My Big Mistake

“When you take charge of your own narrative, it gives you a handle on it.”

– Liz Murray

It’s been a long journey to happiness. And while I’ve haven’t quite achieved the level of satisfaction with my life that I’d like, I have come a long way.

One of the ideas that held me back for so long—and still does from time to time—was my belief that happiness just happens to you.

That you wake up each day, optimistic, with a smile on your face, and ready to face the world.

It’s the idea that people are just born happy—and that I. Was. Not. One. Of. Those. People. For decades I looked around at my peers, most of whom appeared reasonably contented with their lives, and I wondered why I didn’t feel the same way. Why could I just not take life as it comes, without all the fear, worry, depression, and anxiety that plagued me each day?

Obviously I wasn’t born happy, but surely taking a pill (or two or three) would do the trick, wouldn’t it? Go to the psychiatrist, get a prescription, and BAM!—life is all better. I tried that method for years, with very, very little success.

The medication helped some, enough to raise me to a baseline where I could hang on, hopeful that someday I’d find the find psycho cocktail that would magically cure whatever my problem was.

That never happened, though. That magical potion did not appear. I didn’t wake up one day and feel transformed.

Over time, however, I did realize that the key to lasting change lay within myself.

While the medication helped a little, I discovered the old motivational saying was true: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

I realized that to find joy and happiness in life, I had to quit feeling sorry for myself and being angry that my life wasn’t the way I wanted it to be. I had to take charge of my destiny with a new drive to make my life into something better.

Instead of sitting around waiting for a pill to change everything, I needed to catapult the little amount of benefit I got from my medication into something bigger.

The pill gave me breathing room—now I had to punch back with a determination to practice gratitude, change my way of thinking, and begin to truly change my life.

And that is where I am today.

I had picked up a number of useful tools for dealing with depression over the years, although I’ve never really put them to good use.

However, I now realized that one of the main keys to becoming a truly joyful person is to quit looking at the past. Instead of saying, “Oh woe is me…I’m just not a happy person”—I needed to press forward, quit feeling like a victim, and get on with change.

I had taken great pleasure in playing the victim and feeling sorry for myself. I felt like the world owed me an apology for treating me so badly. I didn’t want to move forward—in fact, I couldn’t move forward—because I was too busy waiting for an apology and explanation as to why I felt the way that I did.

Little tip: You’ll never get that apology or that explanation. Just move on.

It’s been a very slow process, but now when those depressive feelings enter my mind, instead of getting down on myself and wallowing in self-pity, I have a desire to overcome those feelings and to take action to make my life better.

This deep drive and desire is what has made all the difference. Until I truly wanted to feel better—instead of taking some weird pleasure in feeling sorry for myself—it was not possible for me to make any lasting change.

I haven’t yet arrived. Not by a long shot. But, I’m well on my way.

See you there.

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