When I started this blog, I had a long list of things I was interested in exploring and people I wanted to interview. It’s still on my computer. I’ve gotten to some of them, but as with my own life, I find that the things I need most often seem to come unexpectedly from conversations with both friends and strangers, as well as by reading and scripture study.
A friend asked me recently if I was happy and seemed surprised when I said yes. I’m guessing that perhaps the reason behind the surprise was because we were having a discussion about anxiety, and this friend knows that I suffer from an anxiety disorder. It’s something that I’ve dealt with for years and have had a lot of treatment for (which is still ongoing). My days are up and down with the fatigue and the sometimes uncontrollable nightmares I get on a regular basis, but I feel like I’ve been given so many blessings despite it all (compared to some with anxiety and mental illness, it could be much, much worse) and even when it’s been literally frightening (in a way that’s beyond my control, meaning chemically) the Lord has been there for me. One common misunderstanding people have with my anxiety is that they think I’m sensitive to difficult things and situations. Actually, I’ve had a lot of experience with difficult situations, and I have a tendency to become very calm during crises when others start to worry and panic. For me, it’s more of an issue with daily loud noises or things that trigger flashbacks. (I also have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.) I get more overwhelmed with fast-paced daily living than I do with people needing help.
In my experience, it seems that no matter who we are, our trials are all different. For me, finding happiness has been all about gratitude and seeing the Lord’s hand in my life. The many difficulties I’ve been through thus far have given me the blessing of learning how to realize how much I have. That’s not at all to say that I don’t still get discouraged every few days when my anxiety cycles back to more nightmares and fatigue after a few good days. I have to have to remind myself on an almost daily and even hourly basis that things will swing up again. And I absolutely hate with a passion that I don’t get to live with my kids on a regular basis. My health won’t allow it. But since I can’t change it, it’s not hard to see the compensatory blessings we’ve had (a great step-mom for them, resources for me to continue getting treatment, help from my family and the ability to live near family members and supportive friends, and great in-laws). Comparing myself with others is pretty much futile, but listing my blessings is pretty much always extremely helpful.
And what finally spurred me to write this post today, after three icky days in a row of not feeling well? Quite randomly, this poll for women (sorry men, LDS Living already closed the poll for men, wish I’d managed to catch that and had posted the link):
What helps you be happy?
For me it’s service, counting my blessings, setting reasonable goals, doing my best, taking time to relax and be grateful. It’s also having a realistic view on life and learning not to compare myself to others, especially since oftentimes others seem to be happier than they really are. Who are the happiest people that you know? Is it always the most wealthy or the most successful? Sometimes we are still comparing ourselves to those people (and people closer to us) even when we think we’re not. I also think of President Packer’s recent General Conference talk where he mentions that he wouldn’t go back to his younger days, because he’s so grateful for the things he’s learned with age, even if age brings its own difficulties.
To close, a meme I got from Facebook (link provided) with one of my favorite quotes from former President Gordon B. Hinckley