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

Denial, DBT Skills, and the Onset of a Non-Typical Summer Vacation

dog happier

Without planning and without, really, even a second thought, I placed myself on summer vacation a few weeks ago.  I had been putting a lot of time and energy into DBT and using the skills, and I was getting frustrated with the other participants in my group.  It was (is) chock-full of people who don’t do their homework, who don’t complete their diary cards, and who are disruptive at any chance.

One of the women frequently gets angry and storms out, never to come back.  Why she is allowed to do that over and over and over, I do not know.  We DID all sign a contract that DID put some limitations on maladaptive behaviors (or therapy-avoiding behaviors, in this case).  While the storming out is, at best, quite disruptive and unsettling, it is mostly just annoying to me that this person walks out instead of using skills which she clearly should have something of a grasp on, one year into the program.  I mean, even a limited grasp, I would say.

But, don’tcha know, DBT is all about not being judgmental and meeting people where they are, and it is not I that am leading the group (although I have had enough DBT I could probably give a fairly good whack at it, and have already been told I have enough knowledge and experience to be a peer leader).  I decided that, while I have  mostly been focusing on distress tolerance and floating with emotion (rather than fighting), and doing urge surfing, I need now to focus on nonjudgemental stance.  That means focusing on not being judgmental of other people and, even trickier, not being judgmental of MYSELF.  Let’s just say it has not been an easy row to hoe.

My life outside of DBT has offered up plenty of opportunities for me to be harsh and critical and judgmental, as well as plenty of opportunities to leave me in complete hysterics for days on end.  I am happy to say that I have not succumed (much) to said hysterics, and am only indulging myself in small amounts of FTFO (otherwise known as “freaking the fuck out”).

I am allowing myself to ask LarBear and my dad for help, and I have been using interpersonal skills from DBT to get my needs met as far as setting boundaries and asking for what I want and need from pretty much any relationship I have at the moment.  It works, and if you don’t use it, you lose it, with the latter part of that being so very true, and the reason I always find myself back in formal DBT groups every few years.

Many a boulder of big news will roll down the proverbial hill in the next year or so, I would say.  Most of it is good, and the rest can best be classified as “unknown” for others, but neutral for me.  Because I have so many wonderful family members that read, I can’t go into too much detail at this very moment, but big changes are coming to my life, and so I find that I am using the start of my own “summer vacation” to just chill out a little bit.

You know, enjoy the good things in life and flat-out pretend that the bad are not happening.  Sometimes a little denial is all you need to get yourself through a day peacefully, and while it isn’t necessarily a coping skill that one should employ on an every-moment basis, it sure does make me more tolerable to be around and also keep me from hyperventilating about all of the stuff running around in my mind.

Building A Life Worth Living, Week Four

life worth living

 

The tiny miracles, true friendship, amazing family, beloved critters, and lovely events in my life that have made life worth living this week:

1) The ability to send an “unpublished” post to a few friends, have those friends reply in earnest, and wind up with an email chain full of great advice and love.  Thank you…stuff like that makes my week, any week.

2) The beauty that I was able to start again with Goddess of Mindfulness, the ORIGINAL therapist to end all therapists.  She has been a great support to me in what has been a really difficult week.  I have never had a mental health professional be more supportive and more willing to spend the time.  And to genuinely care — that might be the best part.

3) That a tiny miracle, a new baby, may be growing in the belly of one of my dearest friends.  That I will be able to be witness to this little one from pregnancy on up, is precious.

4) The trust that QoB and the Big Dawg have in Blue Cat and myself, to run both stores while they are away at a conference.  The Rock and I did it last year, and it seems that the Big Dawg is getting better at ceding intense control.  That, and we’re trusted — that is the big part.

5) The resiliency of the Kizzer Wizzer.  She had been so accustomed to me being at home 24/7 when I was sick, and now it seems I am gone all the time.  She has transitioned beautifully and is still a happy little dog — she gives me no reason for guilt.

6) The ability to end the week on a high note, feeling good, feeling positive and optimistic, and most importantly, living in the  moment.  The weenie roast at the end of the week was perhaps the best time I have had, with friends, in quite some time.

7) The reaffirmation that I made the right decision in not having children.  It is lovely to watch friends’ and families’ children grow, but I know deep in my  heart that I could never do it myself.

8) The wisdom, courage, and forethought to remove myself from toxic situations before they become too ugly.  Truly beautiful wise mind.

9) Noticing the serious side effects of a temporary medication after one day, being mindful to it, and deciding to not continue.  My mental health is a priority to me, and I would rather have painfully swollen feet and ankles, than to be up peeing every two hours, all night long.

10) The sheer joy of having a big bag of ice in the refrigerator, so I can have my water as cold as I like it, thus motivating me to drink more water.

Building a Life Worth Living, Week Three

life worth living

 

To sum it up (once again), building a life worth living is a concept from DBT or Dialectical Behavior Therapy.  When we are miserable, we aren’t concerned about our quality of life.  As we strive to get better, we start to care and we start to notice our actions that lead us to that better quality.  This series will become a challenge anyone can join, with an official kickoff in the next week or two.  Of course, if  you’re feeling froggy, jump and do it now — just pingback to this post.

1) I was able to see my sister and Baby O today.  An early birthday present, call it what you want.  It made my whole month.

2) A little bonfire at the HH with QoB and the Big Dawg.  Sometimes very few words are needed.

3) The realization that the majority of 2014 has been utterly yucky for me.  The following realization that I am still standing with most of my mental health intact.

4) Taking the pressure off Sister Sara and taking one for the team, feeding Dad’s cat while they are on vacation for a couple days.  True and unexpected appreciation is always welcome.

5) My niece, Little E, turned three today.  When Sister Sara was pregnant with her, I was so disappointed she wasn’t born on my birthday.  Sooo close.  Feeling very grateful to be a bigger part of her life.

6) Making plans to see a good friend next Sunday.  Yes, I have friends.  It is freaking awesome.

7) Talking to Goddess of Mindfulness on the phone.  Sometimes you just need to let it all out there, and it is so helpful to have someone on the other end of the line, letting you know that  your feelings are valid.

8) Chatting with my buddies on the Interwebs, feeling like I gave a couple pieces of good advice, and unfortunately, also like I must buy frozen pizza next time I am at the grocery store.

9) Coming up on the Big 33 and realizing there are many good people in my life, and they love me, and I love all of them.

10) Getting the banner Mental Mama made for this series to fit ALL the way across the page.  Always getting a thrill from figuring out something techie.