In the past week I have noticed fellow mental health bloggers writing about depression (and other mental health illnesses for that matter) not being a choice that is actively made. I could not agree with this more. These posts gave me a chance to reflect and remind myself of a Coca-Cola advert that I think was first on our TVs in the UK last year. I urge you to watch this advert by clicking here.
Now, although I understand that this advert is merely just advertising coke, the various choices/flavours out there and how HAPPY this drink can make you (ok mate), I have a bone to pick with Mr Coca-Cola. This bone lies particularly with the song/rap that accompanies it.
The first line asks the viewer:
“But why wait for happiness to happen to you? When it’s something we can just choose to do”
I ask you readers, why are you waiting for happiness to happen? Why don’t you just simply be happy? I can answer these questions with a few things:
- You’re suffering with depression, something you are hoping and wishing would end so that you can remember what it’s like to feel happy again.
- You’ve been on the waiting list for Counselling for months, maybe even as long as a year. Finding happiness on your own is just too difficult.
- Your mental illness has got to the point where you need to take medication, perhaps anti-depressants, which you have been told will make you feel worse before you feel better. You’re still waiting for the better part to happen.
- You’re lonely, stressed, tired. Life is busy and can overwhelm you easily.
OR MAYBE YOU JUST CAN’T BE PLAIN ARSED?!
As soon as this advert came out and nearly a year and a half later, I still feel that Coca-Cola telling the world that happiness is a choice is one of the most insensitive things I have ever heard. It’s no wonder stigma around mental illness still exists when massive companies like Coca-Cola release these sorts of adverts telling the world: “Come on guys, just choose to be happy for Christ’s sake!” This line also sounds to me like people ‘expect’ happiness to happen. Maybe those of us who have suffered with depression were expecting happiness to exist in our being again. Or maybe we just couldn’t believe that would happen.
“Carve it from sadness, humiliation and defeat”
I get what they’re trying to say here, find the silver lining in every grey cloud. But Coca-Cola, sometimes these feelings of “sadness, humiliation and defeat” are necessary and a natural, normal response. Even if you don’t suffer with a mental illness, it’s ok not to be ok sometimes! We might go through a painful breakup. We might watch something on the news that makes us ache inside. Sometimes we need to be sad and that my friends is called being human.
“There’s enough for everybody, it doesn’t take too much”
Has anyone ever told this bloke what having depression is like? It doesn’t take too much?! Depression is like living in a bubble that you’re constantly trying to find a way out of until it takes control and you accept defeat. Coming back from that is actually extremely hard work. It takes a hell of a lot to feel normal again, to feel that old familiar warmth of happiness. And that hard work deserves all the credit in the world. Don’t let somebody convince you that being happy is something that comes easily.
“Happiness comes to those who wait… sure. But what are you waiting for?”
I’m sure the answer from a lot of people who struggle with a mental illness day in day out could answer that with: to just be well again, to feel better. This simple question that the advert casually throws out to the viewer can have the most complex answer.
There is such a pressure to be happy in society which the media constantly enforces by throwing adverts like this one in our face. They are more harmful than anybody can ever imagine because it makes people question themselves: “If happiness is so easy to achieve, why am I like this? What’s wrong with me?” Happiness can be really hard to reach sometimes, particularly if we are going through a rough time in our lives. I’m especially talking to those of you with a mental illness who face a constant battle.
It’s ok that you might not be happy right now. It may take a lot of hard work to get through it and find happiness again. AND THAT IS OK. That’s why it’s called a recovery process. Say you’ve had the flu and you’ve been bed ridden for a week. It feels like the lurgy is never going to pass! You’re waiting to be better, to be well enough again to function the way you did before. It takes a while but eventually you start to feel the illness leaving your body. There is no difference. The feeling to hold onto is hope.
Now you don’t see many adverts telling us that, do you?