No Room For Unhappiness

There is always work to be done. There is a culture that requires and rewards us to “rise and grind”. It is an ethic that is so deeply baked into our culture, our social norms, and our institutions that there is simply no room for unhappiness.

 

Perhaps unhappiness exists and continues to exist because we never allow any room for it to be addressed. Perhaps unhappiness exists because there are people in our world who have structured our institutions so that our unhappiness benefits them. I argue that the both are interlinked.

 

The stigma attached to mental illnesses is staggering. One may reasonably fear coming forward about their ill mental health because there is simply no telling what kind of response one would get, especially when conversations around mental health are already gagged. But to be perfectly honest, while I am frustrated by peoples’ poor responses to receiving the news that someone they know is suffering with a mental illness, I am also not interested in deconstructing it. I am, however, morbidly fascinated by the structures that inform that response, and the effect that response has in our world.

 

There is simply no room for unhappiness.

 

You see, the good depressive goes to therapy, takes their medication regularly, eats their meals three times a day, exercises, finishes their work on time, and has a general air of cheerfulness. And even if you are not a high-functioning depressive like the person I just described, if at the very least you are a person who decides to suffer with the embarrassing problem of being in a chronically foul mood in silence, that too will do. However, if at all you are a person who simply loses the ability to function, or who struggles to manage daily activities – and by daily activities, I mean work/studying – what exactly of use are you? After all, the worth of a person is determined by how much productivity they can put out, and not by virtue of simply being born as a human being.

 

There is a logic to these callous responses too. Mental illnesses are a burden to those who wish to churn out a profit. Relationships — not just romantic, but platonic ones too —  are also created after carefully calculating whether a person is a good investment to have within their lives. This “logic” of profit, or attaining monetary and social capital, is based on the idea of how able a person is capable of being. If you are physically or mentally ill, you are simply useless and disposable.

 

There is simply no room for unhappiness.

 

The depressed person is not typically in the habit of feeling sorry for themselves. The depressed person is typically worried about whether they are allowed to feel depressed because “others have it worse”.  The depressed person is bitter with anger at themselves as they constantly ask themselves “how dare you be unhappy?”

 

Thus begins the incessant need to be happy, not as a treatment, but because it becomes a social duty to not make others uncomfortable with how poor of an investment you are. The returns are after all sob stories about your grief, episodes of mania, anxiety and panic.

 

(If you think someone’s panic-induced depressive episodes feel bad for you, wait till you hear about the person experiencing it – it’s a riot).

 

There is simply no room for unhappiness.

 

Because really, where exactly in this god-forsaken world are we really allowed to express the externalities that cause us such internal grief? While it is true that most people experiencing depression might just want to be listened, sometimes, sometimes, it helps when the people listening actually have tangible solutions that actually change the material conditions that continue to plague the depressed person into having to perform happiness in order to keep their source of income. But this is a tall order because we simply do not live in a system that is kind toward those who experience mental illnesses. Healthcare continues to be privatized and made for-profit, social workers get paid peanuts while being defunded because they are not profit-making machines, therapy costs 1/3rd of peoples’ monthly incomes, and once again, we continue to create relationships that are based on mutual forms of profitability.

 

Interpersonal, emotionally intimate relationships are hard to come by. Family relationships are degraded by various factors such as the economy that demands long and arduous hours. Bonds between parent and child also deteriorate due to long working hours and irritable moods, and as we grow into adults, our jobs become transitive and we uproot our lives to move to different towns, cities, countries to work and live. The common denominator here is that the work ethic that has us “grinding” in the office also translates into our personal lives, and it leaves little to no room to be unhappy. Happiness becomes an economic necessity too.

 

There is simply no room to be unhappy.

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