Be happy OR ELSE. (Scary music plays.)

Having suffered from mild to severe depression every-so-often in the course of my short life, I have heard every “solution” to my problems and have often tried many of them.

One of the things I often hear is, “Just BE happy.”

I disagree that one can simply make himself BE happy if he is depressed. Many members of my family and some of my friends have thought I was crazy for this, and really berated me for trying other solutions to the depression when their easy-way-out didn’t work.

On the other hand, I thought that maybe I was just going about it wrong (as if that was possible.)

Is the “Just be happy” solution a viable one?

I can’t seem to “Just BE sad” or “Just BE angry” for no reason at all, either.

I think that folks really only want to see a reflection of themselves. If they were truthful, they’d tell you, “Pretend that you’re happy, because I don’t want to share your pain.”
Antidepressant medicine can really help. My wife takes Prozac. A physician would be glad to help you get the medicine you need to alleviate your symptoms of depression. Your family doesn’t need to know.
If you have a religious proscription against taking psychotropics, tell the SDMB, and we’ll talk that out.


If there is one thing I have learned from depression, it’s this: don’t try to mask your feelings or ignore them or tuck them away for later. Deal with them as they happen. Don’t let them pile up.

You have a right to be pissed off, and a right to be the happiest person in the world. You have a right to have your emotions run the full gamut, so long as there’s a reason for it. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t (in my opinion) know their ass from their elbow.

That said, I used to be on zoloft and have no problem telling people, when they ask how I’m doing, “not well” because, quite frankly, I don’t care to invent a happy story for them. If I’m not happy, you’ll notice. If I am happy, you’ll notice.

I’m not trying to be an asshole here, just assert my right (in my opinion) to not have to cover up the fact that I may be angry.

Kaitlin, many people think that “happiness” and “depression” are concious choices and that we can decide which one to choose. But they are not “choices,” they are conditions and conditions can always be changed. The manner in which conditions can be changed varies according to the condition. Depression is a medical conditon and it can be improved with treatment. Without treatment, the path of depression is a downward spiral.

If you are depressed, get medical help as soon as possible.

Kaitlin, you are absolutely correct, though this won’t seem intuitive to someone who is not similarly afflicted. But the fact remains that certain problems–clinical depression, anxiety disorders, etc.–can’t be resolved simply by talking yourself out of them or trying to “think happy thoughts.”

Anyone who has a problem with that notion is ignorant–innocently perhaps, but ignorant nonetheless. As best you can, don’t let their reactions make your situation worse. And, as previously stated, seek out help.

I agree with those that said you can’t just “be happy.” But I think you can, to the extent that you are rational person with a human brain, be in some control of your emotions. In other words, you can’t always be happy, but that doesn’t mean you have to indulge yourself in your depression. There’s a difference between feeling depressed and wallowing in it.

That said, most people you may talk to about your condition won’t get it, or think that your illness makes you a bad person. You can feel free to give those people a big whomping smack upside the head for me.

My solution to that is focus on the moment. Generally if your only thinking about the couple minutes ahead of you theres nothing really that depressing in them:)

To “just be happy” you would have to be insane to be able to do that.

Many religions and philosophical systems (a current example: the Tibetan Buddhist Dalai Lama in his book The Art of Happiness) have posed the notion that humans have not only the ability but the obligation to be happy and satisfied almost irrespective of external circumstances, and that there are spiritual exercises that can help develop that ability.

I think that a lot of this makes a good deal of sense. On the other hand, I think that demanding that attitude from anyone suffering from clinical depression is like asking someone with a broken leg to run a marathon. People are still advising depressives to “just snap out of it”?! Oy.

Yeah, they are, Kimstu. “Against human stupidity the gods themselves war in vain.” :frowning: There was even a case some months ago in which a believer in Will Power was trying to snap a bipolar person out of the depressive phase of her cycle (medically controlled, but her meds were “off” for where her body chemistry was) by telling her she could just snap out of it.

