The Very Real Possibility of Happiness, Contentment, (almost) Joy, and Semi-Stability

now

I often wonder where the term “finding happiness” comes from.  I suppose, were I to do enough Googling, I would find my answer.  As for my life, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to “find” happiness, convinced it was behind this corner or within that person or perhaps covered up by old memories.

What I have found, quite recently, is that happiness is not mine (or anyone’s) to find.  Happiness is a thing that must be made, produced, created.  Happiness is a thing that you might have spent a lot of time looking for, but which was there all along, a byproduct of the doings of your life.

finding happiness quotes

Through making a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) with the assistance of my peer mentor, I uncovered and wrote down long lists of things and circumstances and people and ideas that cause me joy.  By hanging onto those things, and working from the list every day (as in, actually completing and working on activities and subjects within the WRAP), I have managed to increase not only my feelings of happiness and contentment, but also have greatly improved my distress tolerance skills.  A few examples of items on my WRAP include making jewelry, a conversation with a special friend, to more concrete matters, such as getting at least eight hours of sleep and avoiding any sort of caffeine after 11:00 a.m.  Through the WRAP, I uncovered the circumstances that cause me to be most happy, most joyful.  They weren’t activities or people or things that I had to search for, but rather are more like daily practices that tend to give me positive stability.

hopeful mindset

I know there are people who might think I am premature in determining that I am having any sort of STABILITY in my life, but I must disagree.  The contents of life, at this moment, are quite topsy turvy, and I am handling them with relatively little drama, tears, complaints, or tantrums.

I am learning to take things as they come, and continue to work on sitting with uncomfortable emotions until another emotion can come through.  I have hope in my life, like I have never had before.  I know, for certain, that this can be attributed almost solely to learning how to turn my mind away from the negative and face forward toward people and situations and circumstances and activities that bring me joy.  The longer one can sit with a feeling of joy, the greater, and longer lasting, the feelings of contentment and happiness will be.

I have much to be grateful for, and have come a long way lately on being more appreciative and thankful in my day-to-day life.  I must say, (and really can’t say enough) happiness takes practice and work, just as it takes practice and work to STAY miserable.  Sure, it is easier to bring oneself down with negativity and maladaptive behaviors and resistance to change and willfulness, and obviously so much more difficult to turn away from the train-wrecks-in-life, but it can be done.

DBT helps me turn my attention and stay in the moment and surf my emotions, and I am thoroughly grateful I have it in my life.  Were I not practicing mindfulness and gratitude and using my skills and being effective, I would definitely be having a difficult time right now, with all of the drama swirling around my life.  Fortunately for me (and for LarBear and any other close friends and family), I have been able to really focus on DBT and really focus on doing what is most effective, or what works best to keep myself on both feet.

Letting things go, letting really anything go that is disturbing my peace…that is what DBT has taught, and teaches me over and over, every day.  It must be a conscious practice, to let things go, and it is incredibly difficult to describe to a suffering person HOW exactly to do it.  Maybe starting with the statement that it *is* quite possible, is a good first step.

held on

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Wordless Wednesdays — Its the Little Things

Sometimes, the smallest things can bring inordinate amounts of joy.  I broke into song when this showed up on my door step yesterday!  Now I can actually write down addresses and phone numbers instead of asking people again and again for their contact information.  What a concept!

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Clearly Clicking Ahead

Three weeks ago, it was Entirely Too Soon to tell you all just how much better it seemed that life was getting.  Now that I have had three weeks of relative (gasp!) happiness, steadiness of mood, positive feelings, and lack of severe depression, I am here to confirm that I am quite giddily at a (fairly) solid, maybe slightly elevated baseline.  After over a year of soul crushing depression that never let up for longer than a day during that period, what I feel most is sweet relief.  Over the past year, I was fairly positive that I was never going to ever, ever, ever experience a “happy day” ever again.  Thankfully, I was wrong.

lifeislovely

I feel clear-minded, I feel optimistic, I feel like issues can be worked on, I feel like my toolbox is full, I feel as if I have great love in my life.  I feel so good that I worry my mood is getting too elevated.  This feels a lot like hypomania, building into mania, but I would really like to believe that it’s just good, solid, level, positive feelings.  Bipolar disorder is cruel in that it makes a person unable to trust their own feelings, their emotions, their behaviors.

