Can You Always Be Positive?

True happiness isn’t forever, it might not even be for a while. It is found in the moments we least expect it, and sometimes hidden in the times we need it most. Happiness is fleeting.

When I say that happiness doesn’t last forever, I don’t mean that in a such a cynical way. I say that happiness is fleeting because the truth is, life happens and we don’t ever get to choose when. Mistakes are made, things are lost, and bonds are broken. And with these losses, there goes our expectation of infinite happiness right down the gutter.

Many of us feel unsatisfied with our current state of life because our ideas of happiness don’t coincide with reality. Our ideas of what real success and happiness look like are corrupted by social media and the fabrications we’re exposed to every day. We are lead to believe that happiness is perfection, and we convince ourselves that once we are finally happy that it will last forever.

This faulty perception of happiness only gets worse when we begin browsing through social media. I consistently come across a sea of lifestyle posts and ‘hacks’ on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram that I can’t take seriously. These influencers tell us that if we drink more water and get some sunlight each day, then we’ll grow into the person we want to be as if we are mere plants rather than complex, unique human beings. If it were as easy as drinking water and getting sunlight, then we would achieve perfect physical and mental health. For someone who has dealt with anxiety that interferes with everyday life, I understand that there’s a lot more to overcoming the downs of life than that and I’m sure almost everyone can agree.

The thing is, of course platforms like Instagram are going to be filled with picture perfect profiles. We all want the world to see the best version of our lives- even when it isn’t truthful. I can relate with the desire to create a positive image, and I do believe that platforms such as Instagram can be beneficial in that sense. When people land on my profile I want them to see the best version of myself.

The issue I have with this is the negative effect it has on all of us to be mislead by these perfect profiles, particularly the younger generations who are so invested in social media. When we scroll through all of these images, we’re seeing people living in a dream like state. These perfectly crafted profiles make us feel as though we’re missing out on the joy that all of these people we follow are experiencing, or seem to be experiencing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people comparing themselves to popular influencers that promote this image, or commenting along the lines of “I wish I was you!”

So there we go again, reaching for something out there, for that pure joy we see on social media.

But it’s not real.

We can convince ourselves that we can control our lives the way that we control our social media profiles, picking and choosing which moments we want to live out.  

But again, that’s not possible. If that was the case, then we’d all be manic.

In real life we live out the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the sunshine and the rain. We don’t get to slap a sunset filter over it and say that we had a perfect day. Sometimes things just don’t go the way we want it to, and that’s okay. That’s life. And the sooner we begin embracing the unexpected rather than running away from it, the closer we are to real happiness.

I came across this quote while watching Euphoria the other day that perfectly sums up my point.

“I had a therapist once who said that these states will wax and wane.

Which gave my mother relief, because it meant that in the bad times, there would be good times.

But it also gave her anxiety because it meant that in the good times, there would be bad times.”

Although simple, this episode does an excellent job of explaining how clinical depression works for most individuals. Not only does this episode accurately portray how it feels to live with depression and anxiety, but it holds true to the nature of life for all of us.

It can be somewhat frightening to realize that we don’t always know when the next low point will be for us. But if everything always went the way we want it too, we simply wouldn’t be alive. Think of it as the ups and downs on a heart monitor. If you see a straight line, there’s no pulse. If you see it consistently going up, well, that’s not exactly healthy either.

So at this point you might be asking yourself, what’s the point? 

Why am I writing this? As I began to write this post I didn’t know exactly what direction I was headed, I just wanted to remain honest above anything else. Even though I try to keep my writing on the positive side, it’s not always so easy. If I only covered the positive topics then I would be missing out on exploring so many other subjects surrounding mental health that other people can relate to.

So back to the question I set out to answer, it’s a little complicated. While I don’t believe there is a way to always be positive, I do feel that it’s important to always hold on to the hope that things will get better.

If I could give anyone advice on how to be a more positive person, it’s to accept that you don’t always know what tomorrow will bring, but hold on to the hope that the hard times will pass and you will find yourself living out those happy moments again. Don’t let that fill you with fear, let it fill you with excitement.

