Diary of the Clinically Happy
Posted on January 28, 2012 in Happiness by Sandra Bienkowski
Before the days of working for myself, I was a few cubicles down from a guy who was chronically grumpy. Unlike some curmudgeons, he carried it off with half a smile on his face. It was his shtick. He was snarky and always complaining about something, yet it was part of his charm. One of the things he complained about was my incessant cheeriness. He couldn’t believe anyone could actually be THAT happy. Little did he know, I took great pride in his jab because I knew how far I had to travel to arrive at clinically happy. (He probably thought my smile was just a façade for a dark and brooding personality.)
I have to confess that some people act like my happiness is accidental, like it has nothing to do with my own actions and choices. Or in stealing Lady Gaga’s lyrics, “I was born this way.” I’ve even heard, “You always have so much fun; I want to vicariously live through you.” Frankly, those observations annoy me. It’s kind of like telling someone who has practiced 1,000 hours at something that they have natural talent. Happiness sometimes is the result of hard work.
I first struggled with depression as a teenager. I remember going up to my parents in the kitchen and telling them I needed a psychologist. They found me one, but he wasn’t the best. He helped a bit, but it wasn’t life changing. I tried again with a psychologist in my mid-twenties, and struck gold. He was the perfect psychologist for me because he was blunt, funny and I finally felt understood. Here’s just a slice of the process that got me closer to happiness.
Every decision you make shapes how you feel about yourself. You have the ability each day to make hundreds of little decisions that make you feel good about yourself. He used a ridiculous example. Apparently he asked for extra sauce all the time at the Wendy’s drive-through so eventually he gave the cashier extra money as a way to pay for the extra sauces he requested. The cashier looked at him like he was crazy, but he did it because it made him feel good about himself. I got it! Tiny decisions and life-changing decisions all shape your self-image. Each day you can consciously make decisions that lift you up or take you down—but it’s always your choice.
Piss off three people a day and you will be cured. This advice only applies to you if you are silent when people are really ticking you off. (If you already piss people off on a regular basis, go on your merry way.) If you are fearful to make people angry at you by expressing how you really feel, piss off three people a day and call me in the morning. It’s called expressing your boundaries, teaching people how to treat you, and being authentic—and it’s healthy. Plus, depression is often anger masked, and if you can unmask your anger (in a healthy, non-CSI way) goodbye depression. As depression travels to your rearview mirror, you begin to feel gratitude and see happiness ahead.
You are stronger than you think. When I was younger, I thought it would be much easier to be rescued than rescue myself, but my psychologist wasn’t buying. He kept saying, “You are stronger than you think.” Sometimes it was, “You are stronger than you think, lady.” Eventually, I realized he was right. I think lots of people are stronger than they think.
It wasn’t like I woke up one day clinically happy. I knew I had to work through some major stuff to get there. I put myself through mental boot camp. For others, happiness might be a simple choice. Either way, the most important thing to realize is happiness is a decision. I don’t mean that to read like some cheesy car bumper sticker. You can tell happiness is a decision when you meet people who choose to be victims, choose to be complainers, choose to be bitter, choose to blame others or choose not to change their lives. Happiness is in your reach if you choose it. It’s up to you.
Oh … one last thing. My psychologist asked me one day, “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “Zero. They wait until the light bulb changes itself.”