Built to be Happy

I used to believe I wasn’t built to be happy.

I had happy moments. I laughed with people at a party. I enjoyed a hockey game or a night spent with my then-boyfriend. But most of the time, I just existed, filled with deep loneliness and feeling disconnected from everyone around me, neither of which I could begin to explain.

In the fall of 2012, I ran out of excuses. I had been married for a year to a man I loved and who loved me. We had bought our first home that summer. We had a dog. I had finally gotten a job at a place I had been trying to work at for years. Life should have been good.

But I was angry, irrationally so. I remember being out for dinner with my husband and a couple of friends who were in town for the weekend and acting like such a bitch to hide the fact that I was about to burst into tears at any moment. I felt so alone as they carried on around me, the three of them laughing and having a good time and ignoring my poor behaviour. I was ashamed of myself but I couldn’t stop it, and I didn’t know why.

Perhaps it was coincidence, perhaps it was fate, but within a few days of that evening I read this blog post by actor Wil Wheaton and for some reason, it clicked. I began to wonder if maybe, like him, something was wrong with me and whether, like him, it could be treated and I could begin to enjoy my life. Maybe, I thought, I didn’t have to live like this.

I went to my doctor and was diagnosed with dysthymia, a mild, chronic depression that is thought to be caused by abnormally functioning brain circuits, or perhaps nerve cell pathways that help regulate mood. Genetics may be a factor as well as major life stressors. Who knows?

All I knew was that I was trying to hold back tears in the doctor’s office as I explained that I didn’t think I was built to be happy because I had no apparent reason to feel the way I did.

That same day, I worked up the courage to tell my husband what was going on with me and that I had decided to take medication to treat this disorder. It was the first truly honest conversation we’d had in what felt like a very long time.

I didn’t know it then but that was the start of me learning to be honest and open with the people in my life and more importantly, with myself. It was the start of me beginning to believe that happiness is worth fighting for and that this belief I’d had – that I wasn’t built to be happy – was absolute bullshit.

People, like me, who struggle with dysthymia, are great actors. You won’t know we’re depressed unless we tell you. We may not even know it ourselves and will likely shut down any talk of depression. We’re not suicidal. We get out of the bed every day and go through the motions of our lives. Outwardly, we look fine. Inwardly, we may not be ready to have those tough conversations with ourselves.

Until one day, if we’re lucky, something clicks.

If you’re reading this and what I’ve written resonates with you, know that you’re not alone. There is hope, and there is help if you ask for it, even though asking may seem like the hardest road you can choose.

But I urge you to choose that road because believing that you’re not built for happiness is bullshit. And happiness, my friends, is worth fighting for.

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