Happy is a feeling and feelings are fleeting. Happiness is a state of being and takes work.
The experience of Happiness is more challenging for some more than others and may seem impossible to achieve.
That’s because Happiness isn’t a goal or destination, but a byproduct, a side effect of the combination of our genetics, circumstances, beliefs, attitudes, and actions.
For many of us coming from lives filled with trauma and/or mental illness it will look different than it does for neurotypical people. We have to work through the trauma and confront ourselves to heal and grow. These are our prerequisites to Happiness.
There is no set formula for experiencing it. However, common and necessary elements include self-care (nutrition, activity, personal hygiene, etc.), engagement in healthy community, gratitude, service, and passionate purpose.
Pain, loss, grief, and other feelings and experiences, often considered “negative,” may suppress Happiness and cause us to lose it. But, what is lost can be found again. The negative doesn’t necessarily negate the ability to experience Happiness.
Of course, I could be way off and this is hypomania talking…but, I don’t think so.
WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers. “Wellness that works.” What finally drove me to sign up for a weight loss program after decades of self-sufficient obesity?
Not just any pain. A very particular kind of nerve pain. Specifically in my left foot. More accurately, the top of my foot…with periodic zaps of electricity pricking the sole of my foot from the inside out,
The top of my foot is so hypersensitized right now that the hem of my pant leg feels like a jagged, splintered shard of glass scraping across it.
According to the doctor it’s a rare condition called Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. Like Carpal Tunnel, but, in the foot.
Yay me! I have a knack for the unusual when it comes to pain and injury. A few years ago, I fell and gave myself a spiral sprain. That’s usually something athletes get, not the general population. But, that’s another story for another time.
The doctor laid out my options:
Gabapentin – an anticonvulsant sometimes used to treat a wide array of mood disorders with some extreme (but rare) side effects like agitation, increased libido, and mania…Sounds like it could trigger a manic episode and I’m already taking four different psych meds to manage the bipolar, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. No. Thank. You.
Surgery – I’m a single mom, struggling to parent my High Functioning Autistic child who also experiences ADHD. I also live upstairs. I can’t afford an extended recovery period from surgical intervention.
Weight Loss – the universal answer to whatever ails you if you carry excess fat on your body, Don’t EVEN get me started! However, it was the most viable of my three options.
Initially, I doubted I could effectively transition from a life so sedentary that my spirit animal could be mistaken as a sloth. After all, WALKING HURT! So, I decided nutrition was the key.
I have lost weight before, using activity and nutrition. As a matter of fact, I lost 20 lbs at the beginning of this year with walking and changing to a healthier diet. Then, I transitioned from my manic state to a bad depressive state, stopped moving, and switched to a fast food diet. The 20 came back and brought a few friends. Five to be exact.
So, here I was – a 49 year old, medically obese woman of 265 lbs with hypothyroidism, Type II Diabetes, high cholesterol, Bipolar II Disorder, PTSD, fibromyalgia, and, now, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.
I also have the child I’m parenting, a 25 year old daughter, who is also parenting three littles, who (whom?) has me as her primary emotional support person and occasional baby sitter, and a son turning 32 in three days.
I have a lot of healing to do and a lot to live for. Also, I’m finally reaching the point in life where I believe I’m worth taking care of, too.
I needed help.
So, I searched Weight Watchers. They still had their Labor Day Special going on. It was barely something I could financially afford.
I’m destitute. Between my youngest daughter’s issues and mine, I am not currently able to sustain employment. Her dad pays for electricity, internet, this miniature hand-held computer I use to blog aka cell phone, and pays for all she needs. I live in public housing, survive on $352/mo of SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps), and a $72/mo stipend.
I committed close to half my stipend to the first six months of my Weight Watchers lifestyle.
Since I also experience a hitherto undiagnosed Binge Eating Disorder, I decided to approach this like a recovery program and committed myself to attend 90 meetings in 90 days.
Today, November 6, 2018 is my 53rd day and I will be attending my 55th meeting.
If you’re curious about or interested in how this part of my journey has gone, you can find it on my Instagram, humaninrecovery. Start here.
Addendum: I’ve lost about 20 lbs and I have walked daily for the past several weeks and can now walk two miles at a time…sometimes in under 20 min/mile. Yes, the nerve pain is still there.
