If you follow me on Facebook you probably know that I search for motivational and inspirational sayings. When I find one that resonates with me, I like to share it with my friends, family, and followers. Recently I came across one that stated that happiness is a choice. It was from the site Simple Reminders, of which I am a fan/follower. What made this particular post so memorable was the feedback associated with it.
A reader had posted a rather lengthy argument against the idea that happiness could “simply be a choice.” The person disagreed that it was a choice, because…what about people with depression?…what about people with disabilities?…what about people who take a lot of medications?…what about people who had suffered some traumatic event?
All of these were valid questions. I think, however, the person was missing something in their interpretation of the saying. As someone who lives with depression, and as someone who is seeking happiness in life after a series of traumatic events, I would like to address this person’s questions.
CAN HAPPINESS & DEPRESSION CO-EXIST?
Let me explain two important points as I see them.
First, there is a difference between depression and depressed. In all the media blasts about gun control, background checks, mass shootings, etc., there is confusion over this. A person can be depressed due to a life-changing event, such as a death, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a job or home. These are singular events that have an emotional impact on us. There are steps to dealing with these events in a healthy manner. Being depressed about an event is perfectly normal and has the possibility of our working through it and coming to terms with the cause.
Second, depression is a physical condition. The easiest explanation is that there is a chemical imbalance in a person’s brain. Some individuals can deal with their depression without the use of medication. Others are not so lucky. I for one take medication for my depression. I’m fortunate enough that my form of depression isn’t debilitating for me. It doesn’t keep me from living my life the way I choose. Unfortunately, that can’t be said for everyone that has depression.
Once a person has been diagnosed with depression, they then have…choices! For me, the choice was whether to use medication or not. I tried “not.” It didn’t turn out so well. Ever seen an EKG reading with its peaks and valleys? That is how my feelings can be mapped out. Lots of highs and lots of lows with very few plateaus. My choice was to be on medication.
So now that I’ve explained that…you ask what it has to do with anything, right? >> grin << The key word I’m aiming for is “choice.” My choice to take medication gives me the best option to have a state of “normal.” While I realize normal is a subjective term, just know that I mean normal-for-me. No two people will deal with their depression in the same manner. For me, it meant trying several medications and dosages of each variety to reach a point that felt normal/okay/manageable for me. When I reached the point that was comfortable for me…that was my choice to say “here is fine.”
AND THE POINT IS…?
Once a person reaches a point where they feel “emotionally normal”…meaning they have found the point in their life with their highs and lows are at the level they want (some people are comfortable with extreme high/low peaks, others want tiny peaks and dips)…that person can then consider him/herself on a level playing field with folks that aren’t living with depression.
Now that the playing field, so to speak, is now level, each of us gets to choose how we want to live our life. There is NO SHAME in taking medication for depression if that is what it takes for you to be able to live the best life possible for you. This was a hard point for me to accept. I’m of an age that depression was considered a personal flaw and should be kept secret.
So back to the original question…Can happiness and depression co-exist? Without a doubt, the answer is YES! Find your place of comfort/average/normal/baseline (whatever term you identify with), and no matter whether you take medication or not, you can choose to be happy. There may be some self-talk involved, especially if the concept is new to you, but you can do it. There will be days when it may be harder, and that is normal. Just keep reminding yourself that you deserve to be happy.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT
Before I go, another saying I came across links nicely to this post. I don’t remember the exact wording or who it originated with, but it goes something like this…
“Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.” –author unknown
…there are variations on it, but this is the basic version.
Essentially, this means we are responsible for our own happiness. It isn’t the role of our friends, families, or jobs and hobbies to make us happy. The flip side of that is we are not responsible for making sure those around us are happy, either.
Accepting the fact that we choose our happiness will also free us from the thinking that we are responsible for ensuring another’s happiness. Don’t let someone convince you that they are unhappy because of you. They can be dissatisfied with how you have handled something, or with something you’ve said, etc., but they are still responsible for how they choose to respond to events in their own life, no matter the origin.
We each own our part of the equation. Blaming someone for our unhappiness won’t make us feel better; it will only keep us crippled in the thought that we are not happy.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this week’s post. Have you struggled with depression and/or happiness? I hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend.
Until next we meet on this Road to a Dream…be kind to each other…and to yourself!
REACH FOR THE STARS, BLAZE A NEW TRAIL, REALIZE YOUR DREAMS