Amusing anecdote: like many postcardiac people, I suffered fits of depression after my heart attack. I attribute it to metabolites from the heart muscle that died in the heart attack affecting my body chemistry, because they did not in any way “phase” with my emotions – I would get depressed during something that would normally make me very happy, for example, for no evident reason. Fortunately, one thing that alleviated this quite a bit without any need to medicamenta was to eat a full chocolate bar – apparently the theobromine, caffeine, and/or complex sugars jogged my chemistry just right to “bring me out of it.” We began referring to chocolate bars as “my antidepressants,” which confused the heck out of people not in the know. :slight_smile:

It’s kind of nice to have my suspicions confirmed that most rational people don’t buy the “Snap out of it” remedy. If only you people were family . . . :slight_smile:

I am not really depressed at this time, though I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen. I’m hoping that the onset of college–a nice change, get me out of the house, what-have-you–will be just the thing I need. My biggest desires out of life are getting a career and meeting new people, so . . .

Interesting enough, I have been to therapy and been on antidepressants before, neither of which really seemed to help much. Though I was a bit too young and less rational to reason out how I felt, at the time. (That was nearly three years ago. I am eighteen now.) I’d go back to therapy–just because they seemed to be headed somewhere before I was deemed “cured”, except I can’t really afford it, being the new college student that I am, though I’ll probably take advantage of my campus’ services.

I have actually been reading The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. Haven’t finished it, but it seems that his theory is less “snap out of it” and more like, “Look at things a certain way and you’ll snap out of it by default.” He makes sense to me up to the point spirits/souls start being discussed, where I stop relating at all.

Blah, blah, blah, I didn’t mean to go into a self-explanatory tangent, but since people actually seem to care, I thought, I wouldn’t just ignore them. :slight_smile: Thanks a lot. 'Tis a pleasant surprise.

In defense of the phrase, in context I could see this coming from a cognitive therapist. The entire basis of cognitive therapy is people modifying their thought patterns in the hope of modifying their affective state. This is usually useful when people commit to it to prevent people from mentally berating themselves, usually in patients with disthymia or reactive depression that are less likely to have some major brain chemical disorder that is modifying their affective state. I suppose that this phrase could help some people with the above stated conditions by helping to break the cognitive part of the biochemical-cognitive-affective state circle.

Threemae, you are right that cognitive therapy attempts to modify thought patterns to alleviate depression, but the key is that the therapy teaches you very specific techniques. For instance, you learn to recognize the thought “Everyone hates me” as a gross overgeneralization, and by recognizing that, you can replace it with a more realistic thought, like, “That person was rude to me - but luckily I have plenty of friends and family who love me a treat me well.”

Compared to that approach, telling someone to “Just be happy!” is equivalent to giving an untrained person some tools and telling them to “Just build a house!” OK, great, any tips on HOW to do that? That’s what cognitive therapy gives you - the step-by-step instructions to be happy.

I never claimed that this was the statement of a therapist worth his salt.

But it is not necessarily coming from some ignoramus that sees psychiatric problems ranging from depression to schizophrenia to anorexia as some sort of character fault or that a person is somehow responsible for the depression.

… but it probably is.

I was, as I like to refer to it now, a “fucked-up kid.” Suicidal, self-mutilation, wildly erratic sleep patterns, addict…you name it, I had it going wrong with me. At one point in time, I was about 30 seconds away from being institutionalized. Not fun at all. I was like this for as long as I can remember, for the most part.

One day, when I was about 20 years old, it dawned on me. I couldn’t spend the rest of my life like this. And, too proud to go get therapy, I had to figure out some way to get out of it myself.

It was NOT easy.

There were conscious decisions I had to make. The first one was a decision to try NOT to look at the bad side of everything. That wasn’t easy, because I basically had to reverse the only way of thinking I had ever known. To do that, I had to find something I could hold onto, something that could make me feel proud of myself and raise my self-worth. I chose school, and worked my ASS off, sometimes to the exclusion of everything else. But it worked–I had something to feel good about. And with something to feel good about, I could latch onto that, and use that as a support when other things went wrong.

