Happiness can seem like the most elusive emotion to get a solid grasp on. Wallowing in the desperate black hole of depression, it does not even manage a blip on the mood-radar. Yet society, and also the media, tell us that “happiness” is the ultimate goal that we’re all reaching for. They tell us if we drink sugary sodas and eat caramel filled chocolate, we’ll be happy. They say if we lose weight and wear designer jeans and buy over-priced accessories, we’ll be happy. Apparently, if we spend up big on expensive appliances we’ll be happy. The latest model car supposedly contributes to our happiness too.
Men are convinced they can only propose marriage if they first buy a diamond. Women frown and pout when the diamond that cost at least one month’s salary is too small. The fact that diamonds have no inherent value, and that De Beers invented this superficial “tradition” of engagement rings for their own profit has been lost in a fog of mis-history. Why can’t women be sufficiently happy without a diamond if the man they truly love wants to marry them? Why isn’t love in itself not enough? Why can’t teenagers be happy in their own skin, without being made to feel insecure and inadequate by media, society, over-anxious parents and their own equally insecure and self-loathing peers? Today there are more unhappy people on Earth than ever before in the history of the planet. Everyone seems to believe you need “stuff” to be happy. Or you need “perfection” to be content. Never has such blatant bullshit been so prolific to the extent where people of all ages in all nations have become brainwashed into believing this ridiculous hype is all true. And so many fall victim to the bleakness of depression when they feel they can’t possibly achieve all these materialistic goals set to achieve this mysterious “happiness” everyone keeps talking about. Of course they can’t. No one can. It’s impossible! Happiness is not a material possession.
After years of conforming to society’s idea of who I am supposed to be, and trying to live up to the social status expected of me, and living on a constant rollercoaster of dieting and failing and being miserable because I couldn’t afford Gucci shoes or Dolce & Gabbana jeans – which would never fit me in a million years anyway because designers of that caliber never account for ample booty – I decided to put a stop to the entire circus and embrace myself for who I am and what I am. What am I? I’m a woman. I’m gorgeous. I’m stunning. I’m perfectly flawed and beautifully wounded and I am a survivor of a very rough life. And I’m happy. What? How did that happen? It wasn’t easy. I worked hard for it. But I now can honestly say that I’m a happy woman, and my depression – while it still comes and goes in waves – is a lot more manageable as a result.
I started with Mirror Therapy – an exercise in improving self-esteem – which was the very first building block towards happiness. It nearly destroyed me, but I survived the experience with flying colors and kept moving forward, one small step at a time. I screamed. I wrote. I danced. I laughed. I lay on my back at the beach and watched the clouds form into interesting shapes. I watched sad movies and cried my heart out. I learned to love me. I learned to be kind to myself. I learned to acknowledge my flaws and accept them. I learned what I truly need to be happy – and that does not include a two-door fridge with an ice-maker, a red Lamborghini or anything else which carries a label or price tag. It was a wonderful, and at times traumatic, stressful and tearful, and extremely liberating process which lead me towards today’s blissful feelings of contentment and inner peace.
Gratitude, I found, was a key factor in my healing process. Gratitude for a day that did not include feeling blue. Gratitude for a friend’s kindness. Gratitude for the small things that we often take for granted: fresh water to drink, healthy food to eat, a warm place to sleep. Gratitude to Mother Nature for providing me with a sustainable life. I learned that I could decide to be happy if I wanted to feel happy. Or not. I could decide how I wanted to react – or not – to each life situation. And I could decide who to let into my life, into my inner and outer circles, and began to add people in my life who are positive and optimistic, letting go of those who did not enhance the quality of my life or share in my optimism and happiness. As a result, today I am happy. Yes, I have Bipolar Disorder, which is never going away, with a healthy slug of PTSD thrown in for good measure and a helping of OCD just to make life a little more interesting, but even with all these obstacles in my path just waiting to trip me up, I have chosen to be happy. And so can you.
Click the link to find out more about my book: I’m Bipolar And I Know It