My Best Advice for Being Happy

Someone once told me, “let go of what does not serve you.” In other words, let go of negativity. If you’re like me, you will try to find the flaw in logic in just about anything (a year of law school did this to me). It’s true that we cannot drop everything (or people) from our lives because they do not agree with us. I think running from every negative situation that comes our way actually does the opposite of help us! However, we can choose to not be affected by negative situations or people, and that has been some of best advice I have received to date.

In order to stop negativity in its track, I had to self-correct my own thinking, in addition to “letting things go,” there were some changes I made to my everyday life that made big differences.

My largest moments of growth – and subsequent peace of mind- came when:

1) I learned to embrace criticism. Recently, I heard that a family member of mine did not like me – not for any real reason other than the fact that they don’t. Despite them not knowing that I know, I forgive them and still love them. In addition, I know that not everyone is going to like me or agree with me. Criticism can help us BE better. If it is truly unwarranted and people feel *gasp* jealous, I feel like I am doing something right.

2) I learned to say “no.” I would consider myself a do-er: I work full-time, get up early to exercise, study for class, go to salsa lessons, and the list goes on…However, there are times where I have reached my bandwidth. Knowing when to say no to drinks after work or an upcoming party is OK, but the key is to be upfront and honest. I personally like to keep my promises and dislike flakiness.

3) I helped others in negative situations. Look, I’m not here to tell you I am the next Dalai Lama or a therapist, but helping others when they are in need has always been an important part of my life. After training my own brain to be positive, looking out for the well-being of my friends and family has been paramount. Plus, I think we all know we need to practice what we preach. The next time you help a friend, let your own advice sink in.

I continue to learn ways to be happier, and to juggle work, school, and a million other things that come my way. Do you have a quote or saying that helps you?

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My Experience with Mental Illness

As you may have seen from my last blog, I was hard at work on a Library Science course for school these past few months. I have filled my evenings with schoolwork after the work days, and blogging was on the back burner. However, in the midst of it all, I was undergoing a major life transformation. In early May, I revealed to my family that I was suffering from depression. Though it is an incredibly common mental illness, my family did not understand how badly it was affecting my life. I had to teach them about what I was suffering from them and adjust to this truth. Again, I know how common it is but it turned my life upside down.

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As a youngster, I knew how to be myself. It took therapy and medication to feel this way again.

I had a traumatic breakup in January of this year and I think my whole brain went on airplane mode. I accepted my circumstances and felt empowered to move on. It wasn’t until a few months later that I began crying at work and could not control it. Why? I couldn’t tell you. It was a swell of emotions fueled by anxiety over the fact that I could not stop crying. My patterns of sadness and anxiety were circular, one always leading to the other but I wouldn’t know where one started and stopped – it reminded me of the chicken and the egg dilemma: which came first? It became abundantly clear that even with all that I loved and appreciated about my life, I was seeing the world in black and white. I found joy in nothing. I made myself do activities that I knew that I used to love, just for the sake of doing them to maintain a sense of normality. I later learned from my therapist that by choosing to take part in hobbies I normally love, it was a positive choice. But it wasn’t enough.

I later went to a psychiatrist. Though many people take antidepressants, the choice to discuss these options were a last resort. I hardly even take Tylenol! When I was prescribed Prozac, I was skeptical but was willing to try anything. Side note: I once tried a birth control that gave me anxiety so badly that I was scared to leave the house! These drugs are powerful but I was clearly desperate.

In addition to medication, I joined a support group that met every other week in Salem, MA after work. Nothing I learned was Earth shattering, but it definitely showed me what I should be focusing on my life. Most importantly, it showed me that I was not alone with my struggles. I have had to put these sessions off for about a month due to travel, but I think in a future blog post, they would be beneficial to discuss.

Lately, what I have noticed is that I have had an amazing transformation and I think it has to do with the Prozac.* At first, the effects were subtle. It was like every time I had an anxious thought surface, Prozac would keep me calm and not allow it to manifest. Over the course of months though, I feel like I have discovered my genuine self for the first time…in a long time! I used to love reading and would lock myself in a room with books when I was little but I think anxiety plagued my reading skills (in all seriousness). I would get to anxious to even start a book. Let me remind you I have a B.A. in English and am almost finished with my M.A. in English. This is a huge deal!

Most days, I can’t wait to lock myself in my room with a book, just like I used to. Is this very social? No. Do I care? No (and I’m not anxious about that fact). For me, I am catching up with what I lost due to depression, and re-discovering my joy for learning. When you do not constantly have a cloud looming ahead, it changes a lot. For me, this is a start and I look forward to the journey ahead.

*A disclaimer: I know this medication work for everyone who has depression (cue “ask your doctor if Prozac is right for you”).