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“You need to find the courage to be happy.”

I recently heard this quote, although I am not sure where. It really slapped me right in the face. It made sense to me and I don’t think it would have before this point in my life. What has changed? I actually am happy. Yikes. Even typing those words makes me feel squirmy and uneasy.

Have I never felt happiness? It isn’t that I haven’t been “happy” in the past. I have had my moments. But this “happy” seems different. It feels more like contentment. And I think that is actually better. It feels healthier. I thought I was happy when I was skipping work and smoking pot with my boyfriend all day. I thought I was happy when I was an independent single 20-something eating ramen and drinking Jack Daniels daily. But those were flashes in an otherwise semi-toxic existence. Any toxicity that lingered in the scenery at that time provided me with a convenient naivety. It never would have occured to me that happiness had anything to do with courage. Probably because happiness wasn’t an concept I actually understood.

What’s different now? Several things, really.

My physical pain has significantly improved. With the help of physical therapy, dry needling, and CBD oil, so much of my daily discomfort has decreased considerably. Since my hysterectomy in 2014, I have had nearly constant muscle pain and tightness throughout my whole body. The worst – neck issues that trigger migraines (probably from being in a nearly upside down position during a 4 hour surgery – just a guess). Anyway, dry needling especially has been a godsend in this regard. Being able to move my head and not having terrible headaches on a regular basis has greatly enhanced my reality.

My marriage has significantly improved. This summer will be our 15th anniversary and I would say that this may be the best we’ve ever been. We are difficult. I blame it on us both being Aries. We are so stubborn and proud and have an instinct to ram our horns whenever we disagree. We’ve been called the Bickersons and we definitely do bicker. Neither of us have fully functioning filters so other people are often witness to our squabbles. I am not sure that this will ever completely disappear – it just seems to be a part of who we are. But that shit is short lived for the most part and fairly surface level.

Charlie and I have been through some really rough times. Times when I thought we wouldn’t make it. Times when I wanted to smother him in his sleep. Times when he has screamed an inch away from my face. But we have always, somehow, made it through. A few years ago, a period of serious turmoil changed our course. I believe, maybe even subconsciously, we both realized what was at stake and what we actually had to lose. Since then, we have gradually repaired and renewed. It isn’t perfect. Far from. But I feel more love and appreciation than I have in the past. We are more affectionate and less confronting. I feel as though we are both putting in just a little extra effort. He falls asleep with his head on my lap every night and even though my feet sometimes go numb, I am very grateful.

Chemical enhancement has helped a bit too. This past summer, I visited my doctor and casually brought up some anxiety that I continue to experience. I discussed how sometimes I ruminate on fears and regrets more than I should. While things in my life were improving vastly, these lingering brain farts were still an impediment. Doc suggested trying Wellbutrin. My internal response was, “FUCK NOOOOOOOO!!!”. I have made stabs at a plethora of antidepressant medications throughout the years and after a very bad experience 8 or so years ago, I swore – never again. With cognitive behavioral therapy, changing thought patterns, meditation, etc., I figured that would be enough. And, it was. It had been tolerable. But those nagging thoughts still bothered me and inhabited far too much space in my head.

I had been on Wellbutrin in the past to quit smoking and had some luck with it. It was easy to start and stop – unlike most ADs. No weight gain – which I had with EVERY other AD. And no sexual side effects. I hesitantly told the doctor that I would think about it and he handed me a script.

About a week later, I decided to give it a try. I read that it helped with weight loss and increased energy. Man, I could sure use help in those departments. Unfortunately, I did NOT have those effects. In fact, it makes me sleepy and it has not helped with weight at all. However (after adjusting the form and dose), I almost instantly felt a rise in my dopamine.  Colors seemed brighter. I worried much less. I could let things go far easier. And I was even sleeping better. Was this for realz?

It has been about six months since I started and the effects have diminished a little. It is still helping but not quite as noticable. I am on a pretty low dose but I think this is maybe what is considered “normal”..?? Who knows. I am doing well and will continue on it until I have reason not to.

A part of me felt like I was cheating. As though using a medication didn’t really count as an improvement in emotional state. This was a facade. But I have realized that for a very, very long time – my brain has been lacking the appropriate levels of certain chemicals that is needed for optimal living. Genetics, trauma, so many occurances of flight/fight, meds, drugs, etc…for whatever reasons, I simply do not naturally manufacture what I need physiologically. So, if I need to supplement with the help of my friendly pharmacy, so be it.

Alright, back to the main point I was trying to make – the courage to be happy. 

While my life, emotions, and circumstances have raised to a level of contentment, I have come to a point where I am happy enough to actually fear losing it. Now that I know what it can be like, I realize it would be devastating if it were to go away. And let’s face it – bad shit is going to happen. Those booby traps are just out there waiting because that is simply how real life happens. The higher up I go, the more painful the fall will likely be. Maybe I always knew this. Maybe I sabotaged myself in the past due to this innate fear. Who knows.

So, for me, this is where the courage comes in. I need to muster the courage to keep climbing without looking down. I need the courage to realize that even when I do fall, I will have the tools to get up once again. I need to know that my admitting happiness will not jinx me but instead make me all the more courageous. And most of all, I need the courage to acknowledge that I deserve happiness, contentment, safety, confidence, security, and love.

I am happy. And I will find the courage to keep it that way for as long as I am able.

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