Why be Happy When You Could Be Interesting?
“You’re really interesting!”
I met heaps of new people when I was in Sydney and two of them surprised me by saying that, probably because I’ve lived in so many places and have a few funny travel stories to tell.
But since I’ve been feeling depressed lately and recently loved reading Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? that comment made me think. I wondered if one of the reasons I have spent my life travelling is because I have low self esteem and think I’m boring. I wonder f I’m constantly looking for ways to make myself sound interesting so no one finds out how dull I actually am.
Then today, after over three months of trying to shrug off a depression which has blanketed itself over me thickly and is threatening to suffocate me completely, I finally went to the doctor.
“It feels like such a failure,” I said, “to go on antidepressants because I have been trying and trying to fix myself but it’s only getting worse.”
I had already told her my many problems and neuroses so that admission of failure probably sounded like the least of my worries.
I’d also had to answer yes to some other questions I’d have preferred to deny. Had I been depressed before? Had I taken antidepressants before? Was I often tearful?
She handed me some tissues.
10 years ago I was diagnosed with severe moderate depression and I expect this depression is about the same severity. It’s not really that bad. I can still work, I still sleep sometimes, if a little sporadically, and I still get through every day so that anyone who didn’t know me probably wouldn’t guess I was depressed.
I should get a Golden Globe for acting like everything is great when inside I am splitting at the seams.
But having experienced depression before I know the signs and I’ve been trying to help myself.
Despite heartily recommending anti-depressants I’ve avoided them because taking them is like heaping failure upon failure.
So instead of gratefully enjoying the benefits of modern medicine I attempted to make myself better. So far I’ve tried:
- Healthy eating;
- Quitting alcohol;
- A cocktail of vitamins;
- Dressing more carefully and getting haircuts and manicures to make myself look and feel better;
- More and more exercise and more extreme exercises to boost my serotonin levels naturally (it works but only briefly – follow my progress in 52 Exercises);
- Scheduling weekly catch ups with friends;
- Cleaning the house and decluttering to make my environment more attractive;
- Going out for more walks because I love walking. It gets me out of the house if the kids are arguing and helps me cope with boredom;
- Photography because its creative, keeps me in the moment and makes me appreciate natural beauty every day;
- Journalling and blogging my emotional journey because I love writing and don’t want to feel ashamed of my feelings;
- Helping other people ( I do that all the time anyway);
- Meditation because I need to stop doing so much, start chilling out and think more positively.
Those are just the things I can remember trying. There are probably a few other things which I’ve forgotten about.
The fact that none of them has worked and I haven’t been able to fix myself has depressed me more. Getting depressed for no reason is depressing me too so I’ve been looking for a reason and finding none.
There have been no major life changes and the doctor doubts its hormonal or induced by menopause so this depression seems to be a bolt from the blue. As inexplicable and ridiculous as table falling from the sky and landing on my head. It feels a lot like that too and I can’t get the table off.
I didn’t want medication from the doctor either. Even though antidepressants fixed me up a treat last time after just six or nine months I didn’t want to go back on them. I wanted to be referred to a psychologist which I just found out I could get free or for a small sum with a doctors referral.
I know I don’t think straight when I’m depressed. These are some other things I do wrong when I’m depressed:
- Find with ways to get away from my family (walks, work, exercise are favourites);
- Do things constantly to dull my feelings or glug a few white wine spritzers so I can sit down and zone out;
- Start hundreds of different things and never finish any of them because none are good enough for my inner perfectionist;
- Hardly ever laugh – my sense of humour has done a runner;
- Rush everywhere and everything;
- Feel like I’m a waste of space, someone who can’t cope with the real world and shouldn’t be here;
- Fill the void where my self esteem should be with work or exercise thinking that pots of money or the perfect body might make me feel better about myself.
But the doctor won’t refer me to the shrink right now. She wants me to take the antidepressants, to put a band-aid over my wounds to protect them and help them start to heal first.
