I have always had a form of depression or anxiety in my life. I can’t remember not feeling like all of this is pointless, just existing is exhausting. It’s been so dire at some points, that I’ve had to go on antidepressants and have Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in my second year at university, because my grades were getting affected as well as my life in general. But then I’ve had times where I’ve just been okay, but never happy.
I’ve always had a realistic view on happiness, that the happiness I was trying to achieve would never be enough, I would always want to be more happy, that there could always be something better, and I would never truly be happy in the way I wanted.
However a few weeks ago, I went away to meet university friends in and around London, and when the question of ‘So how’s life?’ came up, I for once had a different answer, ‘Yeah, pretty good actually, pretty darn good.’ The more I started saying it to the people I saw (so about 10 people at least), and the more detail I gave to each conversation, I slowly started to believe what I was saying, but still didn’t understand why. It was a strange phrase to get use to as my reply has usually always been, ’Life is pretty shitty but I’m getting through’ for the reason that that’s how life has always been, something to just get through.
On the 6 hour coach home I tried to unpuzzle this phrase and find the core reason for it. Shake my head upside down hoping this happiness would just fall out onto my lap. Yet it wasn’t one moment or one thing that I found. I realised that my happiness wasn’t even a mix of happy moments that were just more concentrated than the bad ones. No, I began to grasp that everything that had led up to my life was making me happy, and all the crap I had dealt with as a teenager, all the suffering and loneliness, was finally starting to feel okay.
If this was any other type of article, I’d most probably continue the rest of this with bullet points, ‘the 5 things that make me happy’ or whatever, but the truth is I don’t know all of them. I can’t deliver to you a bullet point of everything ever in my life that makes me not want to kill myself anymore. I just can’t. So considering that I’m not going to bullet point this, I’m not going to say that the end of this article is the end of my happiness road. Happiness is a roller coaster that never ends, it bestows you the feeling of an upside down stomach and the wind flowing through your fingertips like you’ve finally learnt how to fly. It is everything you are scared of and everything you’ve been waiting three hours in a line for. It’s what we’re all craving in this poignant and war-torn world and what we’re all not willing to fight for.
The first explanation I thought about was that I’m losing my memories. Every day I feel like my memory is fading more and more, and it’s becoming difficult to rencounter those feelings and emotions I had when I was younger. That doesn’t actually sound good but it means that the weight of all that pain is finally starting to lift. I’m forgetting the hurt, but remembering that there was something I was fighting against, and that fact I am now able to stand here and talk about how it made me stronger, means I have learnt my lessons from it. Lessons that I intend to share with others, to help them overcome the hopelessness that has sprouted as a result of anchored thoughts.
Another example I found was that nothing was holding me back anymore. I didn’t have my shitty hometown with all its dreary memories and pitiless people, I didn’t have education pulling me deeper and deeper into an abyss of stress and, well, more stress, and I’ve started to realise as the years have gone by, that my limitations are getting smaller and smaller.
If I was to look back at my life and list all the good and bad things, yes the good outweigh the bad in quantity, but the bad I used to feel, outweighed the good in quality. Whereas now, there’s so many good moments, so many good moments to come, that they’re winning with flying colours. And again, I’m learning to deal with the bad moments better, so when present bad moments arise, I’m not as clueless as I was back when I was 16.
I’ve done things that I never thought I would, and I still have so much time left to do so much more. I’ve hiked in the Andes then climbed up the side of a waterfall to a lake at the top of a mountain, taught village children English and helped build a water tank for them and their families; I’ve been in Germany for a conference with over 100 young people from all over the world discussing technological, educational, health etc advances and suggestions we believe this world needs; I was part of the first ever Youth Homeless Parliament in the UK; I’ve been to festivals and events for free because I took pictures and wrote articles for the magazine and newspaper at my university; I had a radio show at my university; I actually graduated university; I’ve had poetry published in an online magazine; I became vegan, became the healthiest I’ve ever been and lost a lot of weight because of it (this is a good thing); and I managed to juggle sixth-form, a job, and living alone from the age of 16 and still managed to pursue my dream of travelling the world and going to university. They’re only some of my proudest achievements, but remembering the life I’ve lead to this point in my existence makes me god damn happy to be alive.
