back, and hate the world together while savagely gnawing cookies.

4 Responses

  1. You are so thoughtful and wise Charlotte. I was in my 30s before I realized I didn’t have to be ‘up’ all the time for folks to like, love or care about me. I thought if I was down I needed to hide it or my friends would dessert me. Then the aids epidemic came and my gay friends started dying around me. There was no way to stay ‘up.’ And I found that my friends were willing to cuddle and cry with me.

    My friends still chuckle and call me Pollyanna & the eternal optimist, but should I need to, I know I can talk and cry with them. After all friends should be friends and confidants no matter what the mood.

  2. Dee Lancaster says:

    This is an amazing post. We should all be so lucky to have a friend like you. And we should be allowed to share all of our emotions. Why do we value some and not others? Thank you for sharing with us. I like the bit about cookies. Banana bread is my thing. When someone is sad or going through a hard time I bake them banana bread because sometimes I’m better at baking than I am at words. Baking and hugs go hand in hand.

    • The Crazy Idealist says:

      Thanks so much, Dee! Your kind words make me feel like I’ve just eaten some virtual banana bread straight from your oven. 🙂

Leave a Reply