And what if this depression doesn’t come from nowhere? I’ve already diagnosed myself with suspected hyperactivity and manic depression. That may be over-dramatic but at best I have the self esteem of an earth worm.
Now I’m not sure if my brain is just defective and prone to depression for some reason or whether I actually have one of those other mental illnesses. I’m not sure if labels and knowledge will make things better or worse. I don’t know if what’s wrong can be fixed with anything other than prescribed drugs.
But I guess only I can fix my self esteem. It’s great that some people think I’m interesting but there’s interesting in a bad way as well as interesting in a good way. And anyway, I shouldn’t care if people think I’m interesting or not.
Still, if someone does say I’m interesting I want to believe them.
I want to start looking on the bright side again and believe it when I say depression isn’t a fun journey, but it’s definitely an interesting one.
Most of all I want my happy back.
What do you think about the question Why be Happy When You Could Be Interesting? Surely we’d all trade anything for happiness?
I believe that you may benefit from antidepressants. You are doing everything else right when it comes to treatment – trust me. Meditation and exercise are highly recommended.
I felt horrible for being on antidepressants. I was watching an episode of Glee and they used the diabetes analogy. I realized that yes. For some people, medication can be used unnecessarily. It also means that there are people like us who would rather use logic to deal with what is, to some degree, a medical condition.
I didn’t benefit from seeing a psychologist until I was medicated. Anxiety is different, though. I found it calmed the symptoms enough so I could concentrate on the tasks my pysch gave me.
Don’t self diagnose :P Be open with a doctor/pysch about what you suspect. They will tell you why that may be wrong, or give you a list of things to watch out for and report back. Don’t tie your self esteem to your moods. I’ve learned to seperate the sick and healthy aspects of my personality. I don’t like the person I become when I’m sick, although I love who I am when I’m healthy. It helps me think of it like that because it makes me work harder on my health.
It’s worth following up with – there could be medical reasons that you have become depressed. I dunno, you learn a lot about yourself when it’s debilitating to the degree mine is and you learn some very hard truths and rapidly change your beliefs about mental illnesses.
Thank you for being the first to comment and leaving such detailed and honest suggestions. I really appreciate that.
It seems like mental health problems are one of the last taboos. You’re a generation younger than me so hopefully in another generation the taboo will be lifted. It doesn’t help anyone if we don’t talk about it.
I am looking forward to getting more expert advice. It’s probably long overdue but I come from the type of family that don’t go to the doctor unless it’s an emergency. That is the first hard truth I need to learn that it’s okay to ask for help.
I am so glad to hear you’re looking after your health. There’s a lot more information about how to look after our bodies than our souls but I think they’re all connected. Hopefully we can work out how to look after ourselves as a whole and find a way to be healthy and happy more often than not :)
Great reply, Jade, and courageous post, Annabel!
I support what Jade writes and recommends.
I used to think that therapy, talking and analysing was the answer. And I tried it for years. It did bring me a lot, but I experienced that my most fundamental anxiety (I suffer more from anxiety then from depression) remained.
After a while, and also after having worked in the mental health care for years, learning about medication and so on, I came to the conclusion that how we feel is not only a result of our experiences, but that it is also chemical (in the brain I mean) and biological. Hence: medication to change that chemical disbalance may be in place.
Since 10 years I take a small daily dosage of anti-depressants for my anxiety, I stopped therapy, and I am doing fine.
What helps in taking meds and stay on them (important!) is to realize that a. it is NOT a sign of failure, but a sign of maturity and self-acceptance to take them. And that they do NOT change you into another person (aka into someone who you are NOT), but that instead they help you to be your best self. They help you to be the you that you in fact are and to function as who you really are.
I find pride in being open about taking these meds and hopefully helping to break the taboo around them.
We don’t need to be ‘tough’ or anything. We have only one life (I believe), so let’s do whatever we can with whatever we have available to make it a beautiful one!
I hope you will feel better soon, Annabel, and that you find your own way to cope with this.