So, I choose to believe this is happiness.  I choose to believe that a combination of a happy home with LarBear and satisfaction with learning new things and the addition of quite a bit of mental health groups and programs has resulted in a happy Rosa.  It doesn’t hurt that it is Spring, and the weather has been beautiful.  It doesn’t hurt that I have finally crossed the line from willfulness to willingness, and that I am really and truly being honest with myself about my feelings and thoughts.

I have been keeping very busy, between DBT and individual therapy (both talk and art) and art groups and the newest addition, a peer mentor.  My mental health maintenance and my art are now primarily my “job.”  And really, I am working on it all several hours each day, but not so much that I am getting burned out and not so little that I am just sitting around wasting time.

I find that, the more time I can spend being creative and creating things, the happier I am.  For the last several months, it has been jewelry, and more recently, I have moved into papercrafting.  I find that I love learning new techniques and skills, and I find that I am quite good at working with my hands, which surprises me to no end.

I feel that, to make the creativity complete, I need to get back to writing regularly, even if it’s just a 300-word essay on the blog.  I miss it, and I miss the connections I make with other bloggers.  So, I’ll try once again and write semi-regularly.  That’s all I can do, is try.

My main goal, or the goal overall, is to not wallow in my misery.  That is easy to say when not depressed, but super terribly hard when in the depths.  For as long as I can, though, I am going to face any issues head-on, I am going to be effective, and I am going to use every skill I have to keep my mood relatively stable.

This happiness thing, whether it be hypomania on the road to mania or just true happiness, is something worth working for, something worth putting all of the eggs into the basket for.  To have felt the lowest of lows for so long, and to now feel like life is worth living and that the world around is so amazing and beautiful, yeah, I want to hang onto that.

happiness-flowchart

 

 

Entirely Too Soon to Tell

As recently as yesterday, I was tending to suicidal ideations and paranoid thoughts in my head.  As recently as three days ago, I was ready to go to inpatient hospitalization.  As recently as last week, I had spent the past three months in tears, every single day, for at least three to four hours, off and on.  For, it seems, the very longest time, maybe up to a year, even, with a few brief respites, I have fared with quite poor mental and emotional stability.

It is entirely too soon for me to tell you this, but I laid in bed for a very brief time tonight with itchy fingers.  Itchy to type and tell you the “news.”  Itchy to share my newfound hope, my clearheadedness, my thoughts that it feels as if my life has taken some sort of major turn, and it feels distinctly like Rosa in general is a well-loved Tetris game, and the blocks are falling in very satisfying configurations.

Just as the grass is getting greener and the buds on flowering trees are forming, I can almost hear a more positive and happy and WHOLE version of myself unfurling.  I am sure it sounds trite, convenient, unrealistic, impossible, and (let’s not mince words here) frigging annoying as fuck that I am spinning out into what appear to be much calmer waters with the onset of Spring.  It really IS too soon to tell…but I wanted to tell you, that’s what it feels like.

I have had so little joy, and have been buried quite deep really in the pits of despair for such a gawdawful long time, that I really feel the need to celebrate this first day of hope, of feeling satisfied with *things* in general.  The intellectual Rosa knows that this is my mood cycling up (but hopefully not “too” up) in pace with the weather, the time change.  The intellectual Rosa knows that this is almost another year (already???) of DBT under the belt, practicing it every day or as faithfully as the severely downtrodden and willful can.  It’s also another med change, although just a baby adjustment.

I have another idea about happiness in general, and I was oh-so-fortunate to find the following:

maybe happiness is

I ran across that gem on Facebook, and it spoke to me.  I saved the link at first (as I am apt to do with things that really speak to me but that I don’t want to share because otherwise I would share every other post some days), and then came back to look at it again the next day, and to be frank, I’ve looked at it no less than 30 times in the last week, thinking to myself, could this be?  Is this all “happiness” is? — which begs the question, why have I been letting the rest of the world determine what MY happiness is to ME?

