We live in a world where everywhere you look happiness is advertised. Be happy. Wear this scent and you will be happy. Buy this product and every day will be happy. Social media is full of happy faces. Glowing skin, perfect smiles, and arms embraced. We are afraid to live in a society where it is okay to feel anything but happy. This trend has been present for years. The fear of showing anything but a smile drives our spirits to keep up with those around us. I will tell you a little secret though. It is okay to feel every emotion that comes your way and to share them. There is no shame in emotions.
My journey with the happiness trap started when I was in the depths of my PTSD and depression. All around me I saw people having fun and constantly smile, although perhaps it was also my mind just focusing on those who appeared that way. I was young when I began my journey with my dark friend. When I visited my counselors and psychiatrists they would discuss the medications I took. So many times I would leave the office and think that those pills were meant to make me happy. I did not understand what was going on inside of me and my thoughts were all over the place. The only thing I could focus on was being happy. When a medication would not work I would get frustrated and say to my doctor, “But why are these not making me happy? I want to be happy.”. During my travels with my dark friend I had three suicide attempts, but only one of them was truly an attempt to leave this world. The other two were in the beginning of my journey and were moments I was trying to be happy. I did not want those close to me having to deal with my sadness and I thought if I took a bunch of my anti-depressants I could be happy. In my mind I thought if I was happy then I would not be a burden anymore to those who were around me. I was tired of being sad, the nightmares, and the pain. I wanted to be free of my dark friend.
Along my journey I met a counselor who introduced me to running. I would show up to their office and they would ask how I was. My common response was to tell them I was fine. I was always fine because I thought it was wrong to be sad. The counselor would then take me out running around the building and on every lap the same question would be asked. How was I feeling? Where was my mind? Every lap equaled more emotions pouring out. It was like my feet hitting the ground emptied my spirit. Many times at the end of my session my face would be covered in tears and sweat. It was the beginning of my appreciation for all emotions. I travelled with my dark friend from 1991 to 2006. It was a long journey full of many trials and lessons. I wore many masks to cover up the pain and because I feared what people would think if they did not see a smile. Truthfully, I feared the judgment that would be thrown my way if people heard my diagnosis. Then in 2007 my father passed away from primary brain cancer. I do not know what it was about that moment, but it was like my mind opened up wide and things became clearer. Suddenly, I found myself doing something my counselors had encouraged me to do for years. I allowed every emotion into my spirit. If I hurt then I cried. If I was angry then I yelled. If I was happy I smiled. No emotion was left behind. For 8 years now my spirit has been free to feel what it wants and it is invigorating. I am not ashamed to share my stories or my emotions.
Now I sit back reading the poem I wrote about reflections when I lived in Toronto. I was still entwined with my dark friend. I was sitting on the subway and looking at all of the people. I was wondering what was going on behind their closed doors. Then the train started moving and I looked up at the reflections in the windows. As I watched my reflection became blended with the ones of those around me. It was then I realized we are truly all one in the same and each of us has our own struggles. Now I realize it is okay to share those struggles and emotions because in the end we all have them. There is no need to hide. We are each others reflection.