Anyone who knows me knows I'm usually a very happy person. I believe in doing what makes your heart sing, in making your own happiness, in enjoying life to the fullest. But I can also go to a dark place where all those things elude me, where I can't find happiness, where my heart can't remember the lyrics to anything it loves to sing. And 95 days ago, I was in one of those places.
Somebody hurt me. Somebody was mean, and vindictive, and unfair. The reason of the hurt doesn't matter. Perhaps someone has hurt you. Or perhaps you're going through the horrible pain of losing a loved one. Perhaps the weight of a hundred tiny things has sent you to your dark place. Whatever has brought you there, I want to extend my hand to help you find the light again. There are many tools in the search for happiness, and I support using as many of them as possible, friend support, doctor visits, counselor visit, medication if warranted. But this is something you can do right now, this very second, on your own, at no cost.
One of the things well meaning friends say when you're depressed- and they all said it to me- was "look at the good things you have a wonderful husband and great kids and..." And it is all true. But to me, honestly that brought me more depression. Because now, not only was I depressed, I felt like my depression was unwarranted and I was being a miserable bitