Beat Depression, Live Happiness

DenaOctober 25, 2009

I spent the first half of my adult life wanting it to end. That is not meant to be shocking or depressing; it is simply a fact. Thus far I have told my story — where I have been, where I am, and where I am going. What I have not yet shared are the ugly parts. I want to tell you how far down I got and then, how I got back up and kept on going.

I find that in sharing my story, others are more willing to share their own. I also find that all of us have got a lot more in common than we realize.

People are ashamed to admit and discuss pain. Pain is viewed as weakness. From the time we are children, we are conditioned to believe that pain is an expression of weakness, that pain is bad, and strength is good. The hero of every movie is strong. We are told that “big girls and boys don’t cry.”

We learn to view pain as an expression of weakness almost from the time we are born. Crying babies are shushed and cooed to silence. Then, as we get older, we learn to hide our pain. We become experts at it. We bite our tongues, count to ten. We actively decide to “never let anyone see our suffering.” Instead, we suffer silently. We project strength. We force the pain deep down inside of ourselves, where it tears us apart, internally, slowly.

For most of my life, I suffered quietly. Those closest to me knew snippets of my pain — the parts that I chose to share. I am through suffering silently. We must all decide to stop suffering silently today. It is alright to experience pain, you are not alone. Pain is real, pain is not weakness, and pain can be overcome. I overcome pain every single day and you can do it, too. No matter how far down you are, no matter how deeply you suffer, no matter what has happened to bring you to this place of suffering — you can live happiness. I am living proof.

“However we may scream, we are suffering silently.” —Adrienne Rich

In addition to my obvious anxiety, I was diagnosed with severe and chronic depression at age 15. I bounced from doctor to doctor and from medication to medication. Sometimes, something would help. We would find a medication that would make me numb and, of course, that was considered a good thing. Numbness is better than pain, right? I had a few breakthroughs in therapy. I realized that I was blaming myself for everything — everything that happened within my family, to my parents, to my friends, in my personal relationships — it was all my fault. When my therapist told me that it was not my fault, it helped some. After awhile I began to believe her. It took time, but eventually I believed that I, too, deserved happiness and that maybe everything that went wrong in the world was not my fault.

Still, I suffered. Most of the time, the realizations and the numbness just weren’t enough. The pain stretched deeply into my heart, my soul, my mind. People would ask me, “Why are you depressed?” and that was infuriating. There was no answer. I could not just place my finger on something, so simply, and say here, this is why I am depressed. It wasn’t like that. It just was. There was no reason for it. Sometimes I was happy but mostly I was in pain. The only way that I could describe it was to say that my heart hurt.

I knew sadness and to be truthful it was comfortable. I found that every time I got happy, something bad would eventually happen and my happiness would be shattered. It became easier to just be sad. Therefore there was no expectation and when the bad came I was prepared for it. The depth of my sadness varied. Some days were worse than others. The worst days were the ones when I wished for death. I believed many things.

  • I was alone in my pain.
  • My depression would never get better.
  • No one in the entire world could understand.
  • No one suffered as deeply as I did, it was impossible.
  • There was no reason to go on.

For many years, sadness consumed me.

And then one day, everything changed. I realized several things that would change my life forever. These five things saved my life and if you are where I was, they can save you, too. I learned these things over several years and I am still learning every single day.The pieces of the puzzle come to me slowly, piece by piece, not all at once. But even the knowledge of just one piece began to shift the course of my life. Here is what I learned. These are the things that allow me to go forward each day and live happiness. Here is what can help you to change the direction of your own life.

1. Happiness is a choice.
2. My thoughts determine my happiness and my sadness. I alone have complete control over my thoughts.
3. Karma is real.
4. Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
5. Stop resisting the will of the Universe.

Happiness is a Choice

This was the first truth revealed to me. I observed people. I took note of who was happy and who was sad; who was kind and who was cruel. I realized that the happy people were usually happy and the sad people were usually sad.

What was happening? Did the sad people have plain bad luck? Were the mean people so abused in their own lives that they were forced to be cruel to others because they did not know any better? Perhaps, the sad and the mean people were victims of circumstance — sickness, poverty, ugly, untalented?

The answer to all of those things was no. There were sad and mean rich people and sad and mean beautiful people. There were happy poor people and happy ugly people. Some of the most talented people I knew were also the most cruel and unhappy. There was no formula for happy.

I could not make sense of it. If there was no formula, if circumstance played no role, then why were some people so consistently happy and other people so consistently miserable?

And then one day I came across a man, the happiest, kindest man I ever knew. I would run into him each morning in the coffee shop. We had lived in the same town all of my life. I had played sports with his daughter in elementary school. We would exchange stories and how-are-you’s in the coffee shop. This man always smiled. He always held the door for you. He always pulled out a dollar when someone was short. He always picked up your napkin if it fell on the floor. His happiness and his kindness were contagious. I remember the day that he told me he had been laid off. For a man with a daughter in college and a hefty mortgage, he didn’t seem too upset. He was still really happy and really kind. I remember when someone backed into his car in the parking lot. He was still really happy and really kind. I remember when he found out that he had cancer. He was still really happy and really kind.

