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.

Staying Authentic as a New Writer

Sometimes when I read through my own unpublished writing I look back and think, “That doesn’t even sound like me.

That’s because my voice as a new writer wasn’t entirely mine. It’s so clear to me that in the process of writing some of my older, unpublished pieces that I was holding back from stating my truth. I focused too heavily on the opinions of others that made me doubt myself and it showed in my work. I lost my voice.

I like to think of myself as confident when it comes to my blogging. I strive to encourage honesty and vulnerability. I highly emphasize the importance of authenticity in everyday life, especially when it comes to mental health. I learned the importance of staying truthful because there are people out there who will not only relate to my story, but need to hear it.

That is a responsibility every writer holds whether we’re writing a best seller or a post online. If we share our work and we don’t stand behind our message, then we lose our integrity. We can not expect readers to believe in our message if it doesn’t even hold true to ourselves.

This loss of authenticity in anyone’s writing can be attributed to a few factors, but my main focus will be discussing how the pressure to create perfect and ‘acceptable’ work actually took away my authenticity.

I like to compare this to voices in a crowded room, similar to a writer in a world full of opinions. When the voices around you become too loud, yours is dulled down. When you allow the opinions of others to dictate yours, your writing becomes weak.

You might be wondering, what does that have to do with keeping my authenticity? Surely I can rise above the voices if i’m loud enough; of course other opinions don’t have to influence mine.

However when I was first introduced to blogging and the idea of sharing my work publicly, my mindset shifted. Comparing my own experiences to others made me seriously doubt myself.

I’m going to pause for a moment and rewind to writing as a child. Writing as a child, we write purposely for our own enjoyment. We write our most authentic ideas in this time, creating bizarre characters and stories with no doubt in our minds. We are proud of our work and we feel such a great sense of ease. Because we aren’t writing to please others; we don’t feel the pressures of our work being edited and reviewed. We write as children as a tool to express ourselves, so of course we’re proud of our work. It doesn’t matter whether it’s perfect or not. Because it’s our own.

This changes as we grow up and learn that our work isn’t always as flawless as we thought. The value of our work is defined by the grades we earn. We begin writing essays and discover that what we want to talk about is not always acceptable. We take our first creative writing classes and we’re told that our work isn’t interesting enough. We grow up reading all of these prestigious authors and we realize that we have a long way to come before we’re ever as accomplished as them. We show our friends and families are work, and once we’re old enough, we discover that not everyone likes our work. Those are the voices. When we want to be accepted as a writer, they start to influence us every time we sit down to write.

Eventually the biggest critic is no longer those outside voices. It is ourselves.

In my case, I internalized these voices and it affected the way I approached things when I first started to share my work publicly. Rather than appreciating the fact that my experience was different than others, I thought that I had to put up a better image in order to seem appealing to my readers. So, I didn’t share the work I used to be so eager too. I tried writing in a completely different style, which didn’t work out for me.

When I first started The Journey on WordPress, I found so many blogs with talented writers. I convinced myself that I could never amount to them. I told myself, “I’m too young! I don’t have enough credentials. I can’t write in the same style that them. How can I compare?” Instead of considering what I do have to offer as a writer, I focused on all of the things I did not. As a new writer, it became so tempting to follow those voices. I started to doubt my own story. I grew worried that people would not relate to the stories I had to share, or find them acceptable, so I held back from publishing them.

It took some time for me to realize that I don’t want to be perfect on my blog, nor do I to be perfect to be a better writer. I don’t have to prove myself, or criticize myself down to the core.

Because to be authentic isn’t to be perfect. It’s to be real. After all, how can anyone write about growth and learning if we don’t share share the lessons we learned for ourselves? I’m not afraid to share my own experiences, imperfections and all, if it means helping someone else in any way.

xx

Thank you for reading. Be sure to comment below if you have any additional thoughts, or have any posts to share.

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



Suicide Awareness

We can not continue to let the stigma around mental illnesses put the health of ourselves others at risk.

We are afraid to discuss mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and more simply because we are afraid. We are afraid because it is out of our comfort zones; after all, it is intimidating to open up about such a personal topic. Except how long will we shy away from such a prevalent issue in our society?

Throughout the last few months, two students in my town committed suicide. After a student of our own passed away, we were handed out yellow ribbons to wear for support. Some students pinned them to their shirts, while others discarded them, throwing them away or mindlessly placing them in their pockets. We hung up posters during our home football and soccer games and painted his name for everyone to see. The teachers and school administrators reached out to the students, asking us a series of questions in hopes that they would understand why he chose to take his life. While this unity is important, it is short lived. Weeks later the unity dissolves and we are back to where we started.

The problem is, even after the funerals, and the grieving, and the goodbyes, the problem is still here. Discussing suicide after it happens is similar to teaching someone how to drive after they get into a car accident: it will never prevent the accident. In our society, there is such a strong stigma around mental illnesses that we are afraid to speak up. No one ever wishes to talk about real problems because it is not in our comfort zones. Discussing mental illnesses is difficult, but if we never discuss the reality of suicide we can never heal. We can not let our memories of these students fade away. They are reminders that we lost two precious lives due to suicide.

Many teenagers today do not open up about their health because they do not wish to be labeled. Teenagers are left in the dark, alone, without knowing where to turn. If we continuously ignore the important of mental health, we risk losing lives due to suicide again. Life is unpredictable.

Together, we all must show support to one another. We must prove that we can fight against this. We can no longer let depression, anxiety, or any mental illness define who we are. We are all so much more. We must solve this problem one step at a time and raise awareness. By doing this, we can truly save lives.