How To Find Happiness

Life is strange. Even stranger when one’s mental health is thrown into the mix. The brutal truth about life is that we are born, we live, we laugh, we suffer and we die. What a cheery thought on a cold, dark, dreary afternoon in January.

So here I sit, having had a minor falling out with a colleague at work, with my back in mild agony after a gruelling session with the osteopath, a bit of a headache, my dad recently diagnosed with cancer of the bladder, minor money concerns, my mid-life crisis still chasing my shadow, a failed musician and songwriter still desperately wanting recognition – however small – yet knowing in my heart it will never come, an irreparably broken heart from my teens, permanently single despite a constant yearning for companionship, gay but wishing I wasn’t because I would like nothing more than to get married to a woman and have children and therefore lead a ‘normal’ life… (it ain’t gonna happen), a permanent feeling of underachievement, a burning desire to better myself but with not an inkling as to how, desperate for a total change in career, but unable to think of anything I could or want to actually do…. a dwindling circle of friends, a smoking habit I can’t shake, a penchant for a few glasses of red every night that I don’t want to shake, a need for a joint every night so I can sleep, too much time in front of crap television wasting away my precious hours of life, constant awareness of the grim reality that no matter how good I am at anything, there are always thousands of people who are much better at it than me. Shattered dreams, fading hope, painful truths…… yes, here I sit with all these things, yet for some unfathomable reason, I feel happy.

So why on earth do I feel happy? I feel almost guilty about being happy. It’s wrong that I am happy – I don’t deserve to feel happy because, well, I’ve got a whole world full of shit on me, behind me and ahead of me, which should surely stop me from ever experiencing happiness again. I know that some people have that peculiar need for a crisis in order to feel invigorated and alive. If everything is running smoothly and there are no problems and everyone is happy, then they are miserable, grouchy and unfulfilled. My boss, unfortunately, is one of those people. She seems to regularly makes things go horrifically wrong, just so she can jump in and save the day like some kind of twisted superhero. I am not one of those people. I am the opposite, I like things to go smoothly, I like everyone to be happy and I like the easy, pleasant life that goes with it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m pretty good under pressure, but I like ‘busy’ pressure, not ‘ohmyfuckinggodwearefucked’ pressure.

I digress… why do I feel happy? Honestly? I have no idea. None. Perhaps it’s because I appear to have successfully worked my way out of the darkness of a 2-year major depressive episode. Perhaps I feel like I have succeeded in something by writing this blog. Perhaps I have come to terms with the fact that I am just Mr Average and will never be successful, rich, famous, revered, celebrated, remembered… I will die and in a very short time, I will be forgotten. Completely. Dust. How will it all end for me? Maybe I will drown – I would wholeheartedly approve of that bitter irony – I really would then be the ‘Anonymous Drowning Man’…but perhaps that would have to change to ‘Anonymous Drowned Man’.

I think maybe part of my new found, strangely unwarranted happiness, is because I have stopped expecting so much of myself. I take each day as it comes. I don’t set my sights so high that I can only fail. I’ve stopped looking enviously at what other people possess (both materially and intellectually), and have started to appreciate what I do have and what I have actually achieved, and allow myself to feel satisfaction from those things… no matter how small or insignificant.

If I write and record a song, for example, and I really like it, and feel pride and satisfaction with the end result, then who cares if not another living soul likes it or even ever hears it? Why is it so important for as many people hear my new song as possible? (leading to the inevitable crushing disappointment when you realise that actually, no one is ever going to hear it). What is it I seek? Recognition? Why? So people remember me when I’m dead? Why should that bother me? I’ll be dead for fucks sake. Ash. Dust. I won’t be looking down from my puffy white cloud playing my harp and feeling satisfaction that the world still remembers me. So fuck it. Take the enjoyment and satisfaction out of the creative process, enjoy and feel satisfied by the end product, listen to it over and over again until you are sick to death of it, post it on the internet for everyone to ignore and then forget it. Move on. Happy.