Instead of viewing happiness as perfection, instead of trying to keep it forever, view it as moments. It’s true that happiness is fleeting; like every other emotion it comes and goes. Happiness is found in moments that turn into memories we can cherish.

So stop chasing perfection and start chasing those moments. It’s that rush you feel when you catch the perfect wave, or that moment when you break through the surface of the water after taking a daring leap. It’s the sense of pride you have when you can finally feel your diploma in your hands and the warmth that radiates from those who supported you along the way. It’s in those moments when you find yourself laughing until your chest aches, or that joy you feel when you reconnect with a friend for the first time in what felt like forever.

Even on your absolute worst days, happiness is there, in that smile that illuminates someone’s face when you do something kind. Happiness is everywhere, even in the bad, if you would just open your mind to it. 

It’s like catching a firefly in your hands, even in the darkest nights. There will be times where the nights feel dark and you think the light has ran out, but it is still there, waiting to land on the palms of your hands again. And those moments, like fireflies, will come back to you when you least expect it.

Have Faith In Yourself Today

A simple reminder that confidence does not mean believing that you are perfect, or thinking that you can go the rest of your life without making any mistakes. Confidence is never to be confused by arrogance.

Confidence is having faith in yourself, knowing you have the power to make your own choices each day. Likewise, it means having the strength to forgive yourself even when you make mistakes, because you know you are capable of growing and becoming a better person than you were yesterday.

Don’t let the word “confidence” intimidate you any longer.

There’s no better way to build you own confidence than to place trust yourself in every step you take.

Have some faith in yourself today.

xx

Using Poetry To Discuss Mental Illness

Today I’m returning to a more personal topic, or what I originally began this blog for: understanding and recovering from mental illness.

Too many of us shy away from the topic in fear that we won’t attract as many readers, however we should all learn to make it a priority. After all, one of the best ways to provide support for others online is to discuss mental illness and raise awareness. I wanted to take the time to share an outlet of expression I use as a writer that may help other people.

After I experiencing episodes of depersonalization, a side effect of anxiety, I found it difficult to describe how I was feeling. Writing helped me stay in touch with my emotions, even when I felt disconnected from myself.

I wrote the poem “Blue” to describe what it feels like to lose yourself due to uncontrollable forces.

As somber as the poem is, it was the only way I could put what I was going through into words. I know that others reading it will have their own opinions; but at the end of the day it’s honest and true to my experiences, and that’s always how writing should be. Being able to describe my feelings through writing is always therapeutic.

I didn’t know what depersonalization was at the time because I never knew that there was a term to describe it, nor do I hear it discussed nearly as often as the other symptoms are. At the time it helped me pinpoint what the true source of my worries was.

Not only is writing my feelings out a process of catharsis, but it helped me realize that what I was going through was more serious than I thought at the time. It encouraged me to find an explanation to the distressing periods of depersonalization I endured. This realization ultimately became the reason I was able to combat that feeling of helplessness and take control of myself again.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and naturally the changes in the poetry I write reflect that changes I go through in my life.

It took me a long time to decide whether or not I should share it before posting it online about a month ago. I feared that no one would relate to where I was coming from. It can be terrifying to post work, especially personal posts like this, because there is that fear in that back of your mind that you’ll be misunderstood. But sometimes it is necessary to let go of that fear.

To my surprise, I received feedback from various people who said they experienced the same feelings before. In fact, the more I found other writers, the more pieces I found that I truly resonated with. Writing proved to be a common outlet of expression for so many people.

Writing isn’t the only form of art that can be very effective in portraying and educating about mental illness. Take music, song writing, painting and many other forms of art for example- they are outlets in which people can express themselves better than they can through a typical conversation.

xx

Thank you for reading as always.

Changing The Way You Define Happiness

What does it mean for you to be happy?

For many of us, happiness is something we chase every day of our lives. Our own definitions of happiness are described by a list of achievements and assets we desire to call our own, and even after we reach these goals, the list seems to reach beyond infinity.

It means having the ideal body, obtained by endless hours of pushing ourselves to the limit in the gym, followed by scrutinizing our bodies in the mirror until we find something new to ‘fix’.

It means creating the perfect facade in our online profiles to convince our family and friends that we are living our absolute best lives. Sometimes we do this by posting pictures from last years spring break with the biggest smiles on our faces, or by flaunting how insanely in love we are with our significant other.

