Situational Happiness   Leave a comment

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof – Pharrell Williams

I had an interesting conversation with my therapist at one of my last appointments.

He had me answer four pages of questions about my feelings using a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being no different than usual and 5 being something akin to the emotional equivalent of a total meltdown. Before I could complete it, a discussion ensued about question 19 which asked if I had lost or gained a lot of weight recently. I needed to know what ‘recently’ meant, how they defined ‘a lot’, and finally if it mattered if the weight loss was intentional or not. After about five minutes of discussion – the answers being over the past few months, over 15 pounds, and yes – he decided to disregard the question. (I thought that was a good call.)

When I finished and my score was tallied, he announced my responses indicated I was in the normal range for most people with no indicators of a depressive state.

I had to ask him to repeat what he said. Mainly because it didn’t compute.

One of the hallmarks of my existence over the last – I don’t know – twenty years or so has been the knowledge that I suffer from – and yes, suffer is the correct word – clinical depression. (Note: I’ve been depressed much longer than just the last twenty years. It’s actually been most of my life. As a teenager, people simply thought I was moody or sulky. Getting the diagnosis made my adolescence make so much more sense.) Not Major Depression, where you can’t function and have suicidal thoughts – more like Persistent Depressive Disorder, where you’re always tired and sad, have no energy, and don’t have a lot of hope for the future.

I have been to talk therapy on and off for years, have taken herbal/natural remedies (the turmeric drinks were disgusting and gave me a violently upset stomach), and have tried more anti-depressants than I can remember the names of. Most of which worked until either they one day just didn’t (the panic attack I got when the Prozac suddenly stopped working one morning just before my alarm went off was truly epic), or I realized I had a choice; I could be depressed because I was gaining weight (a lot of weight) from the medication that was supposed to be helping lift my mood, or I could be depressed because I was, well, depressed.

Generally I found the latter to be the lesser of two evils, and I would wean myself off whatever was causing the weight gain this time (not to mention the extreme tiredness, night sweats, stomach issues, etc.) and start counting points again so I could fit back into my clothes all the while hoping exercise and watching Whose Line Is It Anyway reruns would help me continue to be a semi-functioning human being (because fully functional was way too much to hope for). Like the medication, this would work until it didn’t, and I would try to find another medication to help me make it through the day.

It was a bit of a vicious cycle.

Which is why I was surprised at the news I wasn’t showing any depressive symptoms at all. Okay, ‘surprised’ may be overstating things just a bit. Being the self-aware person I am <cough> , I have noticed I haven’t been feeling as depressed lately, and, in fact, feel better – and better about myself – than I have in years. That said, I also freely admit I haven’t spent a great deal of time thinking about it. Historically, spending time inside my head hasn’t proved to be something that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, so I tend to avoid it.

My therapist then went on to explain he thought my depression was the situational variety rather than the clinical type. Which made me think. Not only about what that meant about my past – which is a post for a different time – but about my present.

Is there such a thing as situational happiness?

If there’s such a thing as situational depression – and there is, it’s called adjustment disorder – then perhaps the opposite can be true. Because I’m the same person now as I was before my divorce. It’s my situation that’s different.

My house is my house. I’ve picked the colors, the landscaping (such as it is), decided on the repair/improvement schedule, etc. I’m seeing a guy who thinks I’m beautiful and have a nice smile and who tells me this fairly often. (I think he’s pretty spiffy as well.) I get to decide where I want to go on vacation and what I want to do when I get there. Yes, there is some negotiation with the boy, but our tastes are pretty similar, so it all works out. And since he’s older now, I don’t have to plan my social life around someone else’s ability to stay home with him. Instead of having to rely on someone else’s timetable or vision of what is important, I get to decide what needs to be accomplished and the manner in which it gets done.

For the first time in my adult life, I’m in a position to put my needs and wants first. I will openly admit I still don’t always do this (it feels too self-indulgent), but having the option to is heady.

While some things are, and always will remain, the same, the externals – the things I could never control – have changed.

And for the first time, I’m beginning to think it might be for the better.

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Posted September 20, 2016 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

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