Happiness Might Not Be The Answer

I waltzed through the office door at approximately 8:05AM with my eyes half shut. Nobody never really bothered me for being late, especially since it was Friday morning. Having rolled out of bed about twenty minutes prior to the appointment, I could have cared less if anybody did bug me. Letting out a subtle grunt with each step, I meandered my way past the front window. Walking back to the office, I let out a “good morning” to the secretary who was in unusually early. I threw my coat over the chair across the room, letting out a sigh of relief plopping down in my own chair. Then, my first session of the day began, and my therapist eyeing me up and down perplexed.

I called her office the day before asking for an emergency appointment. That Monday I found out that I owed thousands of dollars that I had no idea about. It sent me spiraling downward into a serious bout of depression. I cut myself off from practically everyone for a few days, barely leaving my bedroom. After a day of two, I reached out to my close friends, and tried going for a walk at the local park. It did not seem like enough, so that is when I called my therapist before it got worse.

I informed my therapist of what happened with my finances. She inquired what it was about my finances that triggered my depression since things had been going well for me overall. She was not wrong. I am about to start a new job. I might be getting my own house in the next few months. I was finally in a position to start saving money for the first time in years. This was partially the reason I fell into the depression however. Things were going well. Therefore, when I got bad news, I could not handle it. It reaffirmed a core belief of mine that I did not deserve to be happy. This belief came from years of chronic trauma. Every time things looked up, I got hit with another disaster. As a result, I got used to bad news coming my way regularly. My mind latched onto this idea and fell victim to rumination.

“What did I do to deserve this?” “Why should I even bother?” “Just when I thought I had my shit together.” “What difference does it make to keep trying?”

This went on for days. I could not shake it for the life of me. My therapist then asked, “What does it mean for you to be happy?” I answered this question before with a previous therapist, so I was prepared.

“To be comfortable,” I replied confidently. I am a simple man. I never wanted much from life except to be able to live without significant worry. I wanted a decent-sized home, a job where I can help others with their mental health, and to have a strong support network. Without hesitation, she pointed out my flawed logic.

“There is a difference between happy and content.” I had an expectation that once I achieved this desired level of comfort that life would never get in the way of it again. It was a black-and-white way of looking at happiness and unattainable.

My therapist went on, “Just as depression is an extreme emotion, and so is being happy all the time.”

This perspective brought clarity to my irrational thought processes. It helped me realize that I was simplifying a complex issue rather than looking at with a compartmentalized view. If I would have taken a look at the big picture, everything was still relatively okay and going well. The news I received was minute in the grand scheme of things, and it was nothing that I had not bounced back from before.

When true happiness is unlikely, strive for satisfaction.

-The Caring Counselor

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