When A Positive Psychologist Meets Depression

A month passed and my irritation isn’t gone. Neither my sadness, nor my compulsive urges to overeat. The fact that I moved to a flat next to the beach and that I have been watching the sunset from my lovely balcony whenever I can have not been enough to send everything away.

Today I decided that I had to do something and that I had to have enough courage to do the tests from the book that I am reading now “The How of Happiness“. I thought I knew everything about happiness and Positive Psychology. Actually I bought this book last year and never really bothered to think “I should really read it”. After all, I have been assuming myself as a Positive Psychology since 2009, when I was just a Psychology undergraduate in Lisbon. I have been sharing the “candle of happiness” with everyone I meet. The thing is that we get comfortable and we do not think twice about our own happiness. We get used to our thoughts and to the wrong assumption that “we know it all”, when actually we should be always cultivating what mindfulness teach us about having a “beginner’s mind”. Moreover, we may know the theory, but if we don’t keep the practise along with it we won’t benefit much.

Well, today when I finally stopped to think about my last month I understood the great amount of sadness and hurt that I have been feeling and trying to send away using food. I have been eating so much that I started to have fibromyalgia crisis again, something that was controlled for almost a year now. I started to realise that I was probably ignoring the cumulative effect of several negative situations that I have been dealing with over the past month.

Moving out

By the end of May I decided to move out. I could no longer stand the majority of people I was living with, especially the girl I had to share the bathroom with. The energy was too dense for me and the fact I was not talking to her at all didn’t help to make me feel better. I was actually feeling bad for not talking to her, even though that was the only way to avoid her cynicism and bipolar complex of superiority. Thus I chose to leave and I got lucky enough (not that lucky, I made the change happen) to move in to a house two walking minutes away from the sea, which always renews and nurtures my energy. However the move was not smooth. Stubbornly, I ended up having to move everything by myself, using public transports. I made several trips, carrying heavy stuff from one place to another. In the beginning I thought I would not have many things to carry and when I was half-way, already tired, I thought “oh well… now that I have started I will finish it by myself”. It was the most stupid decision I have made this year but the story gets worse. My previous landlord is the perfect stereotype-fit of a very mean english lady and on the last day she sent me a horrible e-mail. Actually she now reminds me of Snow White’s stepmother when she goes by as an old lady carrying around a basket of apples. First you find her lovely and innocent but when you start noticing her you find out she is a wicked witch. She patronises everyone whenever she can. The other day I saw her from a far in the bus station shouting at an asian boy whose t-shirt had something related to the word “heroin”. She started lecturing and asking him if he found it smart to advertise heroin on his shirt. I felt bad for the boy but the situation also helped me to see that I was not such a bad person as she made me believe on her e-mail – now that I was calmer I could see that the e-mail was never about me but about her. She just naturally spits her poison whenever she can and watching her interacting with that boy made me feel a little bit compassionate: she must have suffered some really bad hardships when she was just a little girl.


Betrayal and hurt feelings among friends 

I was having a crush for someone who I knew from afar since I had arrived to the U.K. Somehow I always felt a special link to that person and when life allowed us to come closer I actually thought that finally I was able to find out more about someone really interesting and apparently who posed the same type of existential questions that I keep thinking about to myself. In the end I found out that I projected on him what I wish I could find, but before I had the chance to know that, a friend of mine started to hit on him. And worse – she ignored or dismissed all the signs that I was into him. I then saddened for two reasons: first I was really appreciating our special friendship and I didn’t want to believe that she was putting her obsession over my feelings, and second I was facing the dilema of having to choose between keeping a friend or go after my romantic feelings. I ended up concluding that her friendship was more important to me than to get closer to a guy that I barely knew – and whom I found out to be not what I though he was. Anyhow, I kept feeling betrayed and hurt with the situation and even though I chose to keep her friendship I haven’t been really able to give her back as much as I used to, because suddenly I started to see that I had also projected on her what I wanted to see or believe.


My passion for education makes me suffer a lot 

I wait the whole year for Summer. Not just because it’s sunny most of the times and I can go a few shades darker, but because I get to teach more often. I really love Psychology and teaching it is more than simply covering a few slides of theory and practise. In my classes, I share what I know with my students but I always leave the classroom with the feeling that I learnt more from them than they did from me, because I ask them to critically think about the content I bring them. Do they agree with it? Could it be different? Does what we talk about resonate with their own life experiences? I like to make them think and I like to tell them that they too can build and contribute to Psychology. They always surprise me for the best and it’s wonderful how they come up with outside-of-the-box arguments which actually add up to what we have to discuss. In summary, I love the whole process of learning and I do like to give my students what I would like to had had ten years ago when I was sitting in their seats. However, schools only seem to care about money, and they think all teachers only care about money too (a.k.a. wages). After two years facing the demotivation (and disregard) with which the school embraces my course (against all the amazing feedback from students), and the constant talk around money, I decided to quit and not to be part of it anymore. I love teaching, but I realised that I need to go teaching elsewhere, somewhere where people recognise, encourage and retain a teaching that is education and humanly-oriented.


Summing up all these events, and filling in the scale-tests that Sonja offers in her book, I finally faced the reality I was trying to cover up: at the moment, I am not very happy and I am depressed. A lot of feelings have been coming through from this reality-check. Some of them might be shame and guilt. How can I not be happy? How am I depressed? Don’t I know everything about happiness and positive psychology? Haven’t I taught people on the “Psychology of Happiness”? Don’t I cheer up and motivate everyone around me? How can I not be happy? Other feelings are empowerment and self-acceptance. I accept the present moment and its reality. Doing so makes me feel empowered, because from that point I know what to do next: I need to befriend my feelings and nurture back my positivity.



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