Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happiness is a Decision

"Most folks are as happy as they make their minds up to be." - Abraham Lincoln

I have battled depression my entire life.  Having a perfect storm of a high level of intelligence, a specific gift for music, and a childhood that from the time I was 4 until I was about 8 was in almost constant flux, I had some pretty serious emotional problems as a kid.  I had trouble making friends, trouble in school, and, as an only child, I spent much of my time in the company of adults or alone.

When I was about 19, things came to a head.  I got heartbreakingly, earth-shatteringly dumped right after my freshman year of college, then 9/11 happened, and then I found a loving and supportive group of friends... who didn't particularly place much value on education.  I dropped out of colllege and threw myself into this group, making a lot of different choices than those I had previously made, some I regret, some I don't.  But there is one choice that has changed my life forever.

At some point during all this chaos, I decided to try anti-depressants.  I had two solid weeks of being totally normal, and it was like a switch got flipped in my brain.  I suddenly saw how I had created many of the negative situations in my life, and furthermore, I realized what I should take away from them: how I could make sure things like that never happened to me again.

The thing is: life, on occasion, sucks beyond the telling of it.  Its hard, and its complicated, and the things that really shake you up always take you by surprise.  People die, plans fail, loves leave and hopes get crushed.    And that's true for everybody.  But it doesn't have to stay that way.  Sometimes I get so busy focusing on the ten careless words that momentarily hurt my feelings that I forget to remember the five that totally made my month.  

I haven't taken anti-depressants for about seven years, because that is the choice I made for myself.  I know the thought patterns that can lead to a depressive episode, and I choose to ignore them.  I know the activities and social patterns that will take me to "the bad place" and I avoid them.  And without medication, I am a healthy, functional adult.  And the very best part: its because I choose to be.

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