Hi Annabel, I feel quite sad after reading that post. I guess because you are trying so hard and you feel your efforts haven’t amounted to much. And also sad that someone should feel that way about themselves – that you don’t value how smart and talented you are. I am sure you are a great many other good things too, but this is what I do actually know about you just from reading your blog and speaking to you on a couple of occasions. (And yes, you should get a Golden Globe, and an Oscar, and maybe a Bafta too.)
It sounds like it’s a good idea to hand yourself over to your doctor’s care and advice now. And cut yourself some slack. And be patient and kind with yourself. And have faith.
This was a guest post on my site recently about self-esteem vs unconditional self-acceptance: thekidsareallright.com.au/2013/parenting/self-esteem-unconditional-self-acceptance/ I really like the concept of usa.
I hope you get your happy back – you deserve it. x
Thank you. Patience and kindness definitely needed and I will check out that post too :)
Hi Annabel, take the antidepressants. Accept that it’s biological – don’t try to over-analyse it. You said it yourself – “I know I don’t think straight when I’m depressed”. And you will also know that in this situation, you’ll revert to type – you’ll rethink old stuff. It’s safe in it’s own way, and it just gathers strength each time to say, “see, I told you I was dull.”
As you know, I’ve suffered from depression for most of my life, and it contributed to the end of my marriage. I realised too late just how much it affected others. We become great actors, and think we can get by. We can’t.
You are seeing life through a distorted lense – let modern medicine contribute to your recovery and give you clear vision! (Ok, the metaphor’s a bit tinny, but you know what I mean!)
Sending you good energy, Annabel. You’re worth it (and not dull)!
Thank you and thank you for sharing your own experiences too. Medication certainly did me the power of good last time :)
…and it can help again too. You have the other pieces there in your life – the antidepressants are a temporary stimulant to get you back on the level. And you are SO not alone! Isn’t it encouraging to see the response when you reach out – look forward to your updates!
Why be happy or interesting? Be you! I’m so sorry Annabel that you are having these struggles. We all have our obstacles in life, one or two or more, and I’d like to think they are our an integral part of our evolution as difficult as they may be. I know this is not an easy one and I wish you all the best.
Thank you! I want to be the happy me – but I guess no one can be 100% happy all the time… or maybe they can… If so I am working on it and really appreciate your support :)
Hello Annabel, hope you have got yourself all sorted with the meds and the psych. I think I’d go for calm, peace, contentment above happiness. Was discussing this today after a meeting, especially my constant desire for mental stimulation. But I am making myself ill with over busyness.
Am sure you and a good psych can sort things out, find causes and cure, but once you are feeling better. XXX
Ah, now that’s another great idea for a post. Why be happy when you could be content? I’m constantly busy too, I love it but it’s bad for us too.
Thank you so much.
My first visit here on your website. Sorry to read a sad post :(. Please remember that you are not alone in your struggles. I have found that mindful meditation helps a lot.
Sending you warm thoughts.
Thank you so much. I am trying meditation too :)
Annabel, quite frankly you are worrying me. You look way to thin and frail and, as we say around here, you really need to get out of your own way. There is no sin in taking anti-depressants. Depression is no different than having psoriasis. The only difference is one is easy to see.
I agree with your Dr., you should find a balance before you speak to a psychologist. That’s pretty normal here. You have a beautiful family, you are a mentor to so many, and still you are not superwoman. Sorry.
I beg you to take care of yourself. I wish I could come see you, but the best I can do from this distance is to give you a HUGE cyber hug, and again strongly suggest you get the meds. You and your family will be glad you did.
Hmm, get out of your own way – I’ve never heard that before, sounds interesting. Don’t worry about the thin thing. I’m like that and I think it’s the way I’m holding the camera but the depression is a worry.
Thank you SO much for all your concern and advice. I really appreciate it and the hug :) It will all pass.
