Category Archives: Happiness

Why the International Day of Happiness doesn’t make me happy

Today is the International Day of Happiness.

I kid you not. Someone actually concocted the notion that, gosh darn it, if we all just come together and do a little something, then everyone around the world could be happy. For one day, anyway.

When I heard of this, I laughed, but not because I was happy. I laughed because of the sheer absurdity of it all.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Happiness is a good thing. A very good thing. It’s always a good idea to be reminded of things that make us smile, or things that make us grateful. But in my humble opinion, “special days” like this force the idea of happiness. And there’s a big difference between forced happiness and real happiness.

Here’s where I think that those of us with mental illness actually have an advantage over those who don’t; we know this. Because we have to fight so hard for happiness, we know that achieving it is not always simple, and that it often takes a lot of work.

With that in mind, I propose that, at the very least, there needs to be an opposite special day. An International Day of Sadness might be a bit too maudlin, but how about an International Day of Feeling Like Crap? Or International Show Your REAL Feelings Day, Even If It’s Not Pretty? (Okay, that name needs work, but you get the idea.) Just think of what a great release this would be! Maybe, just maybe, people would realize that it’s just as healthy to honestly show your “dark” side as it is to show your “bright” side.

I’m going to honor the International Day of Happiness by vowing to be my true self, whether I’m happy or not. If people can’t handle that, screw them. I want to be my true self, warts and all. That’s an idea that does make me happy.

What makes me smile: Stephen Colbert’s “We’ll Meet Again”

Yes, my blog is called Not Always Smiling. But I sure do smile when something genuinely touches me. Last night, Stephen Colbert did just that with his show’s finale, and particularly, this song. Just watch it. If you’ve already seen it, watch it again. I’ve watched it three times already. Makes me smile every time.

Another birthday

Tomorrow is my birthday.

Why am I telling you this? Well, just my announcing it is a step in my recovery. I’ve always had trouble calling attention to myself. Even on my birthday. Especially on my birthday.

I’ve been this way my whole life. When I was little, my mom would have birthday parties for me. She’d invite my classmates, and I would run and scream and hide in the bedroom. This went on every year until I was 6, and I begged my mom to stop having parties for me. I was having anxiety attacks even then. She did stop having parties for me. I’ve rarely had birthday parties since.

I don’t say this to elicit pity. I actually like being low on the radar on my birthday. It goes very well with my isolationist tendencies. Since the advent of answering machines, I don’t even have to pick up my phone. Friends and family can wish me a happy birthday on the machine, and I can accept their wishes with one layer of personal connection removed. I like that. I also like Facebook on my birthday. Here again, I can be showered with birthday wishes–once removed. For this alone, Mark Zuckerberg wins my unyielding gratitude.

It’s not that I haven’t tried celebrating my birthday with friends and family. It’s just that whenever I have, the anxiety attacks come. It’s happened every time.

But tomorrow, I am going to try again. One of my best friends is taking me out to dinner. I am determined to take in his love and understanding, and enjoy it. A big part of my recovery is all about celebrating the people in my life who do accept me for who and what I am. That acceptance is the best birthday gift I can receive.

At my lowest points during the past year, I didn’t want to reach another birthday. But here it is.

I am a lucky man.

Words I live by


Thanksgiving 2014: a success!

I just got back from Thanksgiving dinner with my cousins. And I’m happy to report that I had a very good time.

As I’ve said before, I have social anxiety disorder, and it often creeps up even when I’m around people I know and love. I planned ahead of time in the sense that I waited to leave my apartment until after it was time to take my anxiety meds. It made me a little late for dinner. But honestly, I didn’t care. I wanted to make sure my meds kicked in and gave me a little “cushion.”

Well, everyone was warm and welcoming. Dinner was delicious, and the table conversation steered mercifully clear of anything that could be remotely controversial. Cousin Alec told colorful stories about his new job on a Texas oil rig. (It seems like, of all his co-workers, he’s the only one who hasn’t spent time in prison.) Another guest who grew up on a 1922310_10152878137069570_424167287687083505_nfarm told us of what it was like to grow up castrating male cows. (She said it’s necessary because male cows often become “real mean” otherwise. I felt bad for the cows — all the while digging in to my turkey.) The whole time, I felt
“in the moment” and engaged in conversation. When I’m in the moment, I can notice things like the place mat that my Cousin Michelle created especially for this dinner, which even included a funny poem.

My mental state came up only once. When we were alone in the kitchen, Cousin Ira asked how I was feeling. I told him I had good days and bad days. He quickly changed the subject, but a) at least me asked me, and b) at least I was honest with my answer.

As I was about to leave, Michelle reminded me of our next family tradition. Next month, we’re going to see “It’s A Wonderful Life” when the Brattle theater here in Cambridge plays it on the big screen. Michelle said, “I can’t wait to do this again this year with you — and EVERY YEAR.” She ended that sentence with maximum urgency. Without anything else being said, I knew why. Even though they have a hard time talking about it, my family knows what I’ve been through this year. I told Michelle, “Yes, we WILL see “It’s a Wonderful Life” every year.”

With hope and prayers — not to mention a lot of work on my part — we will look forward to Jimmy Stewart running like a maniac through Bedford Falls for many years to come.

Johnny Cash sings about Nasty Dan

I remember watching this on Sesame Street when I was a kid. I loved it immediately — and not just because Johnny Cash and Oscar the Grouch have always been two of my favorites. Here’s what I still love about this: it teaches an important lesson about accepting people for what they are. Something tells me Dan was just called “nasty” by people who didn’t “get” him. He probably had some type of mental illness. But he lived his life as he was, and he even found happiness on his own terms.

This was one of the great things about Johnny Cash. He never judged anyone. He was all about giving a voice to people who were too often unheard. Ah, but enough analyzing for now. Just enjoy!


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