The need and desire to improve oneself is both admirable and in my opinion essential… but it mustn’t go too far. If you are a serial killer, then yes, it is essential that you try your very best to stop. However, if you are guilty, for example, of being addicted to reality TV, then ok, probably best not to admit it to too many people, and probably a good idea to try and cut down on it a little, so you can enjoy some of the other things that life offers. But why make yourself miserable by destroying your television and engaging in self-flagellation? …I am aware that this argument is full of holes, but I’ve written it now, so it stays…

Ok, let’s pull this back to me and my curious happiness…. One of the vices I would prefer I didn’t indulge in, is my nightly joint to help me sleep. I’m 43 years old and I still smoke pot. One half of me berates myself for this juvenile habit, pours scorn on my weak will, feels shame at my secret vice. This half of me was undoubtedly the ruling half during my depression. Now, the other half has the upper hand. The other half that says ‘so fucking what’, ‘who cares’, ‘do what you damned well like’, ‘you enjoy it, so do it’… this half also has a more sensible, cautious side which says ‘as long as you have control over it’, ‘as long as it doesn’t effect your day to day life’, ‘as long as it doesn’t hurt of effect anyone else’, etc… I like this half. It allows me to continue my bad habits, but without the guilt. It allows me to feel happy and contented despite my flaws and my faults… it allows me to feel comfortable with my imperfections, rather than overwhelming, self-hating disgust.

This is the key I think, to my current happiness. Life is still full of the same old shit, and with all the usual unpalatable ingredients, but it now also has a good, healthy sprinkling of ‘don’t let the bastards bring you down’ and ‘always look on the bright side of life’, and it’s working for me.

Life really is a bitch and then you really do die, but if you can just stop looking over the fence at what you don’t or can’t have, and instead marvel at the flowers growing in your own garden, then it is entirely possible to find your very own, small piece of happiness.

I’ll drink to that.

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About RescueMyLife

I am a single man, 45 years old living in London and working in the media. My life is complex and I have decided to try and make some sense of it. I am writing this blog anonymously as I believe that only by remaining anonymous can I be honest and speak freely about my thoughts and feelings. I have no idea where this blog will take me...
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11 Responses to How To Find Happiness

  1. scoobiedoo1971 says:

    I am really struggling with my own depression ATM so your latest writings have given me some hope. Thank you!

    • RescueMyLife says:

      You’ll never know how much your comment means to me. Good luck with your struggle – there is always hope, and however small that hope is, all any of us can do is cling on to it & never let go.
      RML

  2. Olen Casey says:

    Psychotherapist Philippa Perry gave a talk at the ICA earlier this year, entitled “How To Be Happy”. I email her and say that I feel as though I’m at the top of a mountain and it’s downhill from now on. She replies that this isn’t a very helpful metaphor, that I should try changing it. “Habits of thinking get more ingrained as we think them more,” she writes. “Literally: neural pathways get more established. But habits of thinking can be changed. Your brain remains plastic throughout your life. That means it’s never too late to learn new things, thus giving yourself new experiences.

    • RescueMyLife says:

      I suppose it depends on whether you view ‘downhill from now on’ as a positive or a negative… going downhill on a bicycle is far easier and more pleasant that going uphill on one. One could argue that it was her interpretation of your metaphor that was negative, rather than your metaphor itself.
      RML

  3. Sybs says:

    Hi RescueMyLife, I looked on here for “existential anxiety” but couldn’t find anything. Would you mind starting a topic thread please as I would find it really useful if I could engage with other people who suffer from it. I have been on Sertraline for about 4 years but recently halved the dose but now have had to go back up to 50mg as am feeling very anxious at the mo. I have obssessive thoughts about my own existence and am sure there are loads of other people out there who obssess about the same things so would love to have the opportunity to “chat” about it on here. Many thanks, Sybs.

    • RescueMyLife says:

      Hi Sybs,
      I will do as you ask, and write a post on existential anxiety. You say you looked on here for it, however I would suggest that my entire blog is about existential anxiety. I certainly struggle with the whole concept of my existence and purpose and the point of it all… I’ll have to read up a bit on the recognised definition of ‘existential anxiety’ before putting my thoughts forward in a post, but watch this space…
      Thanks for reading and contributing to my blog.
      RML

  4. Cameron says:

    Hi,

    I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?

