April 2nd’s #HAWMC prompt is: The Key to Happiness. What do you think is the key to happiness? Is it being able to overcome a hard time? Laughter? Maintaining a positive attitude? Tell us what you think and why.
I am really struggling with this prompt. I guess it’s because I am the complete opposite of happy. I am miserable and angry. I feel resentful and bitter. If I had my way, I’d be dead; but, I couldn’t even get that right. I guess in order for me to write about this subject, I have to write it from the perspective of a mental health worker and not as myself. What would I say to a person I was treating, who is living my life and feeling the way that I do about my stagnation and the crippling effects that chronic illness has had on my physical, emotional and social health?
- I think if a person is unhappy, they first need to figure out why they are unhappy. My unhappiness stems from the loss of my identity, friends, career, my quality of life, and my inability to control anything that is contributing to or associated with the losses mentioned, like independence and having my own home and family. I do not think that any one thing has made me unhappy. It is a culmination of repeatedly getting knocked right back down after I finally get back up. This includes, but is not limited to, my health, the loss of my career, dealing with the healthcare system, no support system, being a caregiver to my parents, finances, and the fear of what will happen to me after my parents die… how will I survive (where will I live, how will I pay for necessities, etc.). As well as, the daunting thought of living like this for the next 40 some years. I could go on and on. Being chronically ill sucks! Especially, when you are alone and watching every year pass you by and you have accomplished none of your own goals and know that your talents and gifts are being wasted, as you watch those around you LIVE and thrive, while you are barely surviving!
- If a person is unhappy, they need to develop coping strategies, with the help of a mental health professional. This has to be tailored to each individual, to meet their specific needs, so I am not going to elaborate on this step any further.
- I think a support system is vital to a person’s happiness. When I say support system, I am talking about people who understand your situation. People who don’t pressure you or lead you to place guilt on yourself for not being able to be the friend or family member that they need, want; or expect to attend the events and/or holidays. People who don’t need an explanation when you say, no or I’m just not able to right now. Because being any other type of friend is not helpful, and if they just can’t accept no, it usually leads the sick person to lie to the “friend,” just to get them to back off. We need people who will stick around and keep inviting us, even if they don’t think we’ll be able to make it; we still want to feel included. We need people in our support system who care enough to research our diseases, so that they have a better understanding of what we are going through. We need people who listen authentically, and not just so that they can reply. Because when it comes down to it, we need support from our friends and family not answers. We also just need to feel heard and to just be (exist), without the pressure of meeting unrealistic expectations that we know we cannot accomplish without consequences. Trust us when we say that we cannot do something or go somewhere or aren’t up for visitors. It also sometimes means that they have to understand that there will be times that we might not be able to be the kind of friend that they need.
- Train yourself to think positively. This is a hard task, but pessimism and cynicism has never gotten anyone anywhere. You must train yourself to use positive self-talk. The truth is, you will never be happy, until you love yourself and except yourself: flaws, faults, diseases and all. You have to try to find the good in something, every day. It can be as small as: I was able to get out of bed without any help today. No, it doesn’t seem as huge as the accomplishments your “friends” posts on Facebook, but that doesn’t have to be something that takes away the feeling of pride you have for what you accomplished that day. You have to adjust continually to your reality, every time it changes, and find a way to find peace with it. Eliminate the people, and the other things that cause you stress or pain and focus on finding something to be grateful for each day. If you don’t know how to start, there are books on mindfulness and gratitude journals, that give prompts and/or exercises that will help you get started on cultivate your brain to focus more on the good, despite how overwhelming the bad seems. When I am feeling provoked or upset I repeat the two following quotes to myself, until my negativity/anxiety subsides:
“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with dirty feet.”
“I will not let people rent space in my head for free!”
Changing your thought patterns takes time and hard work. Do not let it be another thing that you get down on yourself about, IT TAKES TIME, and we all have bad days or times when we just need to feel the emotion dominating our heart, mind, and soul. Expressing your feelings, no matter what the emotion, is never wrong! Never! It is living in the darker emotions that is damaging to your mental health.
So, I guess for me, the Key to Happiness is a combination of things. Learning how to cope with the life you have been given, having a strong support system (Preferably, one with people who make you feel that you could go to them for anything; that they have unconditional regard or love for you, which produces a feeling of security in knowing that you will never be alone, betrayed, or abandoned.), not isolating and giving into the depression (start a realistic hobby, which could, in turn, help you build relationships), keeping an open mind, and working on changing your self-talk to one of positivity, and lastly, finding PEACE within yourself; Love for yourself. Because once you find peace, love and acceptance for yourself, your ability to be a compassionate global citizen will also flourish and your existing relationships might also see a boast of improvement. Most importantly, it will hopefully help release the emotional negativity you have been holding on to.
We are all a work in progress and we are all in different phases of our journey. I am currently struggling, but that doesn’t mean that I will always be. You must hold on to hope. It is really the only thing that one has to keep him/herself motivated and focused to keep moving forward, step by step, to whatever the key is to one’s happiness!