How do you define happiness? Does happiness mean you have your life in order? You are successful? You have nothing to worry about?
The first definition of happiness that came up in my Google search was this one:
Happiness, gladness or joy is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. A variety of biological, psychological, religious and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources.
Helpful, right? What is the difference between a mental or emotional state of well-being? What is the exact range of happiness? How happy should one be, on average? Can you really tell if someone is happy?
I bet you can’t. So many of us put on masks – at work, at parties, in front of friends, loved ones…we want people to think we are “okay”, “fine”, “happy”, whatever acceptable emotion we want to project that day or at whatever event we are at. You really never know who is wearing a mask.
I am going to be honest and say that I am not currently happy, and I can’t remember the last time I felt really, really happy in the past few years. I feel guilty about this, because I should feel joy. I have a good life, right?
I can’t say that I am entirely numb to feelings, because I am still able to feel anger, irritability, sadness etc. I feel disappointment and frustration because I am still struggling with self-confidence, I am still having trouble focusing and my sleep is non-restorative. I am mentally exhausted. I am tired of these feelings. There will always be stressors and triggers to deal with. There will always be something to worry about. I just keep expending all my energy on everyone else and forgetting to take care of myself. I don’t know how to say “no” and be “selfish”. I care too much about everyone in my life and want them to be okay, and put that before my own well-being. I am such a people-pleaser that I just can’t stop caring/worrying/thinking about everyone else.
I forgot about myself, and I feel lost. Maybe that’s it. I don’t know myself anymore, so I am not happy. I don’t know how to relax, and if I did relax, maybe I would know what I wanted. I need some down time, some “me” time, some “everyone just leave me alone” time. But I feel rude saying that, although I really want to hibernate at times and not provide an explanation as to why I want to do so. I need time to hear my thoughts. MY thoughts, about myself, not my worries about everything else!
Yesterday, I texted my husband and said, “I just feel really sh**** mentally, I don’t know how else to describe it.” You know how you feel awful when you have a cold or migraine or another physical ailment – well, I just feel awful mentally. It’s a buildup of emotions; it feels like there is just so much in my head that I need to process and deal with and I need to figure it out for myself.
I am a big believer in being true to yourself, and if you can’t do that, it’s sad, frustrating and resentment builds up. If I want to be myself, I need to be able to express my full range of emotions, even the unpleasant ones. So…to the family and friends reading this post…can you just let me “be”, no questions asked?
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!