I thought that maybe it was an act. I talked to his daughter. “Is he always so happy?” I asked her. She smiled and said, “Yes. He really is.”

One day I couldn’t contain myself anymore. I had to know, why and how was he so happy? I asked him. His answer was so simple.

“Every single day, I wake up in the morning and I make a choice, I choose happiness.”

The light went on for me then and it’s never gone off since. All of it became clear. The happy people choose happiness. The kind people choose kindness. I began to choose happiness on that day. It was my first step.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.” —Albert Einstein

My Thoughts Determine My Happiness

My thoughts determine my happiness and my sadness. I alone have complete control over my thoughts. I have written already of how cognitive behavior therapy saved my life, but I have to state it again. You truly do not understand the power that your thoughts have over you. If you can control your thoughts so that they help you — then you are set to travel the path of happiness. However, if you can not control your thoughts, they will destroy you and you will remain on the path of suffering. There is no compromise. Negative, irrational thoughts will destroy you. You must learn to change your negative, irrational thoughts into positive, rational thoughts.

Karma is Real

The only way to live happiness is to accept that karma is real. You absolutely must have faith that the Universe in in control, both of you and everything that surrounds you. It does not matter what your faith is. You can believe in God, Allah, Mohammad, multiple Gods — but whatever it is that you believe, you must have faith that there is a power higher than you and that that power is in control.

Good begets good and evil begets evil. Love begets love and hate begets hate. We, human beings, are not in a position to determine fate or to exact retribution. An eye for an eye is a foolish concept that will leave the whole world blind if we let it. Leave karma to punish and reward. In your own live, practice kindness and forgiveness.

I can tell so many stories about how I have learned that karma is real in my own life. However, I find that this is something that one must experience on his or her own to really understand. Examples are there, in your own life, waiting to be discovered. Choose to see them and you will.

Happiness is…

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. I have also written about this. You can not find happiness, you must live it.

Stop Resisting the Will of the Universe
This is the most recent lesson that I have learned. I am still exploring this path of my journey. It is a difficult concept and a hard thing to do. What I have learned is that the Universe it always on our sides. The problem is that most of the time we get so caught up in the small details of our circumstances, that we resist. Every single time that something does not go our way, we resist. We hate out job, we struggle. We fight with our spouse, we struggle. We get hurt or sick, we struggle. The more that we resist our circumstances, the more that we struggle. The more that we struggle, the deeper ensnared we become in the next of confusion, anger, and sadness.

“To me faith means not worrying.” —John Dewey

Every single time that something happens, it happens for a reason. When you have an argument, there is a lesson to be learned. When you are stuck in traffic, you may be avoiding tragedy. When you hate your job, you may be becoming wiser. When your dog chews up the furniture, you are gaining great wisdom in the area of patience, unconditional love, and obedience. There is nothing in your life that does not happen for a reason.

Instead of getting frustrated, upset, and angry — just be. Pay attention to what is happening. Be still, be open to the lesson that the Universe is giving you. When you are calm, the net of confusion, anger, and sadness will slip from your wrists. You will be set free.

This is so difficult because your whole life, you have been resisting. For your whole life, you have been struggling against “the bad.” You must retrain your mind to stop resisting the Universe. And the moment that you do it, you will become wiser. Every single time that I have made the decision to “stop resisting” I have learned something invaluable. This step in the journey has been one of the most difficult, but also one of the most rewarding.

What I have learned it that in order to live happiness, I had to first accept the fact that my pain was real. There is no sense in denying it or in trying to “appear” strong for the sake of appearance. Every person feels pain and every person is capable of overcoming pain. It is only in the past several years that I have begun to learn “how” to live happiness. I am so grateful for all of these lessons that I have learned. Sharing these lessons with you is the next part of my journey and I thank you for allowing me to share.

It is not easy, but most things that are worth anything rarely are. Begin your journey today, right this moment. Do not waste another moment living in darkness or despair. Despite your pain, and even because of your pain, you are strong and capable beyond your wildest imagination.

Comments (15)

  • Karen

    October 25, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Have I told you that you are amazing latley? 🙂

    I am blow away, yet again, with how similar our stories are. I feel like I could have written almost every word of this.

    The other day someone asked me what the worst thing was that had every happened to me. It took me a few minutes, and I answered "depression". I totally realte to every word you write here… being in pain, feeling alone, for so long. Although I am years past that now, it is so nice to feel not so alone with reading the words you write. Depression is so hard to describe to anyone that hasn't been thru it… I heard those words, "Just get up. Just get over it." so many times.

