Growing up, it never occurred to me that I was a pessimist. I mean, on the outside it was all rainbows and sparkles and sunshiney happiness, and I always assumed that my insides matched what I presented outwardly. After all, I got up each morning and told myself the day would be a good one. I sought out silver linings. I had notebooks upon notebooks filled with inspirational quotes and motivational pictures. If someone around me was upset, I’d be there in an instant, rambling off positive messages and giving advice laced with fervent hope. I was trying to be optimistic, so I assumed that I actually was.
That’s why it didn’t really make sense that my seventh-grade English teacher nicknamed me “Negative.” And literally used that name to call on me.
In hindsight, yeah, maybe I was a little on the negative side. I woke up each morning and hoped to Hell that the day would be a good one, but did I actually believe that it would be? Was the hope I had real or was it just labeled hope in an anxious attempt to maybe have a decent day? I sought out silver linings, yes. But did I actually find any? Did I fill notebook after notebook with inspiration and motivation because I was inspired and motivated? Because maybe it was the exact opposite. Maybe I jumped at the opportunity to comfort others because I was drowning in hopelessness and didn’t want anyone else to have to feel the same way.
It sounds a lot like I was severely depressed and anxious. Oh wait, I was.
Nothing’s really changed, either. I mean, I’m not always depressed. But I am a good amount of times (thank you, bipolar disorder). And I’m still anxious pretty much all the time. I still wake up in the morning willing the day to be a good one, still attempt to find the good, still litter my notebook with inspiration, still give it every ounce of effort I have to cheer people up when they’re down.
But people still see me as a pessimist. Quite a few people, in fact. When I’m flipping out at work because my emotions are volcanic in my body and I can’t control them, I am frequently told I have a bad attitude. When I start to get upset, the snowball rolling down a hill accumulating more and more mass, I am told that it isn’t a big deal, that I shouldn’t dwell on the bad things. Just the other day I was making small talk with a stranger, forcing a smile despite the twisting ball of panic in my chest. I said simply that I hated rainy days and was told that “rain makes the flowers grow, why don’t you look at it like that?” Why don’t you fuck off? Because I try to look at it like that. I try to be an optimist like all decent humans beings apparently are. Do you mean to tell me those notebooks full of quotes don’t count as effort? That my search for the silver lining isn’t hard work? That my quest to be a light in the darkness isn’t worthy of recognition?
People see the negative in me. They see it even though there’s so much more to me. And worse than that, to me, is that they hear it when I speak. When I open my mouth, which in my mind is the equivalent of baring my very soul, they hear pessimism. They don’t bother to listen for the echoes of attempted hopefulness that reverberate through the subtext.
I am trying. It isn’t my fault that I suck at this.
It isn’t my fault that it’s been proven to me time and time again that patterns repeat, that every rise comes with an even bigger fall, and that no one can control it, least of all me. Yes, I tend to feel hopeless, which is a direct result of being shown, over and over again, that hope is sometimes just a sick joke, a fleeting sensation that tricks me into calming down only to have the calm aggressively ripped away. I don’t always have the energy to ride the rollercoaster. I can’t always have it. Energy is a finite resource, and I need to reserve mine for picking up the pieces after every inevitable impact at rock bottom.
Right, so I’m negative. I really don’t think negative is the worst thing in the world to be, thank you very much. I can’t see how it’s wrong to complain every now and then. Pity parties are often earned, and wallowing in self-despair can be cathartic if you use it the right way.
Isn’t it a matter of being negative at the right times? It’s about having awareness about your negativity, enough of it to see situations clearly. Complain away, but know when to stop. Pity yourself, give in to the hurting, but make sure that while you’re doing that, you expel all the bullshit you’re hanging on to. This way, when you pick yourself up again (which is what all people do, every single time, whether they acknowledge such a success or not), you are cleansed. It’s called balance, isn’t it?
You may struggle to see the good, there is nothing inherently wrong about that. But for the love of all things worthwhile, at least keep your eyes open. Be negative, but not with determination. There is good out there. Don’t close yourself off to it.
I am negative. Yet I don’t think that my negativity is the only part of who I am. Obviously. Negative may be my default state, but it isn’t my only state. We’re all multifaceted, we’re all made of so many parts stitched together in a patchwork quilt of glorious variety, and thanks to my mental illness, I think I’m even more multifaceted and varied. It’s the nature of the thing, and for once I’m grateful for the illness I’ve been given. See? I’m grateful even in regards to the difficulties. I’m not solely negative.
Overall, what I’ve learned to do is kneel by the bottomless pit of hopelessness and pessimism, and without falling into it, pull out the motivation to keep going in spite of it all. Reach down into the sinkhole and take back what you need to get through the struggles and trials and tribulations.
I do not believe it’s about positivity and optimism (although if those qualities are yours then enjoy them and be proud of them). I believe it’s about owning who you are and making it work regardless. I can still enjoy the good shit despite having been anxious that it’d never come. With years of backlogged experience in negativity, aren’t I some champion of enjoying the positives?
More importantly, happiness isn’t tied exclusively to your outlook on life (luckily). So long as you can see the rainbow after the rain, it is perfectly okay to not dance amongst the puddles.
That’s how I feel, at least.