“Harnessing Happiness” 10.01.21

As far as I know, we aren’t born happy. We enter the world screaming at the top of our lungs. This is a world outside the comfort of our mother’s womb–the safest home we have known. Once we step into this big, wild, complicated environment, we face issues that later seem trivial; right out of the belly they seem humongous.

Many people have to work diligently to achieve happiness. There are pills to relieve anxiety and depression, but no pills full of happiness. We make our own happiness when we are not enveloped in its presence. I take several medications which aid in my struggle for happiness. I also muster all of the energy I possess toward reaching the level of happiness I require.

My growth was stunted at the age of fifteen because of my illness. My mind reverted to happy times in my past to help me forget the hard times. When I was nine, I was interested in reading about and collecting historical dolls, their clothing, and accessories. I have a massive collection now, because when you are an adult and have money you can buy toys that your allowance couldn’t cover when you were little. I can hold my first doll and breathe deeply, remembering the happy Christmas day when I first saw her under the tree. This comforts me. I can do this remembering technique with every doll and stuffed animal I have in my “nest” at home. I can snuggle with Tigger and remember the Disney store in New York City on a trip with my husband. Every time I hold “Bert,” my teddy bear, I am reminded of my earlier childhood happiness. There is one book that can comfort me like nothing else.

My Grandmama Patte was a storyteller. When I was little, she told precious stories to me and my sisters. We would ask her to tell us a story and request our favorites. There were five that stuck with me. She embellished and the details differed somewhat each time she told them. She would ask us to help her tell the stories, as she couldn’t quite remember everything. We would fill in the blanks where she forgot. I think she was trying to commit these stories to our memories long after she was gone. She succeeded. We grew up thinking she made up these stories on her own. When we were older, she gave us one of the most special gifts I have ever received. She bestowed upon each of us a book of Native American folklore; we found all of the stories she had told us throughout our lives. This book is so important to me because she died a few years later, but the stories live on. The happiness I gain from this book is monumental. Whenever I want to hear my Grandmama’s voice, I turn the page and concentrate with all my strength. I can hear her reading the story to me. When I am trying to fall asleep, daydreaming, or trying to control a panic attack, I think of joyful times I have experienced in my life. Deep breathing is key. Grandmama Patte’s voice is soothing.

There are many avenues toward happiness. One should not rely on another person for one’s happiness, though it is wonderful to have people in your life who bring you love and peace. There are steps to be taken in order to harness happiness and everyone has their own way of coping. Making art brings me closer to contentment. I sketch and color under a bright light that keeps me focused and comforts me. I am a pen pal to my older neighbor across the street. Sending and receiving letters with him brings me great joy. Stepping out for sunshine is an excellent way to soak up some natural therapy. Exercise is also helpful and will raise levels of serotonin, which stimulate delight.

These activities help me as an individual and may not work for everyone’s brain. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?


“Procrastination” 3.5.21

Waiting until the last minute gives some of us extra motivation to finish work when the deadline is impending. For others, dread fills us to the brim. Often, the work doesn’t ever happen at all.

Procrastinators are often characterized as “lazy.” For many years, I accepted that as my own character flaw. My views on the matter were altered when I entered therapy.

I didn’t work with a therapist until five years into my illness. I had a psychiatrist, medication, and lots of problems. I had no idea how much I needed to talk to someone.

I began seeing a psychologist in 2009. It changed me forever. I released my emotions, worked through several problems with her guidance, and would not be the same without her help.

I was in college studying art. I started skipping my drawing class. It was too difficult for me. I have always had trouble with perspective and realism, beginning in my Thursday afternoon art lessons in elementary school. Trying to depict reality has always been so frustrating for me. I was in the dark until the fifth grade, when I realized that there are other techniques and areas of art to explore. I didn’t have to make things look real in order to express myself!

In that college drawing class, though, it was vital in order to pass and the teacher was ruthless. He was especially stern with me because I wasn’t improving despite his suggestions. So I skipped one of his drawing classes.

Then I skipped another, and another. I skipped a week of his drawing classes. Then I stopped going entirely.

With a stomach full of dread and my anxiety level through the roof, it seemed that the more classes I missed, the harder it would be to catch up. Therefore; I never returned. Procrastination as I have never seen the like.

I suffered through every day of college, unstable because of my mental illness. I didn’t seek help from the Disability Resources Department because I didn’t know it existed.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned a fact of utmost importance from my therapist. My “laziness” and procrastination were tied to my mood disorder. Sometimes I was literally “not in the mood.” And it wasn’t my fault!

Try not to punish or misunderstand the procrastinators in our midst. Truly, sometimes there is an underlying reason for appearing “lazy.”

Next time you feel “lazy,” or continue to spiral into procrastination, look it in the face and ask yourself where it comes from. It could be a characteristic of a mood disorder, and entirely no fault of your own.

It is something to ponder, whenever you’re in the mood.