Can I share a little truth about myself? I am not naturally a super happy person. My default setting, from as far back as I can remember, has always been a bit serious & somber.
Look at me here—that little face says it all, doesn’t it? Happy to have the BEST parents & most loving home life a Kindergartner could ask for, yet also busy contemplating the world’s problems & how I might solve them. This was the year my mom found me barefoot one day because I gave my shoes away to a girl who said she needed them. My naturally bleeding heart has given me empathy, but it’s made me feel everything more heavily, too.
At times, too heavily.
Not a whole lot has changed in 34 years. I am fortunate to still have a lot of love & support in my life yet...
most mornings my default mood lies somewhere around mildly annoyed mixed with a tinge of sad. Eeyore-esque if you will.
I used to analyze this nature of mine, try to diagnose it, try to fix it. I’ve tried medication. I’ve tried gratitude journaling it out of me. I’ve even tried shaming myself toward happy because—it’s true—I’m more blessed than I deserve.
But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve just accepted that happy is simply not my natural state, and that’s okay. On most days I can get there, but low level anxiety & depression just seem to be my default setting.
Don’t get me wrong, counting my blessings & focusing on them helps tremendously, along with many other habits that cultivate happiness. I’m just saying that, for me, it doesn’t come without effort.
I HAVE to exercise, even just a little, every day. My body & mind need those endorphins.
I HAVE to stick to my morning commitment of reading or listening to something that reminds me of my faith or gives me hope.
I HAVE to limit sugar. I’ve come to accept that my weight fluctuates because I reach for it unconsciously when I’m down or anxious & when I give into it, it doesn’t make my body or mind feel good. Yet I still reach for it most days. (One day at a time, right?)
I HAVE to set boundaries with toxic people, as I’m just a regular ol’ human sponge.
I’ve come to learn the hard way, through years of ups & downs, that when I’m on-point with these things, the happy (or at least mildly content) eventually comes. If these things are not in place, I suffer. It’s that simple.
Yet it’s complicated at the same time, because we’re complicated human beings that sabotage ourselves sometimes. These practices take time, effort, consistency, & commitment.
That being said, the choice to medicate anxiety/depression does not mean you’re taking the easy way out or NOT working for it. Everyone should do what’s right for them and I know that, for many, BOTH medication & lifestyle changes are necessary.
So, is medication “bad”? The “easy way out”? Absolutely not. For me, my stretch of six months on it reminded me of what happiness had felt like once, and that provided me a marker of what I wanted to return to. I began to laugh more, I was a tinge less edgy, & my sleep improved. And that reminder was good for me.
But, in my gut—for me personally—I knew it wasn’t going to be a long-term thing. I also knew, if I wanted happy to stick around after going off of it, I was going to have to REALLY commit to doing everything in my power to help my mind, body, & spirit daily.
I share this because my journey with anxiety & depression has been this in-between kinda thing. This “mild to moderate” kinda thing. And what concerns me is that sometimes it feels as if the message out there is that you either “have” anxiety/depression or you “don’t”. My fear is that the “don’t” implies happy should come naturally—that you either struggle with these dark emotions intensely & regularly or you don’t at all.
Mental illness is real, it exists—and thank God we have treatment for it. But I do think it’s not always so black & white. I think there can be shades of gray. And that’s, overall, where I live—the gray.
I have ups & downs—bouts with it that can range from dark gray to light gray. After the birth of my son I was so happy to finally be a mom yet, for some reason, it was dark gray. For a period of a few years it lifted to a light gray, even a white phase. After my miscarriage it went black for the first time and I asked for help. So glad I did. When I’m real consistent with taking care of myself, like circumstances are allowing me to right now, life can feel bright white, too.
So, just know, if things are feeling black right now, there is no shame in getting help.
If things have only ever felt white for you and anxiety/depression are things you’ve never been able to relate to, count yourself fortunate. Be patient & compassionate with others through their ups and downs, even when you don’t understand.
And, if you’re anything like me—one who floats somewhere in between—know that you’re not alone, either. And that you’re ok as you are, whether you choose to medicate or not. Your life doesn’t have to fit neatly into a particular box or label, and bright white happiness isn’t the only path to a beautiful life.
Shades of gray can be pretty beautiful, too. 🖤
I'm Krissy & I'm so thankful you're here. Teacher-Mom life is rewarding but it's tough--we need fuel (& each other) to keep going. I hope this is a place you can go that feels like caffeine for the soul--uplifting & highly addictive ;) Check out the categories below and, if you like what you read, subscribe to make sure you always have good Sunday morning reading to go with your coffee :)