My job has also helped me a lot with my mental health. I work at a call centre for EE, and it may not sound great, but it’s pretty fantastic. EE is an amazing company to work for for starters, and the thing that has helped me is the fact that when I get a call through, whether I’m happy, sad, in a bad mood, tired or grumpy, I still have to take that call and represent my company and myself in a positive and practical way. I can’t run away and hide when a customer is getting angry like I may have done out in the real world, and I can’t forget and push a problematic solution under the rug. I have to fix it there and then, I have to alleviate the difficult scenarios and be ready for absolutely anything that could come through.
My anxiety for talking on the phone (and I work in a call centre, I know, the irony) disappeared within a couple of weeks, and then my anxiety outside of work started to disappear. I came to understand that I was facing more challenging and complex situations in my life with courage and certainty, and I now had the confidence that I could overcome this and move on to the next level, the next boss. What my job also gave me was a wonderful team. Unfortunately we’ve all been split up now, but the 6 months we had together showed me how much of an impact having great people around you can be for your mental health and well-being.
My partner has helped me more than he’ll probably ever comprehend. Most of my life I’ve had to deal with everything alone. Since the age of 16 I’ve come home from work and school to either an empty flat/house, or a room in a house where the other tenants would pour garlic powder, chilli sauce and spit in my milk for no reason. If I was ill I was alone, if I got sad and upset I was alone, if a boy or friend upset me or broke my heart I was alone, if school/sixth form was getting really stressful I was alone, waking up on my birthday alone, new year alone, results for GCSE’s and A-Levels alone. I was alone for everything I wish I had someone for, even just friends who were there every step of the way or family members. Although my friends were young and wouldn’t understand my position for a few years to come yet they tried their best, and I don’t think my family ever knew how serious it was or turned a blind eye to it – apart from my mum who was halfway across the world, but always there when I needed a chat, and a handful of family members who were there in the background cheering me on.
Even as I moved further into my existence and lived in other towns/cities, people would begin to get to know me, but they didn’t want to hear about the darkness I’ve had to crawl myself out of, and neither do they want to listen to the glee that they feel threatens their own. So I learnt to only ever trust myself, never to rely on other people because they have their own lives to lead, their own problems, and that sitting there crying would do nothing for my life now or my future.
Then I met someone and I fell in love. All the things I still found hard to deal with alone, he became that soft embrace. He gave me the courage to pursue something where I knew if I failed, he’d be there to catch me. He gave me hope that someone could love me, and that I could learn to love someone else. He challenges my opinions, he opens my mind to perspectives I’ve never thought of before, he’s helped me be comfortable in my own skin which is something I never thought I’d be able to achieve, I have so much fun with him and I do all these things for him too. The past 4 years he’s been that someone I’ve felt I would never have but always dreamed of, he’s not just my partner, he’s my best friend, my family, and I’m his, and he’s one of the most important reasons I became the woman I am today.
My view on our future however is more realistic than people like to hear. We may not be together forever, I know that, he knows that, and we’re both completely okay with it. I’ve had my heart broken and thought I’d never like someone again, being that I was young and they were the first person who I ever really liked. What helped me patch myself up and be the catalyst for my transformation into the woman I wanted to be, was the knowledge that nothing lasts forever, and that includes relationships.
I’ve also changed a lot, with my personality, my desires, opinions and views etc, and I believe these are one of those tiny puzzle pieces to why I’m happy. I have finally learned to love my body and not cry everytime I look in the mirror. I’ve managed to convince myself that beauty does not matter and what matters is who I am, how I feel, and the type of person I am, have been, and will become. I’ve stopped regretting moments that I wish I could have changed, and only by accepting them fully for what they are will I be able to move onwards from them and grow. The biggest life lesson I’ve acquired is the mindset that nothing in this world will change unless you’re willing to make that change. By accepting that everything has a cause and effect I can be the master of both of those things. In doing so, I have learnt to take my human existence by its core and mold it into my own creation, literally taking a bull by the horns and leading it out of that arena so it can lead a life away from violence and torture.
Like I said before, this is not the end of my list of what makes me happy, all of these things may not even be a part of your happiness, but they’re the most notable and influential examples that I’ve been able to wrap my head around. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to add to this, or perhaps I won’t and I’ll tumble down into a pit of despair never to fly again, the path is all mine.