How to Be Happy: Understanding Depression

How to Be Happy (Even if You’re Not)

by Jamie Byrne

Before you call me out for the angsty title, hear me out. This will be an extremely personal post, so I can’t promise it’ll be very helpful for anyone, but I hope it’s an interesting read and helps you understand the average person a little better.

Today I’d like to talk about happiness, and what it means to be happy. It’s a topic I continue to struggle with, but I hope I can share a little of what I’ve learned in my 21 years.

While I once suffered severe depression as a result of my anxiety, my previous therapist concluded that I didn’t at that point suffer depression but depressive episodes. I described my sadness to her as overwhelming waves, but they were so much more than this. These episodes are in no way fun and as I’m deep in one right now I figured it was the perfect time to talk about them.

Depression vs Depressive Episodes

A depressive episode for me looks like a complete loss of motivation and interest in anything. Shows, books, movies even music, nothing holds your attention. Depending on how bad it is, I usually find alternating episodes of a lot of crying and not being able to leave my bed. I am however being forced out of my bed for work, which is a silver lining in disguise as for years I would end up lost in my own head to the point of danger. Over the years, I have struggled with smoking, drinking, self-harm and suicide attempts. Having a reason to get up during the day is the one thing holding me together right now. That being said, I want to explore the concept of happiness.

Happiness is defined as “a sense of well-being, joy or contentment. When people are safe, or lucky they feel happiness.” I once told a therapist that I don’t think I’ve ever been truly happy in my life, but I understand now that is wrong. See, I always viewed happiness as this permanent state of being, completely unattainable. And it is unattainable. Do you know why? Permanent happiness does not exist, and that’s what makes it so special.

Overall, I would say I’m pretty content in my life. Yes, I still suffer anxiety and depressive episodes, but to me these make the happy moments so much more important. What I have learned over the years is that you need to take the good with the bad if you stand any chance of not driving yourself crazy. I have a good life. I have a good family and good friends. I go to parties. I laugh til I cry at dumb stuff my friends say. I drink. I dance. I have an amazing time. I hug the people that make my life so much more interesting. But then I go home to an empty house as my partner and I have as good as broken up. I take my makeup off to be greeted with the face full of imperfections that have been pointed out to me over the years. I take my clothes off to see the years of self-harm scars and abuse I’ve put my body through. I go to bed and I’m lucky to fall asleep before sunrise.

Does this diminish the happiness I felt? No, it doesn’t. Good with the bad. I have lived through so much and I am so much stronger for it. I’m at a place in my life where I finally realise, I do deserve happiness, and all the benefits that come with it. And so, do you. Katie has made a post full of helplines that are more than willing to listen to you whenever you want, and I highly recommend talking to them if you need to. We have also both posted a lot of self-care tips that are worth checking out.

I can never erase my past, but I can rebuild my future, and I aim to make it as carefree and as full of joy and laughter as possible. So, if you take anything from this please take this. You may be going through hell right now and think you’ll never be happy again, but I promise that is not true. You can fight through this. Live for those small moments of happiness. They’ll save you. They saved me.


(he/him) Henry a previous Editor-in-Chief of Chapter Z magazine. He specialises in LGBTQ+, film and in-depth community/cultural features.

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