Good question, Rosebud.  Its a good question and its a great question, and the answer for now is that I don’t have to have an answer to that.  What is best and what is good and will make me whole again, I fully believe, is to determine my own happiness.  Yes, that simple.  All of the willfulness in the world has been inside of my fragile psyche the majority of my life, and I (once again, for those who are counting) will be letting that go and putting willingness back in my  heart.

Today was so amazing and wonderful from a standpoint of making myself get things done and do things I have been afraid to do and fend for myself and not make the assumption that I am weak and hopeless and can’t do anything for myself.  So, since today was so great, and that’s what it was like, my new mantra, in addition to the one above, is simple.

I have identified happiness, and I know how to get there.  Or at least I did today.  Maybe someone can give me a nudge if this theory falls all to hell tomorrow or next week or in July.  And feel free to remind me that it was too soon to tell.  It’s really hard not to get excited when the shift is a complete game-changer.

proud

 

Taking Back the Happiness Key

Keys

I’m not old by any means, but at thirty-four years of age, I have learned a few things.  Many of them have solidified here in my brain quite recently, but there is no less reason to celebrate, and no other reason to not be joyful that the lessons WERE learned.  I believe that one of the most important lessons I have learned references the above photo, and not letting others hold the key to your happiness.

I spent the majority of my life figuring this one out, and now that it is fairly stuck in my head, I have absolutely no intention on letting it slip back out again.  Not to say that I won’t have moments when I don’t misplace said key or loan it to someone that isn’t worthy, but overall, the key to my own happiness resides within me, and I can’t be any more pleased to have finally figured out this life lesson.

Part of a Rosa problem, is to let the actions (and sometimes inactions) of people around me, bring me down.  Through DBT and individual therapy, and just a whole lot of pondering, I have realized that what other people do or don’t do, is entirely up to them; it is my REACTION only that I control.  If someone acts offensively toward me, I might wonder what that had to do with me, and be very confused (or scared or upset or other negative emotion).

Here recently, I have realized that sometimes people behave badly for no reason (or, no reason to do with something I can control).  I can walk away.  AND, I can walk away with my head held high, because I have learned another lesson the hard way — this is not about me, and not everything IS about me.  I am not the center of most people’s universe, so just because they throw sticks and stones my way, doesn’t mean it is about me.

I wish I could have realized some of these lessons when I was much, much younger.  Growing up in a household where one parent often flew off the handle for (seemingly) no reason, and spending a lot of time thinking that things were my fault — much displaced guilt, shame, fear.

Being in romantic relationships where I was constantly being bullied, although I could never see a *why* in it, but just figured it was something I “had” to take — how I wish I wouldn’t have lingered in those situations so long.  Knowing that I may not have, knowing that I hold the key to my own happiness and it is my reactions to other people (and their behavior) that I am able to control…wow, if I could only have known those things then.

So where to go from here?  I have already stopped taking the bullstuff of others so personally.  When someone around me is having a bad time, I don’t always assume it is because of something I have done.  If I am feeling down or blue or sad or anxious, I have tools that I pull out to make myself feel better.

It doesn’t always work, but it seems that I have learned to better comfort myself, rather than constantly seeking comfort from another person.  Now, I still do seek comfort from others, but I am also now much more likely to do the things I know how to do to comfort myself first.  This makes for better relationships all around, especially if I am not begging someone else (generally QoB or my Dad or LarBear) to comfort me all the time.

comfort myself

via teachingliteracy.tumblr.com

 

 

 

This Week in Gratitude

I used to do a link-up that was a 10-things of thankful, and I did quite enjoy doing it every weekend.  The format has changed now, and I can’t find any linkups, so I decided that at the end of every week, I will go out on my own and do a gratitude post.  There are so many things out there to be thankful for, yet it is easy to not bring them to one’s consciousness in a mindful way.  SO, this is part DBT exercise, part because-I-wanna exercise, and mostly because I want to remember the good stuff, for when the time are NOT so good.

