I've always disliked the word "depression", it brings to mind paralyzing fear and no showers and never getting out of bed and people that are always alone. I'm a well-read person so I know this isn't always true but the word always makes me feel clammy and anxious and well, depressed. I like to pretend that what happens to me isn't depression, is just that I don't check where I'm going and suddenly I fall into a black hole that's hard to get out of.
The first time I fell into a hole I was 14, between the hormones, the change of school and pretending to be someone I wasn't, the hole was a nice warm place where I didn't have to feel anything. The second time, I was in my sophomore year in college where I spent my time constantly dueling with extreme desires. The third time, I was 31 and my dreams had collapsed around me and my heart was broken in so many pieces I didn't think I'd ever climb out. This three big holes (more like craters actually) don't negate the existence of the smaller ones I've constantly tripped into throughout my life.
Last year was hard for me, I can't remember one specific thing that made it hard, but it was an emotionally draining year and with so much work I never had a chance to dig myself out of the hole I'd been in. When I found myself getting ready to make yet another lifestyle change I vowed to do things differently. 2014 is going to be the year of happy. I don't mean happy in that I-love-everyone kind of way because in all honesty my feelings are so intense I can't really find ways to like what I simply don't like. But 2014 is going to be the year of happy because I've finally accepted that the dark holes are also a part of me.
On January 1st, as I left one life and started another, I vowed to only read and watch happy things. In the first few weeks of the year everything worked out perfectly. I was actively avoiding reading the news, stopped watching or reading any murder/detectives show or books and was actively pursuing activities that brought me joy. Fast forward to the middle of February and once again I felt myself slipping back into this hole that keeps calling me. Stopped walking around just for fun, made excuses to skip dance class and even spent one whole weekend watching TV. Then I picked up a book called “A Spring Affair” by Milly Johnson, when I was done I felt so light that I could look at myself with a self-compassion I’d never felt before. I could see myself, in that moment, sitting on the edge of yet another hole and pondering both the darkness and the light in a new way.
Noticing this slow slip gave me the chance to step back and find comfort in all the happy things available around me. Today I celebrate this small victory that lets me sit on the edge and make a conscious effort to step away from the hole before falling in completely. I’m not saying this next few weeks will be easy but instead of wallowing I chose to recharge with old friends, good food, funny conversations and dancing.
This experiment doesn't mean I'll never give myself permission to ugly-cry over a book or movie or that I'll give up on Criminal Minds forever, it only means that for this year I’m taking a break. I want to see what my life would be like when you only access all the good that is out there.Giving Happy a chance is not turning out to be pot of gold at the end of the rainbow I thought it would be but it’s already taught me to accept that you can always find a silver lining, even on the cloudiest of days.
This are some of the books, songs, videos and movies I've enjoyed so far on this Happy quest. Experiencing them sometimes made me cry but when they were over I carried with me their hopefulness and joy:
A Spring Affair by Milly Johnson
The Love Goddess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate
A Summer Fling By Milly Johnson
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Safe & Sound by Capital Cities I know it came out last year but I heard it for the first time two weeks ago
Details in the Fabric by Jason Mraz This song I heard for the first time in 2009 but whenever I feel down, I like to play it really loud and sing along. It always makes feel better
Kid President's Letter To A Person On Their First Day Here Anything Kid President says is worth listening too but I found this one particularly touching
RAK Nominations People doing Random Acts of Kindness, then nominating an specific friend to do the same
We told Dads they're going to be Grandpas Is old but every time I see it, it makes me smile
Please feel free to drop any recommendations in the comments section, I’d really appreciate it