I already gave my opinion, feedback and advice on taking anti-depressants higher up in the comments. (=DO take them)
About being happy or….content, normal, interesting….
yes, I aim for being happy. More by being happy with whatever and whoever is there when it/they are there, then by chasing peak experiences.
One day or moment I may succeed more in that then the other. But despite the result…THAT is what I find really challenging and interesting in life.
Great to see you here and what you wrote above is so incredible, brave and true. Thank you. It’s everything I want to write. I will share an update soon.
And your addition here is great too. Being happy in the moment and seeing that as what makes life interesting :)
I will be working on it and am so grateful for your input.
Looking forward to your update, Annabel!!!
You sure get a lot of great, nice, supporting and wise comments here. Thanks to all you have built up with your blog, no doubt! Hope you will be able to benefit a lot of what has been said and shared;-)
Like I said: waiting for that update!
I enjoyed reading you’re story..but be reassured dear lady although they say we all have a book inside of us,I don’t know about that, but I do know that we all have a series of ‘short stories’!
For what its worth…there are a few bits of wisdom that I have learned and two in particular I have never forgotten…
#1 came from my gym master in junior school (I was 6) he used to put his classes through what seemed endless ‘breathing excercises’. He was a tough ol bugger and at the very first class he told us kids that we have to develop our ‘skinny bodies’ and the first thing is to learn to breath properly..to do that we have to build our Diaphragm!
As six year olds, we of course, had little idea of what he was talking about but here comes the imparted wisdom, he explained that our bodies most important part was a strong chest and powerful lungs. He explained although it is of little concern to us now as you get older you will remember these breathing upper body strenght exercises for life… because what he will teach us is that our body-driver is the air we breath filtered in through the nose exhaled from our mouth. Air-lungs-heart-blood-brain-action, his attitude was ‘weird’ to a bunch of us, littte kids at the time.
His incredible message that I have lived by was “the air that we process today in our lungs will determine our health in the future”.
I am a complex human partly, because I think, I never had a mother and father from the age of two and had no ‘role models’ to learn from and a broken marriage in later years and looming depression that I have kept at bay with incredible oxygen to the brain exercises because it is always going to be a battle with conscious and sub c mind. Quality blood into the brain will get you through, sorry for going on.
Wisdom #2 You will be pleased to hear… is short but no less effective, this came from an English master in senior school I was about 17 “The reasons that hold us back from moving from our comfort zone and progressing is simply, Fear, Doubt, and Worry”. The master went on “The world is full of people that have never made a mistake,simply because…they never made a ‘comfort zone’ decision”. His message was dont care what people think, just do it. I had some good teachers!
I just happen to be in the ‘short story’ mood today Breath Deeply..we both have travel in common
Thanks for your long comment. I am very interested in this breathing thing. I am trying to breathe more slowly, consciously and what you say made me realise how important it is to prioritise that.
It’s true I need to care less what people think too.
You had some great teachers and I’m so glad we’ve met here through a mutual love of travel :)
Hi there – I finally figured out that my depression was alleviated by reducing the amount of civilization in my life. Some of us are just really sensitive and thrown off chemically by all the pollution, electro-smog, noise , bright lights, strobe-type visuals like tv, anxiety of navigating traffic and social situations, time crunch, industrial agriculture, meeting the demands of everyone,etc. Does any of this ring a bell for you? Does it get better when you are on the beach, in the woods, in a garden, or just away from noise and bright lights?
I have been able to overcome it with nutrition (greens for magnesium especially. I had to take 800-1200mg of magnesium for awhile) and balancing hormones and getting rid of some of the above.
I would find a naturopath. My daughter was helped much more than by her drug-oriented doctor. And why not therapy? I love therapy. It has always helped me.
It is the nature of depression to take it personally and run yourself down, which is one good reason many people are helped by a few months of a mild anti-depressant to kick yourself out of those bad habits.
