Fear of joy. Some people find this hard to imagine, but it is real for some of us who’ve experienced depressive symptoms. It is real for me.
I have a really hard time experiencing joy without sabotaging it with fear. I don’t deliberately do this, but quite often I tend to feel intense anxiety when I notice I am in a good mood. Then obviously my mood goes down again.
It’s probably because of expectations. There is this man on my unit who always says he’s doing so-so or bad and never says he’s doing well. He says it is because, if he says he’s doing well, they’ll think he’s no longer mentally unwell and will expect him to leave the psychiatric unit. I can relate to this. Now I myself don’t want to be on this unit forever, like this man does. What I can relate to is the expectation that, if I’m well once, I should be able to keep the feeling and not fall unwell again. Worse yet, I fear that if I say I’m feeling well, I will be expected to cope with less support, more independence. In this sense, I can relate to the fear of being kicked off the unit if I say i’m well. Though I don’t want to stay on this unit forever, I do want to maintain a certain level of support.
Of course, everyone, whether we’re mentally ill or not, experiences highs and lows. People who aren’t mentally ill aren’t expected to keep feeling well forever if they say they’re well once. Why should people with mental illness be expected to be cured if we say we feel well once, then? The truth is, no good mental health professional or understanding relative expects this out of us.
Of course, I remember the situation a few years ago where a woman with depression was denied sick leave benefits because she “didn’t look depressed” in Facebook photos. That sort of thing may happen, and I’m sometimes afraid of this too. Like, yesterday I told my named nurse I’m afraid of not getting community support once I live with my husband. The reason is my staff aren’t coming to the tiny village to assist me with my application and the social consultant there isn’t coming to my institution. This means I’ll need to file the application all by myself. Of course, my husband will be there, but I doubt he knows what care I’ll need. Now I’m at once afraid that I’ll not be able to clarify what I need so that the consultant won’t be able to get me care, and that I sound too capable. The care needs paperwork that the Center for Consultation and Expertise created for me in 2013 lists my intellectual giftedness. I’m tempted to delete that in the process of updating it for the current application. The first reason is because I have no clue what significance a high IQ has over a normal IQ when applying for care. I mean, it means I can’t get care from the intellectual disability agencies, but I couldn’t if I had a normal IQ either. However, the other reason is I fear it will be seen as significant by the social consultant and they’ll determine that if I’m so intelligent, I should be able to solve my own problems.
This is what’s behind my fear of coming across like I’m doing well, and consequently my fear of experiencing joy. Of course, like I said, every understanding person should realize that having a good day doesn’t mean being cured of your mental illness. Then again, I’m not sure most people are all that understanding. Could be my stress-related paranoia though.