    When I was trying to answer the question that a new friend asked me the other day about the worst thing that ever happened to me, I followed up my answer with, "But I don't regret having depression, because I have learned so much. I just didn't realize, fo so long, that I had a choice to be happy." I do now.

  • Ryan

    October 26, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Thank you for sharing your story Dena.

    Pain is part of life. Hiding it makes it worse, which of course is what most people are taught to do.

    Pain subsists as long as we resist it: deny it, ignore it, or hide it. The moment we fully acknowledge pain it leaves. This applies to physical as well as mental maladies. It's tough to describe the feeling but the deeper I get into my meditations I see glimpses of these truths. I just have to get a little deeper before I begin to fully acknowledge pain in all areas of my life 😉

    It's so engrained in most people's finds to fight pain, to search for a pill, or to blame conditions outside ourselves for causing it. Even if we didn't seek it out, it seems to find us. The best way to accept it is to identify that we are hurting, which is a huge step for most people. The next move is to figure out why we are hurting. Finally it's time to release it, which can be the biggest challenge because it's such an unpleasant experience. I've been there countless times, but with taking full responsibility for my feelings and going through the discomfort of release, I become more liberated with each instance.

  • paul

    October 26, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Dena – thank you for sharing your story. I really enjoy reading your posts not only because I think you have great advice but because you are so genuine and not afraid to put yourself out there.

    "Every single day, I wake up and make a choice, I choose happiness."

    It's such a simple little phrase and doesn't seem like it would help much. But I've noticed that it really does work wonders in my own life. Happiness really is a choice.


  • Anime no reppuu

    October 26, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Interesting post, I hope we can continue our cbt talk by email


  • Walter

    October 26, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Thank you for the wisdom you have shared here. For the past few years of my life I'm also consumed with depression and I don't know where it came from. I have been trying to find answers and I'm glad to have stumbled this enlightening post of yours. 🙂

  • Superfluous Brunette

    October 27, 2009 at 12:52 am

    So inspiring to read your posts and thank you for sharing your raw pain…it is so real and so many people have the same feelings/experiences that they push away or repress. You are courageous and empowering to share your beautiful story. Much love to you and I look forward to reading more.

  • Dena

    October 27, 2009 at 9:33 am

    @Karen – You are so kind & generous with your thoughts & words. I am grateful that we found one another. I think that as we continue on our journey, we will find that many people share our story.

    @Ryan – Thank you so much for your comment! "It's so ingrained in most people's finds to fight pain, to search for a pill, or to blame conditions outside ourselves for causing it." You are absolutely correct and that is the point I am trying to make. Rather than simply trying to make ourselves NUMB we must process the pain, accept it, understand it, and then OVERCOME it.

    @Paul – I am so grateful for your words. Yes, I do try to be completely open. What I am learning is that by sharing my story – I can have an impact on the lives of others. There is no reason to be self-conscious, we are all family in the human race. Even more than that (we are all connected!).

    In order to grow to our fullest potential and live a life without regret – we must be willing to reveal both the dark & the light!

    @Diego – I apologize that I have not yet responded to our last emails. I will get to it soon, hold tight. Thank you for your patience, friend.

    @Walter – Wow, I can not tell you how much it means to me to know that we are traveling this path together. Sometimes, we have to acknowledge that it didn't "just come" from anywhere. IT JUST IS. And the only thing that we can do is to take back control – choose happiness.

    You can do it. You will do it.

    @Superfluous – Thank you for your kind words. You are generous with your thoughts and I take them straight into my heart. Sharing = power. In giving, I receive ten-fold. Much love back to you.

  • Anonymous

    October 28, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Thank you for this

  • Andrew

    November 1, 2009 at 8:18 am

    This was very moving Dena, quite an open account…

    I had a very good friend who went through similar, but didn't share an awful lot… Reading your article has filled in a lot of the blanks.

    Thank you

  • BorisReady

    November 5, 2009 at 6:32 am

    I love how you have learned and grown through this process.
    Regarding your final conclusion about "Most things that are worth anything rarely are easy", I would add that when you find your passion when you discover the reason why you are here, everything will become easy. What it seems challenging to others will be easy and natural for you.
    All the best

  • Dena

    November 5, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    @Anonymous – Thank you for reading.

    @BorisReady – Thank you truly for your kind words and your thoughts.

  • Dena

    November 5, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    @Andrew – Thank you so much. You are correct. It is, indeed, open. It is difficult at moments to share such intimate thoughts & pains that I have traveled through; yet, when I think of the impact that it might have.. that I might help on person – it makes it entirely worth it.

    Thank you for your friendship. You continue to inspire me.

  • Financial Samurai

    November 15, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Wow, what a great post Dena! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I love these types of articles.

    Happiness really is a choice, and right now I'm smiling 🙂

    Financial Samurai

  • Dena

    November 19, 2009 at 9:22 am

    @Financial Samurai – Thank you so much for reading. I am really glad that you enjoyed it and that you are smiling!! 😀

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