Suffering and sadness are an inevitable part of life. The majority of people find it difficult to cope with sadness and trauma and thus want to move away from it. But there are instances where people desire sadness for the sake of being sad. They begin to romanticize mental illness and believe that sadness is their entire identity, leading them to look for negative emotions to validate how they feel about themselves.
This article covers sensitive topics. If you're struggling with suicidal thoughts or anything of that nature, please be advised to seek help. You can find international suicide hotlines here.
My Desire to be Sad
When I was around 7 years old, I started to frequently daydream about myself being pulled away from my loved ones. I was creating tragic scenarios in my mind and started having suicidal thoughts. I would cry and scream silently at night while the daunting episodes occupied my mind. During the episodes, I completely lost touch with reality, and after the pure distress, I would realize what I was doing and thinking about. Even though the tragedy I created in my mind brought a lot of distress, it also gave me some sort of pleasant feeling, which this article will focus on.
Sometimes people seek validation by sharing their sadness with others since it is comforting when people pay attention to our suffering. But in my case, no one knew I was conjuring up these tragic imaginary scenarios since I never shared them with anyone. Therefore, there was no audience to give attention to my sadness. But then why did I still enjoy doing it? Why did I desire tragedy for the sake of being sad? In this article, you will find out that it's due to romanticizing a mental illness, struggling to find my identity, and a way of coping with trauma by searching for meaning.
I Romanticize Borderline Personality Disorder
Sad art in the form of music, paintings, movies, books, etc., makes suicide and depression sound so poetic, making it no surprise that people feel a sense of beauty attached to it.
For some people, happiness can feel like something naive. By feeling sad, lonely, and pessimistic, someone may feel genuinely enlightened about life. Especially people that deal with anxiety may find comfort and calmness in being sad. But romanticizing a mental illness to affirm someone's sense of self can create a false image since it only reinforces negative emotions. Being sad becomes so familiar that even though it's a negative emotion, it gives a welcoming feeling, which can develop into the fear of being happy. Being sad is fine, and there is value in negative emotion, but it isn't a state that people need to obsessively pursue and glorify.
''It's okay to not be okay, but it's also okay to be okay.''
Because of our knowledge of physical illness, people rarely romanticize it the same way they do with mental illness. There is still a lot we don't know about mental illness, which gives people the freedom to develop their own ideas and imaginations.
In my case, I'm influenced and attracted to sad art on a daily basis. I feel attracted to those who suffer. There is warmth in seeing, listening, feeling, and experiencing tragedy that I can relate with. There is something I admire in sadness, suffering, and dare I say it... I see beauty in suicide. But it's all related to love and connection. When I was creating these tragic scenarios in my head, I didn't envision hurting myself. In these episodes, I imagine myself saying my final goodbyes to the ones I love. Why? Because I crave and lack the true feeling of connection. I feel warmth in the connection that releases in a scenario of life and death.
My search for identity
People want to hold themselves tight to their existing self-concepts because they feel stable when they know who they are. Having a solid concept of ourselves allows us to understand the role we play in the world. Unfortunately, if you are suffering from BPD, you're often struggling with your identity, constantly searching for meaning, and trying to be in control of everything.
If we don't know who we are, like someone with BPD often struggles with, we lose our meaning in the world. People are motivated to experience emotions that affirm their existing self-concepts regardless of whether those are positive or negative emotions. We prefer having information that is consistent with the beliefs that we have about ourselves. And therefore, those who struggle with their mental health may actively seek negative emotions to maintain their negative self-concept.
For example, if I feel sad right now, then listening to sad music makes me feel as though I am validating the concept I associate with myself, which feels good because it verifies my identity. The same goes for the tragedy that I occasionally create in my mind. I struggle with my identity in every field of life, but when I experience pure sadness, I'm close to feeling who I am.
My search for Meaning
When I was a little boy, I thought that the abuse and neglect made me special, and I made the decision that someday I would help those who also suffer. This way of thinking and dealing with trauma is more common than you might think. I was looking for a meaning for the suffering and trauma I've experienced because, if there weren't one, everything would have happened for nothing, and that would be unbearable.
''He who has a why can bear any how.'' - Viktor Frankl
If we get hurt when there is meaning, it feels acceptable. It can even make us feel stronger than those who haven't endured trauma. But getting hurt without any meaning is what really hurts. And when it seems to lack meaning, people often try to invent their own.
''In some way suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of sacrifice.'' - Viktor Frankl