Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I choose happy.

I spent the first ten to twelve years of my adult life wallowing in self pity. I blamed the death of my mom for my lack of drive and motivation. I blamed my drinking on the death of my best friend. I blamed my partying phase on the fact that I got married too young and had kids almost immediately. I blamed my negative attitude on genetics. I pushed the responsibility of everything in my life onto other people, so that way when I felt like a failure, it wasn't my fault. I was married to someone who was equally cynical and twice as conniving. Though, when my marriage ended, I wanted nothing more than to have it back. Why? Hell if I know, neither of us were happy.

And like the train wreck I was at the time, I didn't take time to figure any of that out. I headed ambitiously into a second marriage. With it, I brought the baggage I carried at the time. How my husband and I lasted the first five years of our relationship is still a miracle to me. It was not a positive place for either of us. We both fought depression and I battled with bouts of agoraphobia. My doctors prescribed medication after medication for me, but none of it helped. If anything, it made things worse for me. When we hit the rockiest part of our marriage in 2004, I'd given up. I had no job, no marriage (legally, yes, but emotionally, we had both checked out), no savings, no car. I had two kids and no where to go if I did leave.

I was at my breaking point.

Over the course of the next two years, I did a lot of self-searching and determined the only thing that was going to help me out of my downward spiral was to change my attitude. I started seeking out old friends. I started new hobbies. I started seeking natural alternatives to medicine. But most importantly?

I cut ties with the toxic people in my life.

I thought about all the bullshit I'd dealt with in my life and the friends I'd surrounded myself with. And I came to the conclusion that the bullshit and the toxicity were directly linked, not only to each other, but to my happiness, as well. I'd spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on therapy and medication when all I needed to do was ditch the drama.

I went through every relationship I had with a fine-toothed comb. I determined the positives and the negatives of each relationship and what they brought to my life. If the good outweighed the bad, they got to stay. If it didn't, they were gone. Even now, when I find myself being pulled under or dealing with excessive anxiety (like the freight train that slammed into my psyche last week), I step back and reevaluate what negative influences I'm dealing with. If I can see those influences are temporary, then I take other steps to deal with my attitude. If those influences aren't temporary, then I cut those people loose.

It may seem wasteful and even hurtful to some that I pull back like I do, but if you've ever overcome depression, you understand the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people. It's too easy to get sucked back into negative energy and before you even realize it's happened, the toxicity has consumed you. I refuse to spiral down again.

I have my down days and I have my moments of snark and cynicism, but most of the time, I am positive.  I smile. I laugh. I joke around. I can find the silver linings so much more easily now than I used to. I recognize the bullshit more quickly now and I cut it out before it can grow roots. Of course, I also have those moments when I try to rescue those I see being sucked into the vortex. Unfortunately, not everybody wants to be rescued and I tend to feel frustrated when they allow themselves to sink back down. I've learned to identify those behaviors ahead of time before I spend my own precious energy trying to fix them. Hell, for that matter, I've learned that I can't "fix" anybody. They have to fix themselves.

I've determined that happiness is a choice you actively make. Everything in your life happens for a reason and things are going to happen regardless of whether you want them to or not. So you can choose to be upset in those circumstances or you can choose to be happy. Either way, you can't make them go away. Why choose anything but happiness? Anything less is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. The more vulnerable you are, the less control you have over your life and where it takes you. The less control you have, the more susceptible you are to things like addiction and depression. Why would you purposely choose that life?

Sadly, I know far too many people who do chose that life. They do nothing but constantly complain about their circumstances, their marriage, their job, their relationships, their kids, etc. Granted, we all have days when we'd like to run away, but if you scrolled back through your Facebook statuses or Twitter timelines, would you see more complaining or more embracing? We're all entitled to have a bad day. Even a bad week from time to time. But when your life is consistently filled with complaints and crappy days for months on end, you may want to take a closer look at yourself.

These people are the ones I have to turn loose -- Set myself apart from them. It's not that I don't love them. It's not that I don't want to help. It has nothing to do with feeling like I'm better than they are or that I don't agree with their decisions (although sometimes I don't agree with them).

The bottom line is this: I choose to be happy and I can't be around those who don't.

(Thank you, Cynthia Occelli for the inspiration for this blog and for reminding me to "clean house," again.)


  1. I think that is a very healthy attitude. I suffer from depression, and I do the same thing. It's necessary for survival.

    This is very nicely written!

  2. Well said Mel! I know I haven't been the most positive person lately with all that's going on, but I know things will be looking up. I try to stay on the positive side - you get what you give and if you always focus on the negative, that's what you wind up with.