I think you are doing great at ferreting out this problem. You are open, searching and brave. You can do this. I did a lot of research on the internet about this, even though I have since decided that too much time on the computer depresses me (chemically). I am also affected by dryer sheets, any chemical smell, petrochemicals, household cleansers, compact fluorescents, formaldehyde – which off-gasses from particle board furniture, drapes, stuffed furniture, most beds, paints and finishes, perfumes in body care products. My depression magically vanished when I cleared my environment of these things. I had to get rid of gas appliances. I can’t use a microwave. Check out Debra Lynn Dadd’s web site. She has compiled an enormous amount of info and resources on this topic.
Don’t give up. And yes, I do think that until you are happier, go on being interesting and funny. It has got to be good for the self-esteem. Right?
Lol, yes civilization is hard for me too. That’s why I live in a rural area. I am going to therapy next week and am looking forward to it. It will be good to talk to someone as I don’t like to burden my friends with my worries. I am sorry I’ve worried so many of my dear readers but I want to be real and genuine here.
Too much time on the computer probably depresses me too and I have to watch out for that. I love social media but too much of it is not good. Looking for moderation with that :)
Haha, I am going to aim for the stars – I’d like to be interesting, funny and happy! If not all three all the time at least each of them now and then :)
Sounds to me like burn-out. The whole internet and blogging thing can in itself be exhausting. The cyber world is not real and yet it seems that many people use blogging as a measure of achievement and self-worth. I don’t mean to imply that this is the case for you Annabel, but I wonder if maybe it has become a burden? I have always enjoyed reading your up-beat posts but as an (occasional) blogger myself, realise that it’s bloody hard sometimes to be positive and I wouldn’t want to have to do it on demand. You have your frankness and courage on your side and I wish you all the best.
I think this is a small part of my problem. I can’t blog about being upbeat and positive when I don’t feel that way so I really appreciate that I can be real and share my problems here too. Surely no one feels upbeat all the time?! Thank you for the comment about frankness and courage :)
You are right, I never would have guessed you struggled with depression. Thankyou for this post. I have so much admiration for you, and wish with all my heart that you can get your happy back! In the meantime you are not only interesting, you are also inspiring, loved and so much fun!
Thank you so much :)
Hi Annabel, I know we haven’t interacted much apart from World Vision & PBevent, but just want you to know I am cheering you and hoping you find your happy again. Be kind and gentle to yourself and like Jade said, get expert advice. Wishing you much love, peace and good things xx
Thank you Jasmin, I appreciate all those little interactions and your being here :)
Hi Annabel, All good posts above. I agree with taking the medication. If you had a heart problem or other sickness you would take medicine for it. Depression is unseen but still an illness. You know my story, I suffered with depression for three agonizing years after losing Ben. I took the meds and slowly came out of it. Now I am hit with small bouts of depression but am usually able to get through it without meds. Take time for yourself, that is the best advice I can give you. When you need to veg out just do it. It is a process as I am sure you know because you have been through it before. And keep writing. I know I for one love reading about your adventures. Your in my thoughts.
Reading this I feel lucky to be surrounded by so many courageous and caring people here. Thank you. I love vegging out!
Hi Annabel, this world of blogging is hard on self esteem, one can write a post and get an awesome response, but I find it scary how pathetically grateful one feels by a single reply, “like” or “share” and quite derailed by the void of nothing! If this is the yard stick of being interesting it’s a very harsh one.
I, for one, find you interesting and fun, you are refreshingly honest and a great Mum. Being a wife is one of the most difficult life challenges in my opinion and one can get lost in that, but you ace it! We get “chocolate box glimpses” of other peoples lives and they always seem better and more interesting than our own, but possibly behind closed doors they have lives that are actually just as mundane as ours. Meds? I don’t know, it’s a very personal choice, try to relax forget about the stress of chasing your happy and before you know it it will be back.x
Your truthfulness in your post is refreshing and you are helping others as you help yourself which is an unselfish act, so thank you. When one realises their unhappy state is not always fixed with a ‘it will be alright’ alarm bells ring in every corner of their being.
