When people ask you if you’re happy, how do you answer them?
When I was a child, I would have said “yes”, without a second thought.
Somewhere along the line, I forgot happiness. I forgot what it really was and what it felt like; how to feel it. Drowning in a whirlpool of thoughts, mind patterns attached themselves to me like heavy weights, and pulled me down to the bottom of an ocean of panic. I would struggle and fight to bring myself back above the waterline, to breathe, but I could never get there. I kept going down, down, down, hindered by my aching muscles and waterlogged mind.
The more I fought, the faster I sank.
All of my energy was spent trying so hard to pretend. I did not acknowledge my fears, worries, or anxieties. I stopped eating because of the sickening knot in my stomach. Silently, I consented to the dark shadows under my eyes because I was afraid to sleep; after all, sleeping was when my demons would take advantage of my lowered defenses.
My heart was closed and boarded up.
To me, a broken heart meant death, so I kept it nice and safe within a protective barrier where nobody could see or touch it. It kept feebly pumping from behind the walls, but the blood that was flowing was imbued with loneliness.
I mistakenly thought happiness to be the in-between moments where I was having numbness; a temporary reprieve from the disquiet. The moments of calm before the storm, waiting in foreboding anticipation for the next monsoon. I was full up, but I was filled with sadness, anger, loss, grief, and all of the things I did not want to feel and let out. I was jammed, overflowing, the physical pain of what was inside, the things I did not want to deal with, pressing on me from the inside, like a shaken soda can.
So, I had to learn to make room.
And, once I did, I experienced a paroxysm of happiness and joy that I did not know even existed. It was euphoria. I have never been happier in my entire life. Happiness does not exist without the sadness. I had to learn how to be okay with the grim, the devastating, the melancholy, before I could feel the good. I had to expand in both directions, instead of existing within such a short range, wound so tightly I could feel the fibers of my being splintering.
There’s a beauty that exists in getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
It expands your capacity on what you can handle, both emotionally and physically. I started taking risks in letting myself step outside of my comfort zone, which I realized wasn’t that comfortable, anyway. I slowly and carefully let myself trust, and let myself be vulnerable around those with whom I put my trust.
And, after I learned how to be happy, I had a swarm of other loving hearts join mine.
I have been so lucky in my life. I attribute my recovery of joy and rediscovery of happiness to those other hearts; the incredible spirits who not only appreciate me for who I am, but who want to spend time with me because of who I am. It’s the love with which they imbue my heart that keeps my blood pumping through my veins; blood that is now full of hope. Love is life. Love is happiness. And love is joy.
Now, when people ask me if I’m happy, I can, once again, honestly answer with an immediate, resounding, joyful “yes!”
My name is Andrea and I live in Los Angeles, California. By day, I am an actor and by night I am working towards a degree in nutritional science.