gratitude · Happiness · simple living

Mental Illness and Happiness

Joy is not elusive.

Irrespective of mental illnesses, Joy is still always present.

But how can joy be present, when your illness/disorder is crippling any sense of joy, hope or purpose?

When the emptiness feels overwhelming, all-encompassing and eternal?

The struggle comes when your mental health is creating a lifestyle which is opposite to a life of joy. Joy can seem to be a fleeting moment which is always just out of reach, like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, you can never quite catch it. Frustration brews and bitterness rises toward those people who seem to have a joyful life. However, I want to be radical and say that can change.

Mental health condition’s, irrespective of the type, do not result in a joyless life.

I have spent over ten years believing that because of my OCD and depression, I am destined for a joyless life. I thought that my medication caused numbness towards my emotions and feelings, which inhibited me from feeling the sense of joy and happiness.

My thoughts were continually focused on my failures, my weakness and the mountains which were in front of me. Instead of trying to chase joy, I gave up on it. I believed that it was out of my reach and it wasn’t for me. I tried to find comfort in other ways. I put myself in a bubble full of self-hatred and cynicism, giving up on a future which was destined to be different than living out my diagnosis and my feelings.

But I have a proposal, does the absence of joy make the experience of joy richer?

When you have experienced the extreme low points where irrespective of the circumstances around you, the cloud of depression is weighing you down, and happiness seems a distant memory, you have a deep understanding of feelings not based on circumstances. Therefore, when you realign to an outlook of joy and happiness, there is a greater understanding of a transcending emotion independent of your current situation.

So how can someone suffering from a mental illness or even just a pessimistic outlook at life, reorientate in the direction of joy? Below are some things which may encourage anyone to orbit towards joyful living.

What I will say is that proper medical opinions are vital and medication and therapy can be helpful. This is not a post to suggest it can all be fixed by this. Instead, it is a tool to use to aid recovery.

Tips for living joyfully while in a season of mental illness:

  • Gratitude: there is always something to be grateful for. Whether it is a small, simple thing such as, I’m thankful that I have a bed to lie in because I can’t get out of bed, I’ve been there! Or more profound, gratitude has been shown to change brain chemistry, in the same way, antidepressants have.
  • Recognise triggers and remove them if possible: Unfortunately, we can’t remove everything which causes us to feel hurt and hopeless, the assignment, the family member, the time of year etc. But we can get rid of clutter, toxic friendships, jobs, even to some extent where we live. Being intentional as to what we allow to affect our mental health Can help bring an orientation to joy.
  • Journal, journal, journal!: I have such a love for journalling which has developed over the past few months. It provides me with a space to express my feelings and emotions safely, which can be hard for those suffering. In many cases, self-harm, alcohol and reckless behaviour become a way to express feelings. Pent up feelings which I have suppressed have a space to be released and worked through. Suppressing emotions is a massive joy stealer!
  • Stop apologising: for many, apologising for your feelings and how you act is a natural behaviour. You don’t want to be a burden to anyone and to make them feel worse because of you sharing these things. You have a right to be here, to make a journey to joyful living, you have a purpose and you are loved.

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