Today was the first of seven of these workshops I’ll be attending this week on my “90 meetings in 90 Days” journey. (I owe you a post to explain that. Tomorrow. Maybe.) Today’s discussion was interesting. I’m looking forward to see how it gets addressed in the other workshops.
The weekly handout suggested that being happy makes the healthy activities we do in our lives more possible and increases the experience of those things. It also acknowledged that partaking of those activities increases happiness.
The workshop’s Coach listed a formula that determines one’s happiness level:
+10% Life Circumstances
+40% Attitude, Thoughts, & Actions
My immediate reaction was to scoff at the Life Circumstances percentage. I mean, although it hasn’t been as painful and difficult as other people’s, it’s been generously peppered with a lot of trauma. Consequently, I have PTSD. Plus, I experience Depression, Bipolar 2 Disorder, fibromyalgia, and am parenting a child with regularly tells me things like she wishes I would kill myself or that I had been born dead.
Yeah. Happiness is HARD. That’s a LOT of genetics and life circumstances.
I spend a lot of time fighting tears, dealing with bureaucracy, and managing conflict. I’m skeptical that Happiness is a state of being that’s more than occasionally possible for me.
I think Acceptance and Contentedness are much more doable. I think there can be moments of happiness. I think we have to be emotionally and mentally healthy and functional to be able to experience even those moments of happiness. I simply don’t believe that Happiness is achievable as a permanent state.
All that being said, I have my own formula:
+A supportive community
+Choosing to be in positive environments
It struck me with its profundity. It seemed quite biblical.
I can’t see the end of this journey I’m on. I see the transformation pictures of other women who started out my weight and judgy, cynical, self-defeating thoughts start popping in my brain like popcorn. Thoughts like:
How skinny is skinny enough?!?
I could never get THAT small.
That’s just too thin.
The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter what their size is and it’s not mandated that I get that small and have my body look like theirs. Their journey is different than mine. Their whys are probably different than mine. They are different from me. We are all unique and special in our own way. So are our journeys.
We do have something in common, though, other than our need/desire to lose weight.
Learning how to care for ourselves well is key to making it through to the end of this stage of our life’s journey AND not having to go through this stage again.
Ultimately, many self-care habits and routines are going to vary as much as those of us on this journey do. However, the basics are all the same:
There are some internal prerequisites to achieve those basics. The first of which is deciding that you have value, that your life matters, and your needs are as important as anyone else’s needs.
That belief in one’s own value leads to the second prerequisite: boundaries. What are those?
The ability to say, “No,” to unreasonable demands and requests, is a key boundary.
The ability to decide how to deal with and whether to take the criticisms, snide & snarky remarks, manipulation, and verbal abusiveness, all of which are so prevalent in our lives.
The ability to stand up for one’s self and assert the right to exist, breathe, and occupy the space you’re in, unapologetically.
These are the foundation of this journey of healing, recovery, and growth we’re all on. Once those things are in place, as much is possible, then, self-care is possible. Once caring for and about oneself is primary, then, belief in our own abilities comes next and we become unstoppable…even if we can’t see the end from the beginning, at first.
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I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I joined WW (formerly Weight Watchers) mid-September this year. I have a laundry list (Why “laundry”? Wouldn’t “shopping” make more sense? I think so, too). Correction, shopping list of whys. Not the least of which is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, a rare disorder of the ankle, similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Here’s the complete list:
• Family – I have two adult children (32 & 25), three grandchildren (4,3, & 1), and a nearly 10 year old on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum and who experiences ADHD.
• PhysicalHealth – Fibromyalgia, Hypothyroidism, Type 2 Diabetes, Sleep Apnea, High Cholesterol, and Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.
I’ve spent nearly five years of hard work to reach this point. I had been a toxic person in a toxic relationship. I had severely broken relationships with my two adult children. I was so overwhelmed and depressed I was barely functional. I was so consumed with self-loathing that I hid from the world, making myself sicker and sicker, consuming all the food and media I could numb out on.
Now, I’m working on staying centered in the here and now, continuing to heal, grow, and build relationships with my children, engaging with the world and people around me, and learning how to treat myself with the care, compassion, and love I have and want to have for each person I encounter.
It’s past time for me to become the best version of myself.