It’s Okay to Just Be Sad.

Posted on | August 12, 2014 | 2 Comments

There was a day (one of many), back in 1998, when I found myself curled in a ball on the floor of my townhouse bedroom, crying. If you had asked me why, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you… though if you’d been there, I wouldn’t have been crying.

That’s the thing about depression, you know, it’s “private.” It’s “shameful.” It’s for the weak and broken.

If you’d run into me in public, I would have been vibrant. I would have smiled and laughed and told you all the things you wanted to hear. I would have made you laugh. I would have made you laugh a lot. Because the harder I made you laugh, the less likely you’d think there was anything wrong with me. The more I brought out your smiles, the less likely you were to realize that I wasn’t smiling. Even today, I prefer to make people laugh over being honest about what I’m feeling. I still prefer to deflect because it’s still not okay to be sad. It’s still only okay to be bright and cheerful and smiling.

And most people don’t notice that we’re only smiling on the outside, we, the people who entertain you.

When I heard the news about Robin Williams, I remembered that afternoon in 1998, when I found myself surrounded by tissues and bottles of pills and thoughts that it would all be so much easier if I could just stop pretending. It would be so much easier if I could admit that the past two years had been awful, had been beyond awful. I was so tired of making everyone laugh… so tired of entertaining and deflecting and putting on a show.

I just wanted to rest.

I just wanted to stop being everything everyone wanted me to be. I just wanted to stop being.

I just wanted to be sad.

But it’s not okay to be sad, not in this world. Not in this culture. Being sad gets you rolled eyes and “snap out of it!’ Being sad means people will tell you to “turn that smile upside down” and that “happiness is a choice.” You hear “you have so much to live for!” and “But look at how good you have it!” But you don’t hear the words you need… the “I understand, ” the “I’m so sorry.” Because happiness isn’t a choice, any more than sadness is a choice. It just is. It’s just something you are, deep in the bowels of your soul where you don’t allow the world.

Deep inside me, there is a sadness. It’s always been there.

And sometimes it rears it’s head and I do not CHOOSE to acknowledge it. I do not CHOOSE to wallow in the sadness. I just am. Sad.


But I have learned that sadness is best borne with company. It is best kept manageable by expressing it and acknowledging it and saying “Today I am sad but that is today and maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe.” Sadness can not be borne alone. I learned in 1998 that I needed help, that I had to acknowledge to myself that I was struggling and then acknowledge it to those around me. Because sadness can’t be pushed down for long. It will explode if you do not let yourself feel it and share the burden of your sad with someone you trust.

I imagine Robin Williams was sad sometimes, too.

I imagine Robin Williams got tired of always being funny, always being told to smile, always being asked to tell a joke.

I imagine that his sadness became too much to bear alone and I wish I could have known him, could have sat beside him and looked in his eyes and told him that I understood. I wish I could have told him that he didn’t have to be funny or anything other than just Robin. Just Mr. Williams. Just sad.

Because it’s okay to be sad.

It’s not wrong.

It’s not bad.

It’s not something to be ashamed of.

It’s just sad.

And we have to make it okay for people to acknowledge their sad or we will lose many more of our brightest “entertainers.”


Robin Williams at UNC in... 1998.

Robin Williams at UNC in… 1998.



2 Responses to “It’s Okay to Just Be Sad.”

  1. Please Dont Be Mad
    August 12th, 2014 @ 4:30 pm

    I get that depression is a thing but I never have understood it. It just doesn’t seem that hard to realize how much good is around in the world. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand depression as a “disease” and not a choice.

  2. Law Momma
    August 13th, 2014 @ 9:01 am

    No of course not mad. A lot of people feel that way and I am glad that you don’t have to experience depression! It’s a difficult thing to understand if you’ve never experienced it, for sure.

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