It’s fair to say that these past 7 days have been somewhat of a rollercoaster, but I’m choosing to ignore the couple of days of tears and focus on the fact that my mind has taken in SO much information.
It all started when I was introduced to The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. It was 99p on Amazon so obviously I downloaded it within about thirty seconds.
Now some of this stuff I have thought about previously and dismissed. I wouldn’t say I lack confidence in my thoughts but before I created this blog, who could I share them with?
So what has Russ taught me?
Happiness is not a destination and it’s not a constant. We are always chasing something we will never achieve and we wonder why we are all feeling a bit mopey! We associate happiness with success and therefore because we don’t all live like a Kardashian, we are quite simply failing at life. Research has even shown that people who chase happiness are more likely to experience depression.
Let’s think about it… let’s set up the generic fairy tale. Big house, happily married, two typically healthy children, two fancy pants car in the drive, holiday home in some exotic destination and two well-paid dream jobs. You know the kind.
Except the boiler has broken, one of the kids shoved their Barbie down the toilet, the other kid has a sickness bug. One of the cars has a flat tyre, there’s a hurricane headed towards your holiday home, and one of your jobs is under threat. Depending on how we let negative, stressful, worrisome situations affect us, it could just be the Barbie or the boiler that tipped the scale for us to think ‘I can’t cope. I just want to be happy’. Alternatively we could be in a position to accept and cope with all the above and still find some happiness. After all, the boiler and the toilet can be fixed, the kid will recover (my language here demonstrates how ready I am for motherhood), there’s a spare tyre in the garage, the hurricane could be downgraded before it reaches your home, and you can afford to live off one wage if you need to. You have your partner, two children, your health and you live near the beach (nature is good for you).
In addition to this, two other significant things happened.
On 5th September 2018 was our first wedding anniversary. For some reason (including PMS), I was overwhelmed with emotion. I wasn’t sad – I just felt so incredibly lucky to have Tim in my life that it made me cry like a baby. Tim found it all quite amusing.
Anyway on my personal Facebook page I did the traditional ‘go us’ post, but it felt insignificant just to say ‘Happy Anniversary Bae’ after all he’s done for me. I let down my guard and summarised the year we have experienced and the reaction it had was very strange. People who I haven’t spoken to for years started sending messages of support and private messages of ‘if you ever want to talk’. But I wasn’t looking for sympathy or support – I was just stating that I was grateful for Tim. It was very kind of them don’t get me wrong – but their messages made me feel like I was on the brink of being sectioned. However, what was more surreal was that I also had messages thanking me for being so open and that these people who appeared to have all their s*** together could relate.
Secondly, two things happened to me last Thursday. I was having a down day because of my never ending job saga and had a little bit of a meltdown. Sobbing. Standard practice. Once my mood started to lift after about EIGHT hours (I cried for about 30 minutes in total), I was relaying my woes to various friends and each one of them told me to be more positive and stop focusing on the negatives.
Now if I’m honest, I’m quite proud of how I’ve managed these past 4 months. I’ve self-rehabbed from burnout. I’ve worked on having a more positive approach to life. I’ve been working on my blog, plucking up the courage to start doing vlogs, planning a podcast, completing a nutrition course, learning a wealth of information on coaching, learning to live on a shoestring and developed and evolved the concept of TNL out of thin air. Now I know my friends meant well, but on the same day I was reading The Happiness Trap and how happiness is not a constant, and it got me reflecting on what my friends had said.
We feel an array of emotions on a daily basis – worry, happiness, stress, love, sadness, anger… yet I felt like there should have been some official diagnosis for me because I was showing something that wasn’t happiness. Now I know that they weren’t telling me to ‘man up’ and that they do just want me to be happy, but I felt an added pressure that I had to hide my stress and worry and put on a smile to appease others. And if you know me, that’s not my strongest trait.
It got me reflecting on the mental health movement. Now please don’t get me wrong – I think it’s excellent that we are talking about mental health, that people are coming forward saying they’ve experienced mental health problems, and I am in no way trying to undo any of that hard work. I openly admit that my mental health can be a bit dubious at times, most notably in 2008 and 2014, but there have only been a handful of times in my life that I have had genuine cruel thoughts about myself. I have never had any suicidal thoughts, and even over the past 4 months I have cried because I was exhausted, angry and most recently frustrated, but never because I felt hopeless. I would truly feel uncomfortable saying that I was in anyway experiencing depression or anxiety.
The problem that I now feel is possibly arising is that by normalising mental health problems, we are increasing the pressure on us to feel happy all the time. You can’t possibly ‘get out of the wrong side of bed’ anymore and surely this is going to start creating a vicious cycle of chasing happiness, thus increasing the likelihood of depression?
Following on from that I started listening to a couple of podcasts – one of which is called Crappy to Happy. Cass and Tiff (the hosts) were discussing the idea of ‘threat’ versus ‘challenge’ and how even though technically we are pooping our pants in both situations, we react very differently depending on how we categorise the situation. During this same episode they mentioned the word ‘setback’ and I can’t really tell you how the podcast finished because my mind went down a rabbit hole.
For some reason when the word ‘setback’ filtered into my auditory system, everything fell into place. Generation #liveyourbestlife have stopped talking about setbacks. We are too busy constantly striving for success and we have forgotten to admit that setbacks happen and that’s perfectly okay.
For me, I’m half jobless (don’t even ask), we may have to move, we are utilising our savings to stay afloat. It’s a significant setback, yes. But I haven’t failed. My marriage won’t fall apart (I’ve had that dream four times this week). We may have to move to a smaller abode but we won’t be homeless. We have our health (mostly). I look around our flat and although we have had to sell some stuff, we still have plenty of crap knocking around.
We are experiencing a setback.
Everyone I know is experiencing some kind of setback… a relationship that fell apart, a loss of a job, health problems, financial problems (probably should have put that first), fertility problems, but not one of them have said ‘yeah so this is a setback.’ I’m very aware that a lot of my friends only speak to me in a crisis (which is fine), so I do hear a lot of ins and outs of people’s lives that others don’t have the privilege of hearing. But because of this, everyone has been quickly chasing something to fill in the gaps that have suddenly been created to make sure that they remain looking like they’re ‘on track. In addition to this none of us possess any patience anymore (not that I ever did) to let the storm pass.
I am lead to believe that only 10% of our ‘happiness’ is created by the situation that we are currently in and for the first time in my life I would agree with that number. Yes I become frustrated that we have no cash to go beyond necessities, and my faith in the human race is not at an ideal level, but there are still a lot of positives in my life and I may be 90 before this setback is over, but I trust that one day it will be over.