Without further adeiu:

  1.  This week, I am thankful for the four-cup coffee pot my mom purchased for me.  I had a huge coffeepot before, and the result was always that I would drink the entire contents every morning, which would leave me sick.  Ok, so yes, no self-control.  To remedy the situation, I gave up caffeine, but have started to miss it oh-so-much, so this is the solution.  The theory — the less coffee that is made, the less I will drink.
  2. LarBear has been a champ this week (well, every week), but especially this week, with helping me get a caffeine fix every morning even when there was no coffee pot.  I’m not sure why a large coffee at McDonald’s must cost $1.95, but it is clear we will be saving money now with brewing it at home.  Oh, and LarBear can avoid going out in 25 degree weather, all for the sake of a cup of coffee.  I think he will appreciate that!
  3. The very small mouse problem that started a couple weeks ago in my basement (this is what happens when you live in the country), is no more, after Mom’s boyfriend hooked us up with some poison.  I placed it carefully where the dogs couldn’t get to it and there has not been one sign of a mouse ever since.
  4. I am thankful that I have found it within myself to continue to work on giving second chances and third chances and fourth chances to people in my life who, well, may not deserve it (from the outside looking in).  It can be really hard to give up on someone who has been around your entire life, although not impossible.
  5. In a related thankfulness/gratitude moment, I am grateful that I can still see the good in most people, even when it is buried very deep below the surface.
  6. I am excited about Thanksgiving plans, getting to see the Big Dawg’s side of the family, and possibly going to see my maternal grandfather’s side of the family a few days after the big Turkey Day.
  7. Somewhat related, I am very grateful that I am *with it* enough to think about doing these things, and being around all of these people (that I am not used to).  Baby steps, Rosa.
  8. I am grateful basketball season is upon us, and I have already made it to two games at the local college.  Go Bods!
  9. I am thankful for interpersonal communication effectiveness skills learned in DBT, as it seems like LarBear and I get clearer with each other every day, and my other relationships continue to improve, as well.
  10. I am grateful/thankful/proud that I have cranked out almost one post every other day for over a week, and don’t feel any signs of slowing down yet.  I am grateful people still read, still comment, still like, and still listen, even after all this time.  Some of my favorite people are my online blog friends, and I am glad I didn’t mess that up too terribly with my extended absence.

What are you grateful for this week?  Making these lists may seem a bit mundane now, but they are very helpful to look back on in the future when things might not be so rosy.  I know they have helped me tremendously!

Long Time, No Type-Type, Friends

I was afraid to look back at my blog and see the last time I posted, but I knew it had been awhile.  No particular excuse, other than living life and trying to get through the mess of the holidays and the mess and aftermath of parental divorce and enjoying the awesomeness of meeting someone new.

I have missed reading blogs for a few weeks now, but am going to start setting aside time to do that again, so you should see me popping up on your page every now and then again.  I miss the interaction on this blog, in the comments, between blogs, what have you.  I miss my blogging friends!

Seems that something of an Internet break was much-needed.  I think it is too easy to get wrapped up in writing and commenting and following and liking and more reading, writing, commenting.  Between WP and FB, I was spending far too many hours staring at a computer screen and here lately have started to remember what life is really all about.

It’s about love and family and friends.  Dogs and movies and conversation.  The little things, the big things — life doesn’t happen solely online, although you can live a mostly online life if you would like.  I started to recall the last few years of my life the other day and realized I had spent quite a a bit of it online.

I don’t regret any of that — the reading, the writing, the friendships.  For me, however, I have to have more and I wasn’t really allowing that to happen.  Over just the past few weeks, I feel like I have come alive.  Granted, there was some mania in there, but lately I feel like I have made some really good decisions and I feel good.  That’s right.  I feel happy and content and (mostly) free from anxiety.

Prior to my Internet departure, I was taking Klopin PRNs daily, but since, I have only taken one or two.  I have re-learned how to soothe myself and have remembered how to look out for numero uno.  I have reintroduced openness, love, and hope into the equation.  I am seeing someone very dear to me and am having the best of times with it.

Who knew I could ever do these things or feel these feelings again?  Nearing the end of 2013, I made a resolution that I was done with men.  They were all jerks.  So, I stopped looking and stopped caring, and lo and behold, the loveliest relationship is now blossoming.  It seems that the old wise words are true — when you stop looking, it will happen.  When you least expect it.  Indeed.