“To be a great champion, you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend that you are.”
‘If you’re not, pretend that you are,’ is the single most important thing to know about being happy. Happiness is an elusive concept. The word has so many definitions to so many different people. Ask a rich man to define happiness and then ask a beggar on the street. Two very different perspectives will emerge. A toddler finds happiness in chaos. The elderly find it in peace. I found happiness in a million pieces, like a scavenger hunt. With every piece of happiness I found, a path to the next level would be revealed. I found it in self love and fine wine. I found it in the freedom to be myself. I found happiness in stupid quotes and sunny days at the beach. I found it in good sex and a delicious meal. I found it by leaving expectations behind and stepping out into the world with an always shifting perspective. I found it by making the choice to see it.
I have battled depression all of my life. My mother has it. Her father has it. His father had it as well. I have experienced seasonal depression, situational depression, pre- and postpartum depression. I have fantasized about slitting my wrists and bleeding out in a warm bath. I know how it feels to lay in bed, with crushing pain and a strange sensation that my chest has been carved out. I know what it feels like, sinking into the familiar darkness that holds my life hostage for months at a time. I know how it feels to try and drown out the broken record in the back of my mind, constantly telling me that I will never be enough. Depression is no way to live. Unfortunately for me, for personal reasons I am not going to explain here, I have decided not to take antidepressants. I have never tried them and I never will. I don’t judge those who have, my decision is a personal one. I had an overwhelming need to heal my depression naturally, and I did.
I started telling people that I was ‘great’, when asked about how I was feeling. It was a lie to say that sometimes. In fact, most of the time, I wasn’t feeling very great at all. But in telling people that I was great, I sort of forced myself to rattle off some reasons why I should be, in the back of my mind. And that thought process started to expand and stick with me. It didn’t happen overnight. It was gradual, like the slowly growing womb of a mother to be, I finally gave birth to contentment. It started with a lie, but soon I found myself grasping at many tools that I used to cultivate content.
I started making mental notes of things I loved and I spent more time with them. I love the beach, so I went every weekend. I love the moon, so I made time to look for it every night. I started to try new experiences, like camping solo at a nudest campground or volunteering for a hospice program. I started to forgive myself for being the weird girl who likes to camp naked and then help people die.
Realizing that my life was my own, to design and live in my own way, has been a powerful source for my happiness. Realizing that I deserve it, that I no longer needed to hide it was huge. As an overly empathetic person, I often felt guilty about being happy in the company of unhappy people. Now I understand that our happiness serves as a beacon of hope to others. Because I’ve been so low, that I actually didn’t think happiness was real. I didn’t believe in it’s existence. When you are going through life in the darkest of times, it’s very reassuring to see someone who is not.
I started treating myself like a Sims character, making sure I got enough rest, had enough fun, kept my well being levels in check. Self care is vital to our mental health.
When I go through some shit in life, I read through the google images of quotes from Hemingway and Oscar Wilde. I watch inspirational Ted Talks. I listen to spoken word poetry on YouTube. I analyze, learn, and write it out. I cry. Sometimes I get high and drink some wine. Sometimes I dance naked in my living room. These are my tools. These are little promises to myself that I can get through it, because I’ve gotten through it before.
Today, I am at peace with my life. I am content, and sometimes ecstatic. I still don’t love my job, but I am thankful to work with wonderful people and I am grateful for the money I earn there. I still don’t love my body, but I didn’t let it keep me from making mad love all over my house this weekend and feeling like the sexiest woman alive. I still have no money, but I focus more on the richness of my experiences instead of my empty bank account.
I still have bad days. I still have really bad days. But I get through them, because I know now that I can. And those bad days are becoming less, while my good days are becoming more. And that feels really good.
I fell in love with my life, mistakes and all. In fact, I learned to start making more enjoyable mistakes, because if you have to learn, you might as well have fun doing it. I fell in love with myself. I started to care for myself in the way that I care for others.
I found happiness in a million different places. It has been a process for sure. But if I should ever lose sight of it again, I will know where to look.