My Thoughts on Happiness

My friend Garnie recently shared his thoughts about creating more happiness in his life, and I’d like to share my thoughts on the subject as well. Garnie shared his thoughts in a video, and I applaud his thoughts and approach, but I’m better at writing than I am making videos, so I’m happy to share my thoughts in written form.

Happiness… everybody wants it and everybody deserves it. But what do we have to do to be happy? Do we have to do anything to get it? What, exactly, is happiness? Is happiness a destination or a journey?

happiness

If you Google “happiness”, you’ll find it defined simply as “the state of being happy”.

Before I share my thoughts on happiness, let me share with you the fact that I spent years of my younger life suffering from severe mental illness. I was deeply unhappy. I was miserable. I drank heavily and I used drugs to numb the pain and the deep unhappiness that was my life. I spent years trying and failing to get through school, and I spent years working low-wage, dead-end jobs. My life sucked and my self-esteem was basically zero. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to be me or anyone wanting to live my life. I would look in the mirror and hate what I saw — a broke loser who could never manage to get his life together. I tried and I failed to commit suicide several times over the years. I desperately wanted to die so the pain would stop, but I also desperately wanted to live, in spite of how bad my circumstances were.

Let me share what life is like now in the here and now of 2016. I am on Disability for the bipolar disorder that was finally properly diagnosed in 1998, when I was 32. I have lived with my father in Alaska for 12 years, and in that time I have not needed to work. I have responsibilities around the house, and for quite a while I regularly attended NAMI meetings here in Anchorage. The few times I have had to be hospitalized for severe bipolar depression, I have gotten the help that I needed. Alaska has a fantastic mental health care system in place, and I think it should be a model for the other 49 states to follow.

Over the years, I have experienced several bouts of deep bipolar depression that was so bad and so painful that it made me want to end my life so the pain would stop. I know how awful depression feels. I know how awful deep sadness feels.

Now… let me share some thoughts on happiness.

Happiness to me is a journey rather than a destination. Happiness is not something to be chased after or to be obtained. Happiness isn’t something that’s for sale. It cannot be bought with any amount of money or with any material possession.
Happiness is… a state of being. Happiness is WHAT WE ARE. Happiness is our natural state of being. Happiness is our birthright. As the famous mystic Hafiz famously said,

“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”

My happiness is not dictated by circumstances. Feelings come and go. Thoughts come and go. Life situations come and go.

But deep down inside, in the very core of my being… I am happy 24/7. I am not just happy, I am ecstatic! This is not emotion I am talking about. It is WHO I AM, and it is WHO YOU ARE.

I feel happiness as a state of being burning brightly inside of me all the time. 24/7, non-stop.

I suffer from mental illness. I don’t have a job. I don’t have many material possessions. I don’t have very much money. I don’t have a college degree.

But I no longer see happiness as something to be pursued or worked for or worked toward. Happiness is simply WHO I AM as a human being. And it is also WHO YOU ARE as a human being. Real, lasting peace and real, lasting happiness is to be found deep inside at the core of your being. EVERYBODY has access to happiness free of charge. Again, you don’t have to pursue it and you don’t have to work for it. YOU ARE HAPPINESS. It’s yours as your birthright as a human being.

My greatest wish for you is to realize the happiness that you already have available to you for free deep inside. It’s there. It always has been.

My Thoughts on Suicide…

I posted this to Facebook a while ago and I’d like to share it here too…

A couple of days ago I posted my thoughts about Robin William’s tragic death from suicide, and I shared a lot about my life dealing with bipolar disorder. I’m still thinking about it because Robin’s death really hit home hard with me. I have been that depressed and in that much pain myself several times, I am a survivor of several suicide attempts.

This is not going to be a pleasant post to read. It’s about suicide, and that is a subject that is terribly difficult to deal with, and most people would rather not think about it or talk about it. I’ll understand if you don’t care to read beyond this point. But like depression and mental illness, suicide MUST be talked about and brought out into the open so that people who are suffering emotional agony beyond the comprehension of most people can get the understanding and help that they need. There is nothing worse than losing someone to suicide and being left with incredible grief and the agony of wondering what you might could have said or done that could have saved a life. That’s what Robin William’s family and friends are going through right now.It’s the agony that so many people who are not so wealthy or famous go through when they lose someone to suicide. But you don’t hear about them so much…

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in February of 1998, at the age of 32. That year was a living hell beyond belief. I was miserable, deeply depressed, and in and out of the hospital several times. I was on a drug called Depakote for the bipolar disorder. It can work great if taken as prescribed, but at high doses it is very toxic to the liver and is usually fatal. I overdosed on it twice, and each time I came very close to death. If I had taken just a few more pills either time, I would not be here to talk about it.

In 2001, I tried to commit suicide again. I ran the car in the garage and somehow ended up at UTMB in Galveston, TX instead of being dead.

In May of 2011, I got hit with the worst episode of bipolar depression I had experienced in several years. I tried to commit suicide again with the car in the garage, but after about 15 minutes, I realized that I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted the unbearable, agonizing emotional pain to STOP. I drove myself to Providence Hospital in Anchorage, and ended up spending a week there in the mental health unit. They helped me so much, and I will forever be so grateful to them! I was still depressed when I got out, but I was much better and no longer suicidal.

Right before I went into the hospital in 2011, I posted this thread to an internet forum I still frequently visit. I read back through that thread this morning and cried. I remember how deeply depressed I was. I remembered how much agony I was in. I remembered how badly I wanted help but at the same time how badly I wanted to die so the pain would STOP.

http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/45970-suicide/#.U-42HvldV8E

I’m still amazed at the outpouring of love and support I received from my friends there a little over three years ago. Some of those people haven’t been on that forum for quite a while. People come and go on forums all the time. But their love and their caring still mean a great deal to me. This is not a forum I would normally ask my Christian friends to visit. It’s not a religion-friendly site, at all. Some of the things said my religious friends will find offensive and I apologize for that, but please read it anyway. If you want to understand ME and you want to understand the agony of suicidal depression, read it. It’s six pages long and will take a few minutes, but you will learn so much and be so amazed too at the love and support that I received. Those people helped me pull through an awful time in my life, and I am still happy to call many of them my friends.

I wish Robin Williams could have found the love and support that he needed when he was hurting so deeply and so badly. We lost a very talented and funny man to a terrible disease.

I’m sorry if this post makes my friends uncomfortable, but it’s got to be talked about. Not just on Facebook, but everywhere, among average people and among the mental health professionals who can save the lives of those who so desperately need them and their help.

I am happy and I am healthy now. I love my life and I love living it. But I know just how incredibly fortunate I am to still be here…