There are times I am so happy that I feel like my heart is physically swelling. There’s the line in The Grinch who stole Christmas where “Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day” and I identify. Walking outside when the air is so crisp and the night is so quiet that you hear the first fat snowflakes of winter falling to the ground. Sinking my toes into warm sand, lifting my face to the sun and listening to the waves crash up on the beach. Watching my kids play and letting their laughter bring tears to my eyes. Times I am so happy it’s more than emotional, it’s physical.
There are times I suffer from anxiety and depression until I struggle just to get out of bed. Days I battle inner demons and war with myself over leaving the house, in case anyone sees how hard I am fighting. Moments when I wonder what it’s all for and why it’s so hard. Times I am so miserable that it’s more than emotional, it’s physical.
Like a drug addict that knows the joy of the high, if I’m not chasing ‘happy’, I’m missing it, and I’m not the only one. Antidepressants remain in the top 10 most prescribed and purchased drugs in Canada and the US.
The value is not only monetary. Mothers want to raise happy children. Fairy tales end with “they lived happily ever after” The Declaration of Independence include the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and The Globe and Mail recently stated that Canada ranked as the fifth happiest place on earth. Happiness is a goal that we are all striving for.
But it’s tricky to achieve. Trying to decipher the rules is more complex that breaking the enigma code. It involves money, but not too much; you need freedom to choose, but not too many options; it requires you to live in the moment but also progress to get out of a rut. Barbra Streisand tells us, “People who need people Are the luckiest people in the world” and studies have shown that lack of belongingness can not only hurt your pursuit of happiness but your health. If getting happy is a group effort, it’s not only necessary to coordinate situations but individuals and while you can lead a horse to water, I‘ve heard you can’t force it to drink. The very realization that being happy is so hard, can spiral into depression.
More than ever we are trying to destigmatize mental illness and allow ourselves to admit that there is a problem and get help. With the introduction of positive psychology in the late 1990’s there was a shift from just treating mental illness to focusing on thriving and flourishing. No longer were the experts only helping us feel normal, they were looking to improve on it. Coincidentally this coincides with the increase in antidepressant use.
For me, happiness is like an underground rave where the location is constantly changing. For me, medication isn’t the invite, but it does make me forget that there’s somewhere I want to go. For me “Keep Calm and Carry On” is not the solution.
Maybe some days, depression needs to be embraced as much as how a certain song can move me to tears, or sad movies tear me apart. If every action has an opposite and equal reaction, maybe to enjoy the highs, you have to endure the lows. If no pain, means no gain then why shouldn’t normal allow for depression without the need to “cure” it.
If anxiety is fear of the future and depression is fear of the past then the harder we work to control our happiness the more miserable we become when we don’t succeed. Society pushes us to keep achieving, attaining, succeeding and excelling but if there are two sides to every coin then maybe I need to accept that I can’t be happy all the time without paying a price. I’m not saying anyone should go broke, but buying into medication just to keep up with the Jones doesn’t make sense either. My normal isn’t always happy, but it also isn’t always depressed. I need to stop feeling anxious and ashamed and admit that I’m a bit of a roller coaster and just enjoy the ride. Without anxiety and shame filling my days, maybe I can let in a little more “happy”. I know I have it in me….just not today.
The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety ~Deepak Chopra