    Thanks,

    Cameron

    cameronvsj(at)gmail.com

  5. Anne Smith says:

    I used to read your blog avidly and drew such sustenance from it. But then came along the need to stop taking medication: I had reached tolerance (what I now understand to be the cosy psycho/medico term for becoming addicted to anti depressants) and having also dipped my brain into the totally unpleasant soup that is serotonin syndrome I started to taper off my little cocktail of venlafaxine, fluoxetine and lithium. Phew! Not a journey I would wish for anyone and the side effects of the changing doses were bizarre and in the most part very unpleasant. Certainly anything as complex as switching on a laptop was far beyonf me. Still, I am now in a state of non-medication and seeking comfort for my continuing depression from other sources.

    Tonight I reconnected with Twitter, formed a new account (God knows what password, user name combo I used last time but it has been long lost in the haze of SSRIs/SNRIs/mood stabilisers) and I have rediscovered your blog. I am so delighted to read of your progress. Distraught at the news of your cat, your father’s illness but YOU ARE HAPPY. And that is a very good thing.

    So RML, if you can recall me as Anne, Susie True or Petlamb or whatever other alias I used, then greetings to you. I look forward to a more controlled read through your posts over the last year and as ever I shall indulge in stealing whatever hints I can find to progress my own mental health. If you will forgive me a little boast, one area where I have made progress is to start setting slighlty longer term goals. This was forced upon me to the extent that I lost my job after a rather discriminatory exchange with a new boss. We were headed to an employment tribunal (nobody puts this baby in a corner!!) and I was met with a cheque to go away. So, having joined the ranks of the unemployed I have decided to do the 3 peaks challenge at the end of this summer. Must admit I can feel a little excited about it. But still need to work on the confidence thing – giving up would be so easy. Keep blogging, keep smiling, keep seeking out that golden path.

    Warmest wishes,
    Anne

  6. cat says:

    In recent weeks, I have been reading many of your posts. Not only have they been enjoyable, but they also bring comfort and encouragement in my own battle with depression. Your blog was actually the inspiration behind creating my own.

    I have posted a link to your blog on my own blog http://mytravelswithdepression.wordpress.com/ and on The Depression Forum, where I am Admin

    http://thedepressionforum.freeforums.net/

    I agree with much of what you say in this particular post. I think we should strive for major change, but only if our heart tells us it is “right” for us. What is right for other people may not be for us. I am against beating ourselves up over the stuff we have difficulty achieving. To me, the blessing always comes from the trying.

    I am also a (happily celibate) gay, just about to turn 50 and I still enjoy a puff. I am not much of a drinker, but my antidepressant usage never dictates my participation. The only concern regarding a life-long penchant for cannabis is getting too old to be able to chase it!

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a belief in ourselves or that one day, other people might recognise our talents. Maybe we are guilty of not marvelling at the flowers in our own garden, I’m not sure. Perhaps I’m suffering great delusions in thinking the pain and suffering I am experiencing in this life and my love of writing, will one day be used for the glory of something. Who knows, maybe when we are long dead, someone might come across our material and we’ll be considered great writers of our time

    I hope life is treating you well

  7. Janet says:

    I have been one week off Zoloft and oddly seem to feel a little happier. I have taken it for 9 years after a very bad episode of panic which left me crawled up in a ball. I am a bit worried that I will feel that way again but want to get off this bus. One thing like you said, sometimes reaching the all time low and pulling yourself back up makes us stronger, makes us realize feeling that way sucks, nothing could be worse. I related to what you wrote, but at 62 I am done trying to be anything, or impress anyone, what does it matter as long as the bills are paid , we eat and stay warm. Life can be a very happy place when you just let yourself be what you are and not get upset when You punish yourself for not living up to high standards. there is nothing wrong with being adverage or even below adverage. Actually the ability to be happy under not so ideal situations makes us pretty dam exceptional! Some people( even ourselves) may think we are cold, uncaring, selfish, but we know we are not because if we were we never would have fallen. It is best to not let people know we are happy, misery does love company after all. We need to live our lives at a pace that fits us, in a place that is familiar to our interests, so what if it’s a tiny room or a palace, it is unique to ourselves and special. Wish me luck, and thank you for your candid and humorous article, and yah, Anyway, like Jackson Brown sang in ” for a dancer” somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go, will lie a reason you were alive you’ll never know”

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