girl with glasses smiling

The Problem With Saying “Happiness Is A Choice”

By Kimberly Zapata

Lately, my Facebook feed has been full of inspirational quotes; quotes like “stars can’t shine without darkness” and “falling down is an accident. Staying down is a choice.” Most of it is uplifting; most of it I can get on board with. But a dear friend posted an “inspirational” quote on their wall the other day that bothered me.

No, more than that — it caused me a great deal of grief and anguish. It upset me. This quote pissed me off.

“Happiness isn’t just a random feeling,” it read. “Happiness is a choice.”

Make no mistake: I know this quote was not meant to be malicious. In fact, all of these quotes share the same beautiful sentiment; all of them are meant to be inspiring. But happiness isn’t always a battle of the wills. Happiness isn’t always “within your reach,” and happiness isn’t always a choice, especially when you live with a chronic illness — when you live with a mental illness — and blanket statements like these aren’t just inaccurate and misguided, they can be detrimental to those who aren’t happy. It can feel like a punch in the gut to someone who is suffering, and it can be dangerous.

And I would know because, when I am in the grips of a depressive episode, these words torture me. When I am drowning the the darkest depths of my disease, this idea torments me. Because I know I have so much — so very much — to live for. I know I should feel grateful. I should be happy. But I’m not.

Why can’t I just get it together? I wonder. Why can’t I just smile and “snap out of it?”

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