Hmmm…doesn’t that just bring a smile to your face? Or, are you thinking, get me out of here? Or is it, whatever, heard this song and dance before? How about shame? Anyone feel shame? I lived with it for years. It’s difficult to live with a mental illness and not have to deal with shame. One of the most difficult times in my life has been dealing with the shame of feeling happy. What right do I have to feel happy?
I have been off work because of my struggles with depression and anxiety and one of the hardest things to allow myself to feel was Happiness. How could I be happy AND be on disability? The two just didn’t sit well with me and thus the shame came when I actually felt good. I worked through a lot of distorted thoughts using CBT to get me where I am today. That is in a place of satisfaction and yes, even happiness. I still experience shame in this situation, but it isn’t near as heavy as it used to be.
A friend once told me that “The pursuit of happiness is a child’s dream” and it made me question my own happiness. Was I fooling myself? It sure didn’t feel like it. I was actually enjoying being alive–for the first time in ten years! It took a lot of hard work in therapy to get me there, but I had managed to arrive! And it wasn’t really an arrival but a process that is still on-going. I don’t thing happiness is stagnant and it is not a point of arrival, but a place that shimmers and shakes. There are good days and bad days for everyone; we all suffer with the “pursuit of happiness” during our lifetime and I am no exception. But at least I can now actually reach that ideal and finally accept it.
I think happiness is different for everyone and also that it moves along a continuum. For me that continuum begins with contentment and ends with euphoria. In between there are levels of delight, enjoyment, exuberance and exhilaration. I think my happy medium is somewhere between exuberance and exhilaration. Sure, I don’t stay that high all the time; there is a general sway to my happiness at any one time and it can change in a flash. I think that happiness is a difficult emotion to sustain for any length of time, but I do think it’s attainable. It might be a different continuum for each individual. Your perception of happiness could be very different from mine but that does not mean we can not reach our own level of joy.
How do we get there? Everyone’s journey will be different but I think that it is important to be able to accept all our emotions. To be able to sit with them and let them go. I have talked about this phenomenon many times in previous blogs and it sits well here. In order to have happiness, we need to accept all feelings, without judgment or ridicule and to move on from this point of approval into a medley of feel good sensations. From there we can begin to experience happiness of many levels and degrees. What is your happy? Where does it come from? Where does it begin? Find your level of happy and learn to accept and appreciate it. You’ve got this!
peace balance empathy