What is the deciding factor of your happiness?
I’m not sure I really have an answer to that. It could be my husband, my career, my friends, or family but does my happiness really depend on something I cannot control? Should it even depend on something like that? The deciding factor of our happiness should come from within ourselves, which is something I’ve heard often. But how do you find it? How do you tease it out? I’m still struggling with that.
I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. In elementary school, I was so anxious about death that when our class caterpillars didn’t all turn into butterflies, I broke down and cried hysterically. How could one of them have died when his friends lived? I was sent to the school psychologist and that was the beginning of my relationship with anxiety. Ever since that young age, I’ve displayed the traits of a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was eventually diagnosed with this and now, at almost 30 years old, I have a much better handle on it, but when my mind starts to spiral, there is no stopping it. I’ve been on antidepressants, but after my cancer diagnosis and treatment, my doctors and I decided it would be best to stop the medication and see how I do, considering my cancer could have contributed to my unbalanced brain chemistry.
It’s been six months without antidepressants. In those six months, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that with or without medication, I’m not going to be happy every moment of every day. Years ago, I was chasing something that doesn’t exist – unconditional happiness. I was so focused on getting to that point of happiness that I didn’t stop and realize how beautiful it is to feel all emotions. Feeling the negative emotions make the positive ones so much stronger. Raw emotion is so powerful and when you allow yourself to feel it so deeply, you truly learn to understand yourself.
So often, women are expected to display emotions of confidence and happiness. It is projected in entertainment, in the news, and in real life. Don’t even get me started on people’s fake Instagram lives. But why? Why is it taboo to discuss anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues in public? Why does every woman (and man for that matter, too!) have to fit into a specific mold created by God knows who? We spend so much time searching for this happiness, this validation, that we forget to live. We forget to feel. We think we “should” be feeling one way or we “should” be like what others portray themselves to be. Break the mold. Let yourself feel every emotion, let yourself cry, smile, scream, laugh, sing – let yourself do what you feel in the moment.
And when you start being hard on yourself because everyone else seems happy and you think you should be too, remember – everything is not as it seems.