I Hate Happiness

And I've given up trying to be something I'm not.

I hate happy people. I can't stand their plastic smiles, their positive outlook on life, even their optimistic encouragement. To me, this little act is so transparent and it infuriates me that they think they're fooling anyone. No one's life is that perfect. Life sucks. Everything disappoints, everyone disappoints, nothing will ever be right and then we die. Yes, there's eternity and all that noise, but waiting for it is like telling a kid to eat their vegetables when there's cake in front of them. What's to keep me from dashing my peas against the wall and digging into that devil's food?

Right now, it's the eyes of my wife and daughter. Every time I speed up on an off-ramp praying for release, I see them looking down at that hole in the ground, dressed in black, soaked in rain and sorrow. I imagine my wife's laughter becoming labored and my daughter's invincibility beginning to bleed. They're remarkably resilient but their lives would forever be cast in shadow, not from loss but from hopelessness. How could I do that to them?

If I ever did, it wouldn't be because I gave up. In many respects, I already have. I've given up on this world being the way it ought to be. I've given up on the hope of being ok or ever climbing out of this darkness. But if I ever made my despair official, it would be because I overdosed.

I don't know what it's like to be a drug addict, but I know what it's like to crave something that's hurting you. Because if I claimed that I didn't want to be this way, I'd be lying. Depression is like a drug and sadness an addiction. I like it. I need it. It's the only thing that makes sense of the world. Like heroin provides momentary relief to the pain, depression numbs the heart. And I can't bear to feel all that my heart does.

I don't cry anymore--I haven't in years. If I were to open that floodgate again, I fear it would never close. As a child, I even cried when the ant died in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. I was always a sensitive kid. But when my parents' marriage fell apart, I got my first taste. And it tasted better than the ache beating in my chest. I lost myself for years in this apathetic bliss. Yet like all drugs, it eventually turned on me. Instead of dulling the ache, it made it worse. And because I was addicted to the drug, I became addicted to the ache. Soon, it was my only definition of normal and my sense of security.

That's why I hate happy people, happy music, happiness, in general. I don't just grab the needle when life sucks; I shoot up when I'm happy. Happiness feels ignorant and hope seems puerile. And to allow myself to feel it is to open up the possibility of feeling disappointed. And unlike most people, I feel it deeply and much more frequently.

Being a sensitive person means being sensitive to dissonance--to things not being the way they ought to be. Not only does roadkill depress me, ending a sentence with a preposition can ruin my day. It makes me come off as a jerk a lot of the time because I take it personally when something isn't right. I notice every little inconsistency around me and it makes me long for a world free of dissonance. It makes me want out. So I use depression to shield myself from those feelings. And in so doing, I've only continued to add burden after burden onto my soul without resolving any of them.

The answer, however, isn't ignorance. I can't just put blinders on every day and force myself to feel happy when I don't. The church today may have forgotten, but I'm living proof that God made some of us to be groaners:
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5)
Most people probably can't relate when Paul says that he's torn between this life and the next because most of us don't desire death, but I can relate. I'm keenly aware of the life for which I was made, and I think God made me like this to remind those who aren't as aware:
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. (Ecclesiastes 7)
We need each other. When the happy folks lose focus and start living too much for this life, they need people like me. And when I'm down in a hole, in the very pit of despair, I need those happy people to remind me of the many good things I have in this life (like the little girl who squeals with delight when I come home from work). I don't have to be a happy person. I just have to learn to not hate happiness.

I'm a groaner. I'm a mourner. These things will never change because I see the world differently. But I also have difficulty expressing them. For most people, tears are the words when they cannot confess the pain, but tears are elusive to me. I've lost my voice. Thank God for voices like Layne Staley and Lacey Sturm. In them I find solace, solidarity, and the catharsis for which my soul longs. They give voice to the voiceless, because music is for those who've forgotten how to cry. And right now this is the song I would sing if I could:
Here you are down on your knees again
Trying to find air to breathe again
And only surrender will help you now
I love you, please, see and believe again


Inspired by the artistry and conviction of Lacey Sturm (formerly of Flyleaf). You can read her story of depression in her book, "The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living" or listen to her autobiographical song, "The Reason."