I don’t want to write this.
And that’s exactly why I’m writing this.
I’ve fought this post with every fiber of my being—putting it off, changing its focus 10 different times, doing every household chore imaginable to avoid listening to the nagging voice inside of me that keeps insistently whispering that this will help. That you will help.
You can never just stay in your “circle of Sadness,” can you?
I’ve always felt proud when people compare me to Joy from Inside Out. For a long time, I worked hard to share positivity whenever I could, to spread sunshine everywhere I went. I wanted that to be what people remembered when they thought of me—bright yellow (or even hot pink) light, lots of smiles, memories dipped in gold. And even when other emotions took their turn at the console (especially fear, my ever-present companion for most of my life) I tried to find a way to make all those feelings positive—to share my big feelings with the world so that the people around me could feel more comfortable with theirs.
I was good with big feelings.
Or—to be more accurate—I was good with big feelings that made sense.
Anger was a way for me to respond to injustices—both personal and global. Disgust helped me hone my sense of taste—in food, clothes, media, and more. Fear kept me safe—sometimes a little too safe, but with some therapy and a little openness, we worked on that. And joy was my favorite big feeling to feel—I loved crying happy tears or laughing so loud people stared or dancing down a grocery store aisle because I just felt happy.
And even you had a place, Sadness. I was good with you when you made sense—when a TV show made me sad or when I experienced a loss and needed to grieve or when I felt lonely. I was never totally comfortable with you taking the console, but as long as you did it at a time that made sense, you could make things turn blue for a little while.
But sometimes you don’t make sense. Sometimes you don’t stay in the circle Joy made for you. Sometimes you touch the console and turn everything blue when I’m not ready or when I can’t figure out why.
And that’s when the version of Joy that’s inside of me gets desperate, just like the version of Joy inside of Riley.
When you created a blue core memory for Riley, Joy couldn’t handle it. Instead of accepting that not every foundational moment in life can be a happy one, she tried to destroy it—to erase any memory that wasn’t happy. Because Joy liked how it was in Riley’s head. It was perfect up there as it was.
There’s something about you, Sadness, that messes with ideas of perfection.
Because, let’s admit it, you’re a little messy. You come with tears and sometimes snot and a splotchy face and a cracking voice. You’re not something we like showing the world.
You’re not something I like showing the world.
I have worked so hard to keep you in your circle. I have tried to explain that other people around me are going through really hard things, so there’s no place for you right now. I have pleaded and begged for you to understand that I have a job to do—and that job is to cheer people up, to be a beacon of positivity, to brighten the days of everyone I come across.
But you didn’t listen.
You didn’t listen when Riley needed to be happy for her parents, and you didn’t listen when I needed to be happy for the people around me who are struggling.
You didn’t stay in your circle.
That’s what depression feels like for me.
It’s when you don’t stay in your circle.