I have been happy for days. Something so unusual I can remember the times it happened in the past. Winter Solstice at Stanstead. Driving back from the first session of Writers for Recovery. Seeing the chickadees coming to the feeder — I think this may have been when I was getting on anti-depressant medication — one of my first experiences of normal brain chemistry. I think this started with the last writing session of “Narrative Care” writing on July 1. The general format is to read a poem line by line, and then to write from a prompt. The poem was “The Happiest Day”. It was about an ordinary experience of a young mother with small children, a typical day. Looking back at the past, she realizes that she was happy then and didn’t know it.
The prompt: A time when you didn’t even guess that you were happy…
I always knew when I was happy. I remember moments, skiing, dancing with the mountain. They are the ones I remember, not the falls and clumsy times. I remember driving back from the first meeting of Writers for Recovery, and the rock in the road cut warm with the setting sunlight, and I felt a great surge of happiness. Moments from childhood? Decorating for Christmas, not the day itself. The pageant in High School. Looking back on childhood, I don’t see that I was happy very much, but I was innocent that there could be so much pain — in living, in the world. The moments I remember being happy were breaks in severe depression. I was always angry at myself that I wasn’t happy more often, little knowing that the source of my constant pain, so constant that I didn’t really feel it, and never knew I felt it until I got on medication and found out what normal brain chemistry was like for the first time.
Looking back, I can see that the reason I knew when I was happy was because happiness is such a contrast with chronic severe depression. It was like the sun coming out briefly during a time of cold dark rain. You would notice it so much more than if the day was partly cloudy with sun and shadow alternating. Sometimes I have been surprised by remembering something in the past and realizing that I was severely depressed at the time and didn’t know it.
Realizing that I always knew when I was happy has given me a great boost in my trust in myself. I always worried that I was refusing to feel happy because I watched my mother do it over and over. It wasn’t until a mood specialist told me that the chemistry of depression prevents feeling joy. You can appreciate on will power, but you can only enjoy if your brain chemistry is making it possible.
See also a post called “Joy”