“You Are Always Happy” Does Not Mean You Really Are

Trigger Warning: This post talks about mental illness, suicide, and eating disorders. 

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”~Kevyn Aucoin

Baring My Soul

I nervously posted a very rough draft of this on Facebook Tuesday night. The day that we found out fashion icon Kate Spade had committed suicide. I was shaking. While I am unabashedly vulnerable on my blog, and post the links to Facebook, rarely do I post essay-esque statuses especially something where I am essentially baring my soul and showing that I am anything less then perfect.

In other words like millions on facebook, I portray sunshine and roses, cute memes and other peoples babies. Somehow to admit that I am human like everyone else, to admit I am human to the people who live in my minuscule hometown, and to show that humanity to my preschool classmates who I haven’t set eyes on since we were in diapers, and high school boyfriends who were still in an awkward phase the last time I saw them, is scary as shit.

But this is to important to not NOT post. And now I am posting it here. Because if one person knows that they are not alone then me being uncomfortable for a hot second is worthwhile. 

You Are SO Happy

I’ll never forget when someone told me circa 2007 that they never would have known I was sick or struggling. I am always so “Happy.”

I never thought of being happy as a bad thing, but as I have gotten older I have realized it feels more like a cursed shield, one I can hide behind and no one sees my true feelings.

Three years later, as I had my heart ripped out and came to terms, in the most unhealthy of ways, with the unbearable painful death of my sister, I once again had those words repeated. “You would never know you are grieving. You are always smiling. Always happy.”

Outwardly I grinned and bared it.

Inwardly I was screaming fuck you.

Two years later, when I finally opened up and shed the chains of a raging eating disorder and addiction, once again I was told, “I always seemed so happy.”

Like, I had shattered the image of their favorite movie star, how was it that I could possibly be unhappy?  

For the record, smiling does not equate to happiness. It might mean a happy moment. For one moment, that just so happens to be captured by a camera I may or may not have forgotten all my problems. Or maybe it is just easier to smile then to admit to someone, I am having a shoddy day.

Anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, but, yeah, I was fucking “Happy.” 

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This was taken when I had a 104 fever and had been battling undiagnosed lyme for almost a year…But I was “Happy.”

Our “Happy” Persona

We portray an image we want people to see. An image that at our core, we want to be true. With the rise of social media and people using various platforms, portraying an image whether it is one of success, of happiness, of glamour, it is SO easily a front and rarely do people seek to break down the walls and see the real person. The real struggles.  They just see our “persona.” In many ways they don’t want to see past it, and we don’t want them too.

Fame. Money. Glamour. None of that guarantees happiness and just because a person might have one or all doesn’t necessarily mean they are happy. More often then not that drive is so we don’t have to feel or face our emotions. The majority of comedians have dealt with depression and/or anxiety, AND THAT is why they became comedians. To bring happiness to others so that people may not experience the pain that they do.

We live in a society where we connect more through a screen then picking up the phone or meeting for coffee. It is easier to say we have thousands of friends, then to admit we probably have handful. And it is easier to portray a fab life, then to admit you had a shoddy day.

A Second Chance

I admittedly have never been low enough to want to take my life, but I did engage in behaviors that very nearly killed me and I was low enough to not care. 

Somehow I pulled myself up from rock bottom. It wasn’t easy and it took a hell of a lot of soul searching, therapy, and learning to rewire the thoughts running through my brain. Even now, I still get the occasional tug of those darker self loathing voices that want to take me back into hell.

But I am incredibly fortunate.

I got that second chance to live. Truly live.

Others are not so fortunate.  

Mental health isn’t some made up illness. It isn’t “All in the head.” It is very real and we as a society NEED to do more. As human beings we NEED to be better. We need to erase the stigma, the stereotypes and END the shaming. We NEED to do better at funding and making treatments more readily available. We NEED to do better. Mental illness does not discriminate. It affects people of every race, ethnicity, gender, class, it does not care where you come from. And chances are it affects someone YOU know. 

Many people were shocked that someone who seemed so “Happy” in one of their last interviews (thanks ABC for that one) could take her life. None of us know the demons, but at the core she obviously thought her family, friends, and her daughter were better off without her. 

Let THAT sink in.

No one saw her pain. 

We need to SEE better. We need to offer help better. We NEED to do better. We need to open our eyes and stop judging. Stop assuming we KNOW what someone is going through. We don’t. But we can connect. We can reach out. We can raise awareness. WE can be the love we so desperately want and need to see in this world. 

