How Depression Makes You Believe That Things Aren’t Supposed To Go Well For You


Depression taints some of your best moments.

It doesn’t make you incapable of being happy for yourself, feeling proud or enjoying your success. But it quells your triumphs, or puts a more subdued smile on your face, because you’re waiting for something to go wrong.

You’re not even conscious of when it starts. Your mind is pushing too far ahead, and the inevitable what ifs seep into your head; an unwelcome set of irrational thoughts you’re predisposed to have.

Think about the moment after joy. Something goes well, you get what you want. You have a few seconds of happiness, a celebratory drink, a moment of elation caught on Instagram. What happens after you feel excitement, extreme relief, or pride?

You don’t think of the most immediate problem, you think about the most extreme one. A crucial sign of mental illness is an inability to differentiate the rational, logical conclusions from the irrational conclusions that are fueling your concern.

If you like what you’re doing at work, you wonder what the catch is.

If you’re in a new relationship, you can’t help thinking about how bad the break up would be.

If you move to the place of your dreams, you’re too distracted by what you gave up to enjoy it.

If you come into money, you feel guilty.

You feel guilty for most of your happiness. You feel like you don’t deserve it.

You do, of course. And if you could push the irrational fears away for long enough you’d see it, but you can’t. Your instinct is to cling to the irrational fears, wrapping them around you like blanket. It’s impossible to let them go, because should anything go wrong your concerns will at least be validated as a consolation prize.

You know these fears are irrational but even when you repeat that truth back to yourself, it doesn’t calm you. Internalizing those fears just makes them more real.

If you grew up with depression, or shared a roof with a depressed parent, or sibling, you understand what it feels like to expect that things will go wrong. When you grow up with depression in your house, you come to see things going wrong as your norm.

It’s not always a happy way to live. It’s upsetting to always have your good news fall away with the panic that you’ll fuck something up, or some unknown circumstance will take the good in your life. You try to remind yourself that you’re in control, and nothing will go wrong. You’re unconvinced.

Depression pushes you to assume that when something goes right for you, a wrong will even it out. The way people with OCD are with symmetry: That’s you, and happiness. That’s you, and all things good.

It’s like being a glutton for punishment, but not in a Capulet-Montague, moment before the kiss, type way. In a self-sabotaging way, that only people who don’t understand a world without a mess on their hands know.

Sometimes you gravitate toward it because you know things will go awry, and will even occasionally lead them there as a defense mechanism. Like cheating on someone before they break up with you. Or never asking for something that might actually make you happy.

The notion that things could get better and then stay better is foreign to you. You’re scared to say yes to a good thing because you have a sinking feeling that something else will go wrong as a result. And even when you know how much you deserve to have things go well, you’re still scared to believe it.