There was a fabulous lesson in my relief society about happiness, being happy and searching out happiness. I'm a firm believer in happiness, myself. I love it when I'm happy. The question is . . . is happiness really possible for the everyday Joe Blow?
I recently read a happiness survey that seemed depressing to me. Out of all of the states in our union, Utah was at the bottom of the list for being happy. Now, if you're not from Utah, you have no worries! If you are, like I am, you might be saddened by the news. But another thought struck me. Maybe we register highly depressed because people actually care enough to get the help they need, and then it’s recorded. Maybe people in other states just suffer through their symptoms, and are not among the counted.
I know that many LDS women as well as women of other faiths sometimes feel an overwhelming pressure to perform—to be perfect. Let's just admit it. There is no such thing as perfection in this life. Just do the best you can and don't compare yourself to anyone else (much easier said than done).
Many people feel they have failed if they resort to help in the form of an antidepressant. From the bottom of my heart, I do believe that sometimes, this is the answer. There are times in life when we get so worn down, so sad, or so lonely that a chemical reaction actually takes place in our bodies. We get physically sick from stress and sadness. There are times when taking an antidepressant is the answer. There is no shame in that.
Recently, I had an experience where my life suddenly took a left turn. Doctors told my husband that he probably had cancer—he hadn't been able to work for months. As you can imagine, this was a huge blow. Then my closest friend and confidant moved out of state, I gained quite a bit of weight—which did not make me happy—and the white fingers of winter were stretching across my front lawn. I tend to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, which means I become an ornery old mama bear when the cold sets in.
It's real, and it's terrible.
Coupled with the other trials I faced, I became very depressed. The funny thing was . . . I didn't know it. I thought I was sick. I actually went to my doctor to be tested for Diabetes or thyroid problems. He asked if I wanted to fill out a depression questionnaire to which I replied, “No need. I'm not depressed.”
The tests came back normal. Now, I knew something was wrong, so I bowed to a higher knowledge and decided to take the test on-line. To my surprise, I officially had the blues.
It pained my soul and my pride to admit that I couldn't get out of it alone, so I went back to my doctor, cried my heart out, and got a prescription. My world slowly turned around. Things are looking brighter now that spring is waking up the world and I can take a deep breath, profoundly grateful that winter is over.
My husband was diagnosed with a serious case of pneumonia and asthma. He is currently doing well.
The point here is this . . . yes, happiness is possible. Everyday, all day long? Maybe not, but if you search your heart, you'll know how to find it. It may be you that need medication, and if so, don't let pride keep you from getting better. Or maybe you need to carve out some time during the day for yourself. You could make cookies for a neighbor. Service is a great way to self- dose for happiness.
The thing is, Heavenly Father lets us fall. It gives us the opportunity to turn to Him, to listen to Him. He wants us to be happy and he expects us to help make it happen. Go to him. Ask his advice. In the quiet whispers of your heart, you will know what to do. My favorite quote is this . . . God helps those who help themselves. Have courage and know that you can find happiness.
Melissa Cunningham, March 22, 2009