When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. – Marcus Aurelius
I distinctly remember the first time I heard the words: “Can’t you just wake up and be happy?”
My struggle with depression was in full force. It was hard to get out of bed most days, I really just wanted to sleep… all the time. I couldn’t always pinpoint exactly what I was so sad about, but many issues were going on around me and within me. There were too many emotions to pick through.
I knew I was struggling with being a new mom, although I didn’t want to admit it. I knew my relationship was falling apart. I knew that I felt very alone, disconnected, lost and dull.
Then one day, those eight words came flying out at me from one of the most important people in my life: “Can’t you just wake up and be happy?!”
“He doesn’t understand,” I told myself. “He can’t feel what I’m feeling. He doesn’t know what it’s like.”
More than anything, I wanted to hit him. Sometimes my emotions would feel so strong that I wanted to take it out on something physically, especially if that something was myself. I would pull my own hair out, literally. I knew this depression problem was because of me. I knew there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t stop it, couldn’t get out. My brain was with me everywhere I went.
Those of us who know severe depression have a very hard time explaining it to someone who hasn’t experienced it much. Why? Because we don’t think the same way, plain and simple. We have taken two different thought paths. One person might come across a difficult situation and naturally think “Well, this is just a part of life. I have to keep looking forward,” while the other person might have, somewhere along the way, been programmed to think “This is the end of it all, things will never be the same. I can’t move on.”
Some people can move back and forth through these different thoughts and phases in their lifetime. Just because someone might not know depression now doesn’t mean that they won’t at some point, and vice versa. However, these are two completely different ways of thinking, and whichever one comes naturally to you – means that the other form of thinking is very unnatural. You have to consciously stop yourself and recognize what it feels like to have those opposite thoughts. You must become aware of what your habitual thinking style is and then train yourself to think differently. This takes time.
How to Wake up in a Good Mood
I’ve learned so much since that time. I went to school to study holistic health and how ‘what we eat’ can affect our minds. I read countless books, listened to hours of lectures, talked to hundreds of people. I learned that positive thinking isn’t all there is to learn in the journey toward happiness, your body actually needs certain nutrients to keep your brain nourished and uplifted.
My life has turned around, without a shred of depression left in sight. It felt like it took forever to find me and figure out how to be truly happy from the inside out, but only a few short years have gone by. The journey is still in effect as I suppose it always will be. Every day keeps getting better. I can understand why some Buddhists dedicate their lives to enlightenment.
“Can’t you just wake up and be happy?” Those eight words rocked me when I first heard them. Guilt smothered me. Self-pity kept me delusionally and victimized. Now though, I see the beauty in them. Some days they come to me in a gentle whisper as I wake up to the sun shining through my bedroom window, my daughter’s head nestled into my side because she’s sleeping sideways across the bed again. Those words kiss me on the lips and I smile back at them because my answer is “Yes. Yes, I can.”