I remember when I was unhappy.
I have been a victim of depression and anxiety for as long as I have been an adult -even before that, really – and for that, no one is to blame. A chemical imbalance in my brain is nothing I can say was planned by someone else or an intentional conception or my fault.
But, I can remember a time when I was truly unhappy simply because I chose to be. Sometimes we can get so deep into self-loathing that being mean to others and spreading that unhappiness starts to feel good somehow. These feelings probably have a little bit to do with depression – and a whole lot more to do with selfishness.
When I was unhappy I was very much absorbed in my own feelings. They were so overwhelming, I guess I needed someone to commiserate with.
So, just like in the movies, I tried making my marriage difficult. It wasn’t fair that my husband could be this happy person and I had to deal with all of this awfulness that surrounded me. Making our marriage feel strained was a real reason for us to both feel terrible – therefore it made my feelings valid.
I also remember being angry with my daughter a lot. If I was running late it was because of her and getting her ready to go somewhere was such a stress trigger. If I missed out on some adventure my friends were having I often felt like it was because I had her as a bigger responsibility.
YES, I am being really RAW here. I was a teen mom and sometimes I resented it because I missed out on social opportunities. I can’t help that I felt that way and I will not deny it – so judge me if you will …as if judging someone is any better of a characteristic to have. <insert huge eye roll here>
My job caused a lot of anxiety. I brought home my emotions instead of leaving them at work. I was impatient often. I was intolerant of all sorts of different things – like people not having knowledge of the same things I did, or someone who wasn’t at least a little jaded. (How dare they not have a negative cloud like I did.) Seeing happiness in others made me angry and I would sometimes try to destroy it by being mean, nasty and negative.
I was pulling a lot of weight around with me. Every time I felt that rush of bringing someone down, it was like another weight added to my dark cloud that would eventually tip me over into the abyss. It was one tiny step up and three big falls down each time I took a swing at someone.
Eventually, I just got tired.
I got tired of feeling blue. I got tired of being angry at nothing. I got tired of everyone around me not stooping to my level.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I came through the tunnel – and that is probably because it takes a daily effort and commitment that is gradual. There is no real “Ah ha!” moment where you can look at yourself and say, “Ok, I am going to be happy now.”
I can definitely thank my wonderful husband for helping me get out of the muck. He is so level headed, real and too handsome to let go <— I am still selfish in some ways – that I was willing to work on myself in order to make things better for us and our family.
So, there we were …having another fight over something that did not really affect us. My job had made me angry, or something small and insignificant had set me off in a whirlwind. I blamed my husband for things that he didn’t mean to do, or things he meant to do and I took as a slight against me. Everything was his fault. I would file all of those things into a folder in my brain so I could pull them out later as ammunition. This fight probably consisted of something like we both forgot to take meat out of the freezer for supper, but I blamed him for it because he was the last one to leave the house for the day. Or, maybe, I had thought he should react to something the same way I did and he didn’t. That was probably it.
Finally, he looked at me and said, “Have you listened to yourself? If I spoke to you like that, we wouldn’t be together.”
I eventually realized he was right – not right away, but it did happen. I was making him miserable. Why would I want my partner, my children, and my friends to be sad or hurt and have those relationships crumble?
I had to start with asking why would I want myself to feel that way? That’s where it was coming from, after all. It is true when they say “misery likes company.”
I began to dissect my reactions and to think through my emotions before responding to a situation. I asked myself if this person was actually trying to go against me, or if I was going against myself. I paid particular attention to whether or not arguing over a small issue was worth the pain it caused or if the anguish I was putting myself through over something was worth the anxiety it caused.
It took daily self-reflection in almost every situation I was faced with. I had to practice and learn how to react without lashing out – and this is something I still work on now.
I had to realize that not everyone is going to reciprocate my feelings. If someone hurts me I can’t help it if they are not remorseful. Once someone has made up their mind, it takes a lot more of your energy to change it than it does to just let it go.
Slowly, but surely, I became a happier person.
I accepted that the fault was mine. My complete happiness was all on me. It is no one else’s responsibility to make me happy. My unhappiness was mine. I had to blame myself and learn from it. My fault.
A great therapy for me was learning how to take care of myself physically. The mental therapy that resulted in this was even greater than I ever expected.
When my energy level grew and I found myself experiencing the desire to have adventure and play – I found a new person under that fog.
I was fun! I was a positive person after all!
Of course, there are days I am a little bit of a Debbie Downer, but those days are few and far between – and yes, there are still things I want to change, but I accept that responsibility fully.
It is hard to let go of the external things that make you unhappy and it is even harder to let go of the nasty parts of yourself that do the same.
I have said time and time again that loving yourself is a greatness, not a fault. You truly need to be able to sit back and be happy with your own company before you can expect anyone else to be happy to be with you too.
Loving yourself is not selfish, especially when it can make you love others even more.