For the last 63 days my Facebook friends have been spammed with snapshots of my life while I’ve participated in the #100HappyDays challenge. It’s fair to say that most of the photos I’ve posted have been of Little T but hey, that’s who I spend most of my time with (if you lived with a breathing, moving, grinning, ever-changing work of art you’d take a lot of pictures of it too), but I didn’t start the challenge just so I’d have an excuse to share photographs of my child.
When I was young the way I dealt with my depression was to embrace it as part of my identity. I wasn’t yet old enough or mature enough to unravel my feelings or take steps to heal them, so I became them, a sort of ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ mentality. I listened to sad music and cried, I wrote dark poetry, I self-harmed and wore the scars defiantly, challenging anyone to tell me I was broken (and god help them if they did). That’s not to say that everyone who does those things is living in deep denial, but for me it was the only way to cope.
Fast-forward ten years and I can tentatively say that I don’t need to protect myself from my unhappiness by wrapping it around me – ‘need’ being the operative word. It’s beyond difficult changing a protective mechanism like that after so long, and it’s taken the security of a wonderful marriage with a man who is also my best friend and protector to pave the way to something resembling a healthy definition of ‘happiness’. As I’ve grown up and my life has felt less terrifying I’ve been able to admit that feeling like I exist at the bottom of a forgotten wishing well isn’t actually all that great, and I now try to look for the true beauty in people and in life and in fleeting moments. The problem is that old habits die hard. Pretending I was happy-not-to-be-happy, flawed logic though it was, served me well and kept me safe. It’s a hell of a kick to the gut to realise that there’s nothing you’d love more than to feel ‘normal’ and contained and safe and healthy and loved (andandand…) but you’re too damaged to feel anything approximating joy again.
I know you’re thinking ‘ffs woman, it’s just an online photo challenge, just do what everyone else is doing and take photos of your cat/dinner/shoes and have done with it,’ and you’re totally right. This is all a bit heavy and serious, but the truth is that #100HappyDays is a way for me to look at my life consistently in a way I never have before. And it’s not as though I haven’t had rough days – believe me, less than five months after having my baby, less than four since my PND diagnosis, there are plenty of rough days – but even amid the tears and feelings of hopelessness I’ve been able to find a snapshot in my day that’s been made of the purest kind of happiness. Some of my favourites so far;
And who knows, maybe 100 happy days will turn into many, many more. 🙂