My mother always taught me that happiness is a choice. This was mostly brought up when I was mad about something and being a grump. She would tell me that I need to choose to be happy even if things aren’t going the way I want them to. She was absolutely right. Being happy is about attitude and how you react to things that are out of your control.
What she never told me is how I would have to make that choice over and over in the same day. How I would have to struggle to push away invasive and unwanted memories. That once I had made the choice in the morning to “be happy” today, I would be presented over and over with an overwhelming push to tell “be happy” to go fuck itself.
When you have no control over traumatic experiences in your life, choosing to be happy is very hard. It’s not about the co-worker who is irritating or the stranger who bumps you in the supermarket. It’s not about the weather changing from gorgeous blue skies to blackened clouds and pouring rain. It’s not really a matter of fighting outside sources of fear, frustration, and anger. Instead it’s about fighting your own mind.
You lay in bed trying to think only of positive things (like your niece’s smile when you try to get her to say your name or the sweet thing your spouse said to you earlier) so that you can maybe go one night without nightmares. While you think of these sweet memories, the ugly ones creep in like water falling through a crack in the ceiling. First just a drop comes through so you brush it off, but slowly as the pressure builds and the ceiling weakens, the water comes slamming through and now you have to fight to dry the room again.
I choose to be happy. I start out every morning vocally saying the words “Today is a day of happiness and peace”. I literally say out loud that I’m going to have a good day. The morning may go well. Hell, I may make it all the way to the end of the work day without needing to make the choice to be happy a second time. Then there’s a trigger. One small moment, something almost undetectable, and I’m faced with a decision; do I try to push through the memories and fears and choose to be happy or allow myself to be swallowed up by them?
Making that decision multiple times a day is daunting. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I feel I have no choice but to be lost in the flashbacks. When that feeling sinks in, it takes every bit of strength I have to find the happiness again. It takes my entire focus, my entire mind and soul to remember that there are good things in my life and I have nothing to fear.
I’m honestly not even sure I’m doing the struggle justice. I know there are people out there who understand the point I’m trying to make, but if you’ve never experienced it…I’m not sure how to help you understand it. Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense to my own brain.
Maybe it’ll help to explain my experience. To keep my posts a reasonable length, I’ll post that separately and insert a link here once it’s done.