But it’s okay to want happiness and to question why we feel the opposite if you like. I think it’s important to understand that sometimes being sad allows us to experience insightful moments and moreover the opportunity to reconnect and nurture our true inner self.
Sylvia Plath wrote a poem called ‘Mirror’ and reading it most think it is purely about a woman aging and coming to terms with that but some critics have speculated that the woman is vexed by more than her changing physical appearance.
The critics “posit that the woman is observing her mind, her soul, and her psyche, stripped of any guile or obfuscation.
By seeing her true self, she becomes aware of the distinction between her exterior and interior lives. In other words, she might be meditating on the distinction between a “false” outer self of appearance, and a “true” inner self.”
Therefore to tap into one’s “true” inner self may be the key to finding the answers we seek and then putting into place strategies that will result in longer-lasting personal happiness. All of which you are doing successfully and by osmosis inspiring others to do.
I am on the journey with you x
What a lovely comment – thank you. I need to read that poem. I think learning will come from this – hopefully for all of us :)
Annabel, very brave of you to be so honest. I think you’ve got some wonderful replies with great advice. When it comes to the question Why Be Happy When You Could Be Interesting, why can’t you be both? Actually, “interesting” is in the eye of the beholder. Happiness is what you feel yourself.
I hope you find your happy again!
Hi Miss F,
Both would be great! That’s a great point. I need to stop worrying about what other people think :) Thank you so much.
Hey Annabel, sorry to hear you are going through this again. As I have also “been there, done that” I have a few suggestions to make too! There are a few things which others have already suggested – such as the deep abdominal breathing, you also need (sadly as it doesn’t work for your blogging career) to get off the computer, using the computer (and other electronics) affects the brain and gets you wired up and can cause sleeplessness, this is why they are so bad for children too. I would like to recommend voluntary work, this can help to put your own troubles in perspective and also bring something new and more interesting to your life. You have talked before about considering training to be a paramedic and I know exactly where you are coming from with that one. A friend of mine is a volunteer for St Johns Ambulance, she gets all the paramedic training free and gets to go to every single concert that comes to Auckland as a bonus. If this doesn’t appeal I’m sure you can find something that does. I personally am considering becoming a volunteer coastguard at the moment (for some excitement on the high seas) and as you know I work for a hospice at present and am also hoping to join SPAW (for the love of animals) These things all go a long way towards making me appreciate all that I have and leave me little time to dwell on my own troubles. Everyone feels sad about getting old on some level and it doesn’t help that mum rings every weekend to tell us how awful getting old is! Good Luck X
Wow you’re amazing, how do you fit it all in? I want to be a coastguard too. The St Johns Ambulance idea is excellent, I might look into that. I do voluntary work now and then helping at the kids school but more is needed! Three takeaways here: breathe, get off the computer (yes I am trying to balance that although I have to earn a living that way) and help others :) Thank you.
I’m also trying to “get my happy back”. I’ve been on anti-depressants for three years now, and I know they’re working because if I _don’t_ take them I plummet pretty damn quickly.
And if you don’t think they’re working as well as you’d like, ask your doctor if there are others on the market. I was on Cymbalta to begin with, and then I switched to Effexor XR and boy, what a change. (I wrote about it here: billharper.me/2012/hooked-on-a-feeling) But I know other people who swear by the one I was on first, so I don’t think it’s a case of one size fits all.
And while you do need to stay active and socialise (which is where I’m falling down big time at the moment, but that’s another story), don’t forget that depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s as real as having a broken leg. Unfortunately because no-one can see the cast they think it’s all in your mind and that you can just snap out of it.
Mine is also hereditary. My mother suffered chronic depression, to the point of having ECT. I know it’s something I have, and I have to learn to control it rather than it controlling me.
I’m glad you talked about it so openly. It’s what we need more of. And if you ever want to talk, feel free to get in touch.
Thank you Bill for sharing your experiences. I know how brave that is and really appreciate your support, advice and offers of ears :)