Mental Health

Why not consider unhappiness a mental illness? If you are unhappy, something is wrong.

This seems to be the era of mental illness. Looking around it sure seems like everyone is going over the top. We didn’t talk about it much back in the day, and now everyone is talking about it. We went from a stigma to almost looking it is used as an excuse for laziness, lack of ambition or responsibility. I can’t do this or that, because I’m sad. I have to take care of my mental health.

What’s wrong with people these days? 

Are people less healthy than they ever were?

The thing is, we are not the happiest country in the world, far from it. And we haven’t been for a long time. People are getting therapy and medications to help them deal with reality. Life. But do we really need to teach people, or drug people, do deal with reality? Maybe that’s a problem with reality.

If people are unhappy because they are stressed about money, or health, or how difficult life is, or politics, or sexism, or social injustice, or even just because they go to high school, maybe what we really need to do is change society.

Until we can to that, coping is something that they may need assistance for, but at the point at which it becomes a nationwide phenomenon, accompanied by an epidemic of suicide and even when it doesn’t get that far, anxiety, depression, and straight up unhappiness, we need to think about the real problem.

I applaud the fact that people are being open about it. Even though it bothers me if a child of mine seems lazy and unmotivated. I moved out when I could. I supported myself. I did what I needed to do. Why can’t they do what I did? But was I happy? Am I happy now? No. Quite frankly no. Watching them struggle is making me even more unhappy, but I don’t want to fault them because they expect to be happy, because they won’t settle. They shouldn’t have to adjust that expectation, like I did.

Maybe therapy and medications are only a temporary solution.

The more permanent solution?  Don’t laugh. Higher taxes. The countries with the highest taxes also have the happiest people.

That’s because they get a living wage. That’s because if they were to lose their job, they don’t also lose their health insurance, if they even had any in the first place. That’s because they don’t have to pay for their education. Maybe they can afford housing. Maybe they can afford childcare. Maybe they can get help if they need it, and that helps alleviate anxiety, even if they don’t need it. Maybe they have pensions when they’re old. They have services for their taxes. Safety nets. And the gap between rich and poor is less, but more importantly there are less poor, period, and more middle class.

Here in the US of America, too many of us think that taxes is a redistribution of wealth from rich people who earned it all by themselves and deserve to keep it.

Let’s correct that. The rich didn’t earn everything they made in a vacuum. They have benefited from a lot of help. No man is an island. We are all in this together.

Nobody Knows Us

I have wanted, my entire life, to be understood. It fueled a desire to express myself, artistically through acting, music, photography, and writing. 

But I was misguided. Because no one can know us. We don’t even know ourselves.

I wanted it so that people would encourage me in the right ways. I thought that if they understood me, they wouldn’t judge me, they would just love me, and help me to be the person that I wanted to be. Why did I think they would do that? And I was so afraid of their judgment I rarely dared to be honest. 

Better to just accept that no one can understand. If someone wants to try, then let them in. But they won’t.

I don’t think that we can begin to understand ourselves until we stop caring what other people think. And we should relieve them of the responsibility for saving us. They have themselves to worry about.

When You’re Smiling

I inadvertently admitted that I self identify as unhappy. I went out on a  limb and shared a poem on facebook that I had written recently.

I figured that the safety of poetry, is that people won’t really understand it, so you can be honest.

But when you say things like your bucket list includes only happiness, it’s probably not so hard to figure out that you don’t think you have it yet.

And then people are concerned about you. Or sad for you. Such a sad poem. No. It actually felt good to express it.

I want to say that depression isn’t always so serious. Not to belittle it. It can be. And if someone tells you they are depressed, it should be taken seriously, because no one wants to burden people with that, so if they’re telling you, it might have already risen to a serious level. But assuming one doesn’t wait for that, slips it in a poem for example, by accident, I would make a distinction between any old minor chronic depression like I live with and that which rises to the level of despair. I am not in despair. Hardly ever. Probably never.

There is a lot about my life that I really like and appreciate and recognize. Family. Friends. Hobbies:, music, photography, and drink (he he). I make good money. I know people who make more, I can’t retire whenever I want to, and I wouldn’t mind that, but I’m not naive. I make better than most people. And I don’t hate my job. I wouldn’t do it if I weren’t paid but if I ever complain about it, it’s only because I’m spoiled.

I’m just not always happy with myself. I want to be able to show off what I haven’t been able to do, but believe that I can. I want purpose.

And I don’t always know what to do about it. I’m kind of like, lost a little.

But what is happiness? Do you know that when people self-identify as happy that can be very unreliable? They could be fooling themselves. They may not realize how happy they could be. It’s all relative to their own expectations. We don’t really have objective standards.

So when I desire this, I may not fully understand how elusive it is to achieve something you can’t define. It’s Impossible!

Am I expecting it every second of the day? Yes! Is it a solid state of being that never changes? No.

I’m in Pittsburgh. Using vacation that would expire if I didn’t take it. Came here alone. This is why I’m posting more than usual. I’m on a writer’s retreat. My daughter is here, going to school, so we visit and when she’s busy, I’m on my own. She’s repeating to her friends that I am on a writer’s retreat, which they think is cool, but I have to qualify that it is self-constructed. I want to see if I still can write. Because I haven’t been. I have other goals too, work on Spanish if I have a chance. Walk around the city. Maybe sight-see, eat some good food. I meant to bring drumsticks so that I could work on my chops a bit, on a pillow. But I forgot.

I rented a room through Airbnb, in a house that I share with people I don’t know. Last night a guest showed up at 12:15AM and rang the doorbell and knocked on the door. Some issue, I guess. I ignored them. I felt bad, but how do I know who is supposed to be staying here or not? He or she got in eventually without my help, and I couldn’t sleep until then.

My room has no desk. It’s not particularly conducive for writing. I think that I would be more productive if I spent more money to make it easier, but that’s spoiled thinking. It wouldn’t. My expectations that writing can be made easy by a desk in a room – well, easier maybe. But if I had that, I’d probably be so comfortable I’d just watch Netflix and get depressed about it. It’s an excuse. Writing isn’t easy. Spanish isn’t easy. No way around it. Might as well just do it the hard way.

So, I’ve been working amid distraction at Starbucks and the University of Pittsburgh library, and worrying that I won’t get anywhere. Today I found a nice spot at Crazy Mocha in Squirrel Hill (the neighborhood I’ve planted myself in). It’s quiet and relatively empty and I have myself a cozy corner. It’s starting to work. It’s nice to have some time on your own to figure stuff out. And here is something that I figured out. Vague goals like “happiness” don’t get you anywhere.

You know that song, “when you’re smiling, when you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you…”?  It popped into my head, like an epiphany! I downloaded it. Because I can. Louie Armstrong sang it. Also Regis Philbin. I really want to  hear that version, but it’s only on Amazon Unlimited, which I don’t subscribe to. Darnit. I bet it’s good.   

Do you see where I’m going with this?

I want to smile more.

That’s an achievable goal. It may even be easy. I already smile a lot, I just deny that it represents  happiness.  But what else is happiness? It is a moment by moment thing. I know some of you have figured this out already. WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME!

You can even fake it, and the thing is when the whole world smiles with you, then it’s contagious back, and suddenly you’re not faking it anymore.

I can do this. Watch.