For all those hurting and hiding behind “happy” smiles, I see you and I love you. And it may not seem like it, but it does get better. 💗

For anyone who needs help please, please call:

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

19 thoughts on ““You Are Always Happy” Does Not Mean You Really Are

Add yours

  1. Thank you for having the courage to share this, dear Kate. I’m so sorry to read about all the difficulties you’ve endured (I had no idea!) but am really grateful you pulled yourself away from that dark abyss. I hope your words will reach others who feel hopeless too and show them that it CAN get better. Love and light to you … xx

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  2. I can’t tell you how much I admire you for being so brave and amazing and opening up about such a difficult topic!! We never know how a person is feeling on the inside, a smile doesn’t mean everything goes well as you said. Honestly this is an amazing and such a brave post Katie 💕💕

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  3. This is beautiful!!! ❤ ❤ ❤ I especially related with you when you said; "I admittedly have never been low enough to want to take my life, but I did engage in behaviors that very nearly killed me and I was low enough to not care." Thanks for writing this, you are incredible.

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  4. I like to think I will always be gentle with people because you don’t know what someone else is going through and something you say could affect them in a way you didn’t imagine. It doesn’t hurt to be nice. I agree with you when you say being uncomfortable for a second if it helps someone else is worthwhile ❤ I can't speak for those who suffer with mental illness but I can imagine to them it does feel like things are in their head and other people won't get them and that can make them choose not to speak up, the world can be a judgemental place and there's been times where I've felt like things are in my head and I'm 'crazy' and I haven't been diagnosed with anything. It must be horrible for anyone to feel like that no matter how big or small something is that affects them xx

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  5. I’m so glad you shared this. It’s so frustrating when people say, oh, you seemed so happy, or how can you be sad? As much as I love my family, they are quite naturally ‘upbeat people’ or they get on with it, and trying to get them to see my perspective is like trying to get my dog to eat broccolli…not happening!
    There is still a ridiculous stigma attached, and many don’t know how to talk about mental health, or what to say. So it leads everyone silent. Society tells us that money, fame and glamour is the dream, but if only life was that simple.
    Thank you for penning these thoughts and having the courage to post. x

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  6. This post honestly brought a tear to my eye. YES YES YES. I don’t talk about it often, but I suffer from OCD and I’ve struggled with high functioning depression for bouts in my life and this is SO ACCURATE. “Happy” doesn’t mean shit; usually, it means you haven’t looked closely enough. I’m so glad you’ve overcome so many issues girly, and the death of Kate Spade was honestly horrible. Can’t imagine how her daughters feel xx

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  7. Very sad about Kate Spade. I guess sometimes even if you ask if someone’s okay, they feel they’re a burden if they say anything. I guess that’s why it can be hard to see. But we all have to be aware people put on brave faces and often act happy, when inside they’re hurting. I know if I’m going through a tough time I often try not to show it, but I do confide in my partner which helps x

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  8. I ended up feeling like I needed to see your story and you’re so brave for sharing. 💜 I too tend to hide myself from people because some people really don’t understand what you’re going through or what you’ve been through. I don’t talk about it often but I did contemplate suicide twice, once when I was 19 and it took months to get better and the second when my son was almost a year. I obviously never made an actual attempt because I didn’t have the guts or the means, but they were some dark times. The thought that finally snapped me out of it was thinking what my sons life would be like without me and though it hurt and I felt guilty for those dark thoughts, I was grateful and felt like being a mom was what gave ME a second chance. Because I wouldn’t want to leave my son like that, and it’s not his fault he doesn’t understand. Like some part of me realized that going through with it would only lead to a lifetime of pain for my son. Idk if that makes sense, I feel like I’m just ranting right about now. But everything you said is true. With anxiety, it feels like you dig yourself deeper and deeper and your thoughts become your own personal hell. I cannot even begin to count the times I talked myself into believing that no one cared about me, that they wouldn’t care if I was gone but the reality is that people do care. Even if it’s not a bunch of people, people CARE and that’s what matters. I’m still pretty young but I feel like I’ve matured enough to realize that I’m better off with a small circle of friends. Ones who will be there for me in my highs and lows, and won’t blow me off when things change for them, because people like to walk all over me and I let it happen. I’m very open about being a loner and I don’t mind it one bit I’m not ashamed, most people just suck lol. But I’m grateful to also have this platform to talk to like minded people. It seems like my bestest friends are thousands of miles away from me, but it’s always nice to have their support, even through the internet. 💜
    Gosh I wrote you a freaking book!!!!!! I’m so sorry! But thanks for sharing and for letting me spill my guts out to you too lol. I hope you are doing so so so much better now!! It gets easier, and people DO care, even if we’re all very far away. 💜

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