Misery Loves Company

When I was depressed and before I sought out counseling, I was that person who could spoil any pleasant conversation.

You know exactly what kind of person I’m talking about; the debby downer, the buzzkill, the emo kid, the one-upper. If you had a bad day, well mine was worse. If your parents had divorced, well guess what? So did mine and it was probably more painful for me. Is your boyfriend a jerk? Well too bad, because mine was emotionally abusive. Do you like sad music? Well, I like sadder music. You watch depressing movies? Oh well, I watch Grey’s Anatomy and cry for a whole week about how terrible it is that Meredith and Derek can’t be together.

I was a bonafide professional at making everyone feel like they needed to go listen to Brand New and curse the day they were brought into this miserable world. I think I liked being sad [which I realized later was] because it was easier to blame others for my terrible mood and feelings about myself than to actually claim any responsibility for my happiness.

I started going to counseling at the urging of a friend who basically was kind enough to have the balls to confront me and say, “You’re so miserable I can’t stand to be around you. Please stop talking about how you’re going to go to counseling and just do it.”

So I went and I was lucky enough to find a counselor who was both hilarious and watched Grey’s Anatomy. It was quite serindipitous.

Counseling was a huge struggle for me in the beginning because so much of what my counselor told me was completely in conflict with my current patterns of behavior.

“Wait, what? You’re telling me when I feel sad to not listen to sad music and watch sad shows and write sad things in my sad journal?”

Yes, that’s exactly what she was telling me.

You see, it is totally true that misery loves company. When you’re miserable, it’s so much easier to be miserable and find sources to support your feelings that life is shitty.

There have been a variety of studies that examine this phenomenon of when your partner or a close intimate family member, friend, or companion is depressed, you’re more likely to be depressed. While psychologists are unsure in the same “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” situation, the same goes for misery. We don’t really know.

Moods between people remain if the mood is extreme. Sure, if you’re having a bad day, that will likely not affect your partner over the long-term. If you’re having a bad life? Your partner will, too.

You know I’m getting to a point here. So, what is it, Jen?

Happy moods are just as contagious. Sure, life does suck sometimes. Bad things happen. The nation is in debt, unemployment is up, parents mess up their kids, kids become adults and blame their parents, Kim Kardashian’s wedding is a sham (the horror!), and the world keeps spinning.

 

What’s important to remember?

In all actuality, we only have one life to live. Even if there is reincarnation (pleaseeee, let me come back as a well-cared for Australian Shepherd), the goal is to become better with each life and strive towards nirvana.

So how do we snap out of our miserable funk?

We do things that make us happy that don’t indulge our misery. For me, that meant turning off Grey’s Anatomy (one of the best and most saddest days of my life), wiping my “Chill Mix” off my iTunes (yes, I hid my depressive tendencies with a playlist I deemed “chill” so no one would see my self-indulgent tendencies), going outside, meeting people, and stop feeding what my yogi friend Michelle calls the monkey mind.

I started hanging out with people that seemed to have a grip on this whole “happy” thing everyone talked about, and sure, at first they were annoying. Ugh. It was so much cooler to be sad.

But then, I noticed they got sad, too. Happy people get sad because bad things happen to all of us. What was the coolest moment for me was when I realized it was a lot about how they thought about the sad things. They stopped judging their thoughts, they put on their big girl/boy panties, and they decided they’d move forward and keep trying for whatever they were striving for that fulfilled them. They didn’t become their own worst enemies. They stopped taking every crappy thought they had about themselves as absolute truths. They acted in a way that challenged that voice that said, “You can’t”. Eventually, the voice disappeared.

Once I figured that magnificent reality out, things became a lot easier. I was suddenly in control of my sassiness happiness. While it was both terrifying and exciting and I did have my relapses into misery, my way of thinking had changed.

So if you’re sad, try not to dwell. Sure, give yourself that time if you need it, but don’t close yourself off in your room eating brownies in the dark and watching Pride and Prejudice on repeat (which, I never did).

Find a happy person and watch them. Try not to judge them for being so happy. Take their coping mechanisms and use them in ways that matter to you. This is one of the first steps in the pursuit of happiness sassiness.



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Posted on by Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA Posted in Individual, Mind
Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA

About Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA

Hi, I’m Jen. I’m a mental health counselor newly residing in Seattle, Washington. I strongly believe in the mind-body connection as the cornerstone of my professional ideology, along with the healing possibilities of puppies, a good glass of red wine, the smell of a new book, and the importance of travel.