The Problem with “Positive Energy”

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk recently about positive energy. Project positive energy onto the universe and that’s what you’ll get in return. I feel a lot of pressure to be positive, and to look for “the silver lining” rather than allowing myself to stay down in the dumps.

But maybe it’s not so simple. It’s not a simple flick of a switch, and it’s not always a choice. You can’t just decide to be positive and will yourself through negative emotions. I think it’s great that some people are able to focus on the positive side of things, but I also think many people underestimate the power of depression. Someone who is depressed is NOT just a lazy person who isn’t trying hard enough to be happy. Depression can be linked to chemical imbalances in the brain, and I think it’s unfair to implore others to look past the negative to the positive. It’s great if you can do that, but each person has his or her own journey, and sometimes well intentioned words of advice can trivialize and discourage us from truly experiencing negative emotions, pushing us to bottle up our feelings.

I’m sitting here at midnight with tears streaming down my face. It’s dark and silent, and the only noise comes from my staggered breaths and my thumbs furiously typing on my smartphone. Right now, I feel completely and utterly alone.

For some inexplicable reason, I let myself go down the rabbit hole of nostalgia, the one that I’ve spent years building a barricade against. There are things in my everyday life that make it annoyed, anxious, or sad. The hour long commute to and from school in the notorious LA traffic. The pressure to perform in school. Poor results, inability to keep up with my peers. But all those stressors pale in comparison to my own painful memories.

Almost exactly three years ago, I was hospitalized for attempted suicide. To this day, nothing has the power to rip me to shreds, making my head explode with physical pain, the way my memories of high school do. The pain of putting all my energy into one basket only to have it irrevocably snatched away from me. The agony of trying over and over again to reach someone who wants as much distance from you as humanly possible.

I stare out of my window at the starless night, feeling like a single dot in a vast expanse, unable to communicate with the only one who has the power to give me the validation I crave. And in this moment, there is absolutely nothing I can do.

Sometimes, it’s important to experience the pain, and accept it as an essential component of the human experience. Rather than dismissing my memories as a can of worms to be discarded, I allow myself to let them wash over me like a wave. And rather than fighting the wave, I simply ride it.

I’m not over it.

I have to accept that this is not something that time will just erase. It will become less painful with physical and temporal distance, but it will always be a part of who I am. It’s a part of the reason why today, I have so much compassion for people who experience emotional pain, and I do whatever is in my power to alleviate that pain by fostering deep connections with people around me. It is the reason why today, I don’t fall apart when I receive disappointing news. I have experienced some of the worst pain, and I’m strong enough to survive through mildly difficult experiences.

But for now, my forehead stings with the pain of broken promises and shattered dreams, and I carefully release the defense mechanism that I had built around my memory, and I cry.

That’s okay.


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