It means landing our dream jobs, often because they have higher salaries, and the feeling we get when we can finally say “Look, I made it!”.

We tell ourselves that it will not hurt to chase these goals and successes, certain that once we reach the next step we will finally be happy and content with ourselves. Just one more pound, just one more time, just one more day spent doing something we don’t want to do in hopes of creating a better future. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with pursuing any of these goals- in fact, a great sense of pride can be accomplished in working towards a better version of ourselves. This drive to better ourselves is what we need to keep ourselves moving.

The problem is that in constantly finding things to change about ourselves, our definition of happiness becomes perfection. By thinking that what we have in the moment is never enough, we are condition ourselves to think that we can never be happy in the present moment.

This is when it becomes necessary to draw the line between maintaining a healthy amount of motivation and chasing an unrealistic state of perfection. Because obsession with the distant future plants a seed in our mind that is difficult to uproot. It leaves us in a constant state of unease, trapped by the belief that we can never be happy by simply loving ourselves and our lives for the way we are now.

Sometimes it takes stepping back and assessing our current situation to realize what is worth pursuing, and why exactly we want to pursue these goals. Are we seeking change because of an intrinsic motives, or extrinsic motives? In other words, is it because it will bring us joy- or because we are seeking validation from others? Once we identify the true reasons we want to change, we can determine whether or not it will provide us with long lasting happiness.

The best way to find happiness is to stop associating it with perfection, and start associating it with peace of mind. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that it is okay for each of us to move at our own pace and choose the paths in life that we wish to take. Is is not until we learn to accept ourselves and our current condition, flaws and all, that we can finally be happy.

Good Things Takes Time

A reminder for anyone going through the process of recovery.

“People are always telling me that things will get better soon,” He said. “But I’m tired of waiting for change.”

That day, my friend confided in me that he had not been happy for a long time. He was growing impatient in watching others living their lives and making progress while he remained stuck in the same, endless cycle of self-doubt. Because no matter how hard he tried, he said, things just weren’t getting better. He thought that after he finally got past the hardship he had faced that it would be over. Yet the process of recovering itself proved to be much more difficult.

I know that feeling. Finally reaching a finish line, making it to the top of the mountain, only to find that there is still another mile left in the race. While I wish I had a simple answer for my friend that day, there is no simple solution. The advice I wish I could have given that day is something that you must take with a grain of salt. But the truth is, for anyone on the journey to recovery, it that you aren’t going to heal in a day.

Because healing isn’t always waking up and feeling the sun on your skin. It isn’t always a quick or simple process like we want it to be.

Sometimes healing is putting down the phone for the last time and accepting that you shouldn’t let that person back in, no matter how much the memories are pulling you back. Sometimes healing is pushing yourself to open the curtains and face the world despite the people who tell you that you aren’t good enough. Sometimes it is that aching feeling in our chest, the waves of uncertainty when we take a leap of faith.

Rather than feeling intimidated by this, you need to think of healing as growing pains. To truly adapt and learn from your past, you will need to make changes and learn. We must to let ourselves grow out of the pain from the past and close old wounds if we ever want to move on. Healing, similar to fighting, takes strength. It means having to push through that last mile no matter how much you want to turn back. As soon as you finally cross that line and reach the top, you will realize that it was worth it all along.

It might not happen in a week, or even a few months, and maybe you won’t be able to see how much you have truly grown because you are too busy working on yourself. Just don’t discredit yourself for not being able to see this in the mirror right away. Because good things take time, and can show up where we least expect it to.

If I could go back to that conversation I had that day, there is one last piece of advice I would give. Because of of all of the things I am uncertain of, there is one thing that always holds true when it comes to healing.

I can promise you that one day, you will find yourself smiling once again because you’re finally living without the weight of the past holding you down. Because all of those promises you made to yourself will become a garden, a symbol of the growth you have made during the process of moving on. You will no longer feel the need to bury the past away, because it is there in that garden, a reflection of the strength you had in you all along.

And although it takes work, there is no better feeling than taking the challenges life as handed you and turning it into something beautiful.

xx