It took about a year and a half, but eventually I could look at myself in the mirror and honestly say that I was happy with what I saw and what I had become. And whenever I feel like everything is horrible, I only have to remind myself of how far I’ve come, and I realize that I cannot possibly go back.

So I guess “Just BE happy” is a bit simplistic, but it can be done. You just have to know how to do it, and be willing to work for it. Just like any other goal, though, it can be reached. It might not work for everyone (there are some people who absolutely cannot function without medication, and there’s nothing wrong with that), but it’s not as impossible as folks are making it out to be. Had I listened to psychiatrists, I’d probably still be on some sort of anti-depressant. In this “pill for every ill” culture, though, it’s sometimes better to scrap it out yourself, if you can do it. The sense of accomplishment is worth it.

I can relate to this via the “Just stop eating and you’ll lose weight!” school. To which my honest reply is “Okay, but you stop breathing and we’ll see who wins.”

Some people (like my Dad) can do things “Just like that”. He gave up smoking after his Heart Surgery. Just dropped it. Others (like myself) can’t seem to “Just do it” (btw… Nike? Rot in Hell. Thank You.)

Don’t mask your feelings. Some people can turn things on and off, others can’t. Doesn’t make us less human.

Moomph. The day I get into an argument with Drain Bead will be the day her boyfriend’s front steps are covered with ice again. :wink:

But I think a bit of distinction is required here. Depression comes in a variety of kinds, with a variety of etiologies and as many prognoses. My wife and I for years had very low self-images and virtually no self-confidence. And we were both depressed a lot of the time. Through a number of (non-medicinal) interventions in our lives, first I and then she were able to make our ways out of this. (DB, check my interview for some of the details.) And yourself, DB, and a number of other people have been able to use the “bootstraps” approach you so well describe above.

On the other foot, there is organic depression, biochemical in nature, and the best will in the world is not going to conquer it. It requires medical treatment. And the online incident I desribed above in very nebulous terms (purposefully) was a classic case of one less-than-all-together individual confusing the two – and getting properly reamed for doing so, as I recall.

I’m pretty pissed right now. But I’m going to calmly take issue with a number of points Drain Bead made. First, yes some people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But, that is dangerous advice. Telling someone that when what they really need is therapy could kill them. It disgusts me when people tell seriously depressed people that the reason they aren’t better is they aren’t trying hard enough. Do you have any idea what it’s like to not have full control over your emotions? And then have someone tell you that it’s your fault. What effect that can have on someone? The best advice is always therapy.
As for your assertion that you’d still be on pills. Medication is a tool for helping you cope with problems. It works like a crutch, as a temporary solution. Any reputable doctor will always work with you to reduce your medication and eventually eliminate it.

I suffer from chronic depression myself. Chronic depression is caused by an imbalance in brain chemistry, and all the happy thoughts and therapy in the world won’t help any more than they can help schizophrenia. Chronic depression is not the same as emotional depression stemming from grief, loss, or abuse. Chronic depression is an organic problem. Getting the right meds can make a world of difference.
Goboy(who got the straight dope from his mom, cousin, and sister, all nurses).

Wrong wrong wrong. For some people, this is not an option. And “any reputable doctor” will work to realize this, and tell you flat out that you need to stay on meds for the rest of your life, or risk killing yourself.

Also…I tend to agree with Libby, even if a person is going to therapy. You can’t get ANYTHING out of therapy unless you work on letting the therapist help you. Trust me…I wasted 2 years that way.

Damn. I knew I forgot something. Yes, some people do need to stay on medication for the rest of their life. I should know, I’m probably one of them. And yes you do need to work with the doctor. But, trying to do it yourself by ignoring therapy is dangerous.