May 16th, 2013


The Girl Who Couldn't Smile.

There's a fairy tale, I can't seem to find its proper name, but I know it as "The Girl Who Couldn't Smile." The story goes that once upon a time there was a princess who had never smiled, nor laughed. Her parents were concerned, naturally, so as she grew older they tried this and they tried that. Clowns and jesters and jokers of all kinds came and went, from the greatest to the least. Wonders were displayed for her. Minstrels sang for her. Everything was tried to make her smile, but she never did. Finally the king declared that anyone who could make her smile would have her hand in marriage.

Then one day a peasant boy, (a third son, of course,) through a chain of odd circumstances I can't recall, ended up with a goose who could not be put down. Everyone who tried only ended up stuck to those who'd come before. As the train of helpless and hapless folk grew longer and more absurd, it happened to pass below the palace window where the girl was looking out, and it was so utterly ridiculous, all these people stuck to the goose and to each other, that she not only smiled, she laughed. Thus the curse was broke and she and the peasant boy were married and lived happily ever after.

It says something unfortunate about the assumptions that people make that I should have to say: real life does not work this way.

Somebody who can't smile suddenly smiling will not break their "curse" and make them happy. That is no more likely than third sons of peasants marrying princesses. In fact it's rather less likely.

And yet the idea persists.

So many people seem to think that if you just have one good happy moment, depression has been cured and everything is better. And no matter how many people explain that this is not how it works, people persist in believing it anyway.

Even with things like Hyperbole and a Half's wonderful comic about depression, which really does capture a lot of what it's like, there are people who seem to think that the moment with the corn under the fridge "cured" the author, and it's all good now, even when she pretty plainly and clearly says that she's not cured yet, and things are not all good, and that even though it's better and maybe that was a turning point, it's still a struggle.

I think sometimes that for somebody like me it will always be a struggle, and I will never be "happy" in the way I used to be ever again. It's been eight years now, and I'm not cured yet. That's an awfully long time.

But I still laugh. I laugh all the time. I smile on a daily basis. Some of them are even real, heart-felt, happy smiles. That doesn't have anything to do with depression.

I am not The Girl Who Couldn't Smile. Neither is anybody else. Real life doesn't work like fairy tales, and that shouldn't come as any kind of surprise to anybody.

This entry was originally posted at