One of the biggest struggles for me that comes with/from my anxiety is the crippling feeling (and often belief) that I don’t deserve to be happy. The worst parts of this feeling are that I feel guilty when experiencing happiness while being aware of others’ struggles, that I sense that something is horribly wrong with what is bringing me joy, that there is an ever present chance that something terrible will happen to/because of my happiness, and that I feel guilty over how much I myself have changed to reach my present levels of contentment.
Logically, I know these feelings and thoughts are ridiculous and untrue to my own experiences, but that doesn’t stop them from overwhelming me and robbing me of my joy. Finding happiness (and peace) is so difficult with mental illness, and thinking you don’t deserve it just makes it harder.
I firmly believe that everyone deserves to be happy as long as they are not harming others or themselves in the process and are not finding joy in the misfortune of others. Everyone. That includes myself.
Despite the constant fear, worry, guilt, and sadness that loom over my life everyday, I have a plethora of things and people in my life that bring me joy. Joy that I deserve to relish in. I wish finding happiness were as simple as choosing to feel joy and thinking positive thoughts (which can sometimes help), but it isn’t as simple as that. There is no way to just flip the switch on mental illness.
There have been many things that have helped me in my pursuit of happiness and fighting against the feeling that I don’t deserve it.
- Leaving behind toxic/unfulfilling relationships and friendships.
- Accepting that my interests, preferences, and hobbies will change (and have).
- Being open and honest about my anxiety.
- Acknowledging that my triggers can change (and have).
- Finally realising that my mental health is more important than gaining a low-wage income at a toxic workplace.
- Exploring different forms of creative output and allowing myself to switch between them depending on my mood.
- Leaving the horribly strict rules of the religious denomination I grew up in.
- Living on a budget, saving money, and allowing a small amount to go towards fun things.
- Sharing the things I am proud of and enjoy with others.
- Saying “Thank you” and “I know” when receiving compliments.
- Saying “Thank you” and asking for advice when receiving genuinely constructive criticism.
- Complimenting people when I like something about them/their work/their actions or words.
- Exploring the outdoors on a weekly basis.
- Writing to-do lists and crossing things off with a specific colour tied to the day so that I can see how much I’ve truly accomplished by the end of each day.
- Spending time with Turner by being productive together, watching shows, reading aloud, playing video games, or just sitting/laying together.
Finding happiness looks different for everyone. This is mine.