On being happy

In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed an increase in conversations around happiness and depression so I thought I’d throw some of my own words into the mix. You know, because the Internet needs more opinions!

The conversations I’m referring to have been spoken and virtual – in the form of chats with friends and posts on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. There’ve even been a couple of emails with links to “interesting articles” shared with and by me.

Some of these conversations are about the sad truths about the loneliness and social misunderstandings that surround issues of depression (and suicide); some are about how a person has ultimate and direct control of their emotions (if you want to be happy, just be happy).

And all of these conversations have sparked thoughts in my own head. Thoughts so mixed and confused that I can’t fully understand them myself, let alone explain them all to you. But I’m going to try to give a bit of insight into my own struggles for happiness these days.

I’ll start with a frank confession: I have been struggling to find “happy” these days. Actually, I’ve been struggling to find it since Paul died more than four years ago, but it’s no longer strictly grief-based struggles, it’s now general stress-based struggles and it scares me sometimes. It really, really scares me.

You see, I want to be happy. I really do. And I try to be happy, too. I think happy thoughts, I fake smile, I go out to do fun things with fun people, and I go out for walks just to get fresh air. I work really hard to just, well, be happy. But it doesn’t always work.

Some days, I can’t be happy. Some days, all I can do is cry. And I cry and cry and cry and I can’t stop even though I don’t really know why I’m crying.

This stress-based misery began last year with some unhappy news and life realisations. Before that, unhappy days and moments were tied very much to a specific event or situation and I would return to happy as soon as I worked out the problems in my mind, body, and soul. (So, maybe I was unhappy because I fought with a friend, but as soon as I made peace with that reality, my mood went back to “normal”. I call that a healthy unhappy.)

But since February, life has been filled with one stress after the nextafter the nextafter the next. And with everything stacking up, it’s been overwhelming. And since all of the stresses mean that my entire future is filled with uncertainty, it means even more stress and even more overwhelming sadness. And it’s all weighing on my heart, mind, body, and soul. And all that weight hurts. It physically hurts sometimes.

Some days, I worry that this might be the start of clinical depression. When I read some of the stories and links friends have shared on Facebook, I am hopeful because I don’t seem to really fit them, but I am fearful because I worry that I might be on the edge between “OK” and “not OK”.

Some days, I tell myself that this is only temporary and that as soon as I sort out some of these stresses, these feelings of misery will go away. I tell myself that I will be able to “just be happy” as soon as my little brain isn’t completely consumed with all of these awful “Whatifs” and worries.

But, some days I worry that these feelings will stay with me even when the stresses are gone. And that stresses me out even more. Which leads me to panic. Which leads me to cry. Which leads me to worry that I am heading into a spiral of depression.

And then I’m miserable all over again and no matter how hard I try, I can’t force myself to be happy. Even though I might look happy on the outside. And when I hear people say that “happiness is a choice” it makes me feel weak; it makes me feel as if others will judge me as being weak because I can’t just “chose” to be happy one day – even though I want to be happy.

Some of you might be reading this and thinking that I am depressed or suicidal or melodramatic or silly for feeling this way or whatever else. And that’s OK, but I hope that people will read it and just realise that there is more to the idea of depression and happiness than what you’ve experienced; that just because you’re able to “just be happy”, it doesn’t mean that everyone can do that; that just because someone looks happy, it doesn’t mean they are.

As for me, I am not without hopeI am not without faith. I have days and moments where I feel truly happy without faking it and I have to believe that once all of my “major” stresses are sorted (where I’m going to be livingstarting my PhD) that my happy days will far outnumber the sad ones and that I will once again stop stressing out about if my stress means I’m losing my mind.

Anyhow, there’s no real point to this other than to share my thoughts on my own personal feelings and emotions.

6 Replies to “On being happy”

  1. Frances,

    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been questioning your mental wellbeing recently. However, having seen a family member live in denial of his mental illness to the point where he attempted to take his own life twice, I would say that acknowledging how you feel is one of the most important steps you can take in resetting that happy / unhappy balance.

    Don’t stop talking about your feelings, don’t let people dismiss your feelings as you “having an off day” and don’t ever feel there is no one who can help.

    Stay strong. I read you’re questioning your strength but you’re still very much a contributing member of society which, considering what you’ve dealt with over the last few years, is nothing short of inspiring.


    1. Thanks, Mark! I like to think that my ability to notice that I’m struggling is a good sign – and I continue to believe that it’s all just stress related. I suppose the real sign of trouble will be if I’m still feeling like this once everything in life is going well and the major stresses are gone.

      In the mean time, I will keep trying to find the positive and will keep talking about my feelings.

  2. Frances, you are stronger than you know (if you’ll pardon the hack cliche’) & we’re all proud (if not sometimes outright gobsmacked) at all that you’ve accomplished; you [despite some questionable hair coloring choices in the past] really are a positive {overall} influence, & you just have to look around you to re-realize that once in a while: the proceeding “cheerful run-on sentence of interminable length” [CROSOIL] & excessive punctuation has been brought to you at no charge, except perhaps a wee slice of your remaining sanity..

    1. Thanks, Marv (run-on sentence, hair comments, and all!). I suppose that it’s just so frustrating knowing that I’ve accomplished so much so far, and that I’m so close to further accomplishment yet so close to everything falling apart before I get there!

      Well, it’s not doomed to fall apart, I guess it’s just that I’m afraid it will. Hence the stress. Oh, the stress!!

      I am feeling a bit more confident at the moment, and I just hope that confidence sees me through to a happy ending!

      1. what? no snappy rejoinder about at least you have hair on your head? Come now your friends across the way haven’t let you go all wobbly now have they? You better have another tipple; I’m almost funny then..

        1. I was going to make a (lack of) hair comment, but was trying to be nice. I do that sometimes.

          Must get in touch with you so that we can chat schedules. Would be great to see you (and mock you!) before I head back to Scotland!

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