I’m Sorry I Can’t be Happy for You
Lately, I’ve been feeling like a really shitty person. I shouldn’t say lately, it’s been going on a long time, but I’m just now verbally unearthing something I’ve known for a while: My inability to be truly happy for others.
It sounds awful. Selfish. What kind of person am I that I can’t share in other’s joy? Am I a heartless person? Am I rude? Do I lack empathy? None of these are actually true about the Real Me, but Depressed Me is a total dick.
I’ve always been the kind of person who feels deeply for other people. If you’re crying, I’m crying. When there’s good news, I’m probably jumping with you. If somebody has a breakdown during a night out, I’m likely the one consoling them in the bathroom. You get it. This isn’t a means to defend my current actions as a depressed dick, but to give you an idea of who I was…who I think I still am.
Depressed Me operates in a constant state of apathy. I have occasional highs, and more than occasional lows. While living in this medium, it takes a lot to reach highs, and not much to lock me in the lows — which sucks. For example, the only thing that could push me into a high today would be work getting cancelled (as a scale, the chance of this happening is 1%). Now that we’ve established my emotional graph, it might make sense that I’m unable to be truly happy for people.
It doesn’t mean I don’t care, I just likely won’t be squealing with you and hankering for more details. It’s not an ideal way to function, and is probably terrible for most of my relationships, but it’s what I have to work with right now. In the last few months alone, I’ve heard news of: a college graduation, a landed job, three babies born, two pregnancy announcements, a vacation abroad, and a promotion. Each time, I’ve wished the person something of a generic congratulations, best of luck, that’s so great for you, or my favorite: “yaayyyyy!”, met with Apple’s equally fake text-reaction confetti. *Boom*
I am glad these people got what they wanted, what they worked for, or what they need. It’s always a great sense of accomplishment and ease to finally cross the finish line of a personal or professional goal. It’s not that I don’t understand, that I actually don’t care, or that I don’t think it’s a big deal. I do. It just doesn’t move my operational medium into the highs. You saw my scale.
“Well can’t you just TRY to be happy for people?”
I wish it were that simple, but the best I can offer right now is a “congratulations”, and smile. I wish I could ask you all the small details about your cool vacation, but honestly it makes me jealous. I don’t have that opportunity, and it’s going to take a long time before I do. I would love to have interest in the new baby, but I can’t force excitement for that. It’s great for you, but it’s not something I want for myself so it’s hard to move that bar and empathize. It would be great to sit down and hash out the details of your new job, but I hate mine and it took me nine months after graduation to land a real job, and you got one five months before graduating.
Yes, it’s selfish. And yeah, I take the cake for Eeyore.
I can’t help but compare my situation to that of those around me. It’s not about trying to “Keep Up With the Jones's” for me. I’m not always jealous and I don’t want everything you have. It’s the simple fact that your news reminds me where I still stand, and that’s currently not a great place. Your news highlights the insecurities and gaps in my own life. It’s the reminder that my whole life, I’ve always had to try twice as hard as everybody else for very average results, and the knowledge that it’s continued into adulthood. It provokes me wondering about my own future, and the things I want for myself, and then the crushing realization that I’m unable to see into next month.
Your lives operate like a telescope, and mine a tunnel. You can see the years ahead in your life, what your house might look like, how many kids you want, and that promotion at work — it’s a relief to know you’re not experiencing life the same way I am. I can’t see the light at the end of my tunnel, there really doesn’t seem to be one. Sure, I light candles and throw flares to find my way short-term, but there is no end in sight for me. No goal, no plan, no future ideals.
I used to be the person with the telescope. I believed in the cliche Five Year Plan, and I relished people asking me about it because I had big dreams. Back when I was the Real Me, I did see my future a few years ahead. Most people who knew me would say I was almost constantly operating in that medium, so much so that many times I was unable to live in the moment because I was jumping my own timeline. Maybe that was unhealthy, but I think that’s how most people are. We’re always onto the next thing.
It’s hard to be happy for you when I’m at war with my own life. The only reason I get out of bed in the morning during the week, is because I’m going to the gym at the end of the work day. It’s the only thing I like to do anymore. I used to like running, enjoy cooking, designing, having plans, or just watching a movie. Now, those things have been demoted to chores — at best, I don’t feel one way or the other about them. I’ve stopped myself from crying so regularly by making things up, lies to get me where I need to go. Things like “I only have one month left at this job”, “I’m moving soon”, and “I have better things coming”. None of these are actually true, but if I give my brain a made up timeline, somehow the mental tortures of my every day life seem less impactful and more manageable. It sounds crazy, absolutely, but aren’t we all doing the same thing with our Five Year Plans? None of it is true. It’s what you wish to happen, and you have no absolute guarantee of it happening.
I may have done a decent job hiding it, but please know that I’m sorry for my current apathy that I can’t fix, and how that might affect you.
Know that the Real Me is truly happy for you, and not faking a smile.
Know that I realize the hard work you put in to reaching your goals.
Know that I understand what it took for you to arrive here.
Know that I want to be jumping with you, but I can’t.
Love, Real Me