My book ends with my first day of total happiness. For most of my life, even when I was happy, there was a heaviness behind it. There was always pain.
A good day was when I woke up, vaguely disappointed that there was another day. On a bad day, it was a heavy, desperate sort of anger.
There was a pain, knowing that I was not the most important person to anyone. Not that there weren’t people who loved me. My sister, my friends. I was still longing for the elusive (impossible) perfect love.
The way a mother loves her child or the love of a good spouse. I was not blessed with either.
Even my wedding day had a dark cast to it. I could not have told you why, then. But my insides knew, there was real trouble ahead.
But that first, perfect day of happiness changed things.
Of course, it could not fix everything that hurt. There were still times when I wished I was dead. Times when I wanted nothing more than to hurt myself.
It gave me perspective, however. Something to hold on to when the hard work of healing seemed to be too much.
At first, it scared me. Happy felt very vulnerable. Like my heart was out there for anyone to come and stomp on. In reality, I had no one left in my life who would do that to me. Each experience of even just a sliver of true happiness built up my tolerance. My fear of life as a whole receded.
Eventually, I stopped needing most of my medication for anxiety. Not because I no longer got anxious. Rather, I grew less frightened of the feeling. I learned to see it as a warning sign. Even my generalized anxiety has become bearable.
It seems strange to think of happiness as something hard. It felt untrue, sometimes. The little broken bits of my heart felt disloyal. How could I be happy, when so many people had hurt me? Did it mean they were off the hook for what they had done?
That was strange to admit. But it was how I felt.
Through therapy, journaling, and talking with people I could trust, it got easier.
Another amazing breakthrough came when I first courted happiness. Or even just contentment. I had worked through the anger and the pain. I no longer felt I was betraying my past.
It was at that point that I truly put aside the option to die. Wow, what a transformation. Now I could look into the near future with hope rather than dread. That brought its own complications.
Now I saw my stuff differently. I had been so busy hoping for the end of it all that I did not take care of things, big and small. Like my car, or my clothing, or any of the small things most people don’t seem to need to think about. Everything had felt replaceable.
I had to change how I thought, not just how I felt.
Now, ten years or more since that happy day, I would say I have transformed. I embrace the happy. I enjoy contentment. When old demons get triggered, I am in a much better position to face them and work them through.
Sadly, there are still times when I have flashbacks. It is still hard, but I recover more quickly. I am strong enough to pull myself out of it. My rational mind can intercept the feelings and force them into the light.
There are also times I get depressed or overwhelmed. Especially with finishing my book. I am moving on to advertising myself and the book. Getting people to recognize me as an authority is really challenging.
Telling them, telling you, that my experiences can lead you out of your darkness and pain seems presumptuous.
Still, I know it is true. So, I keep going. I keep reaching for the peace. For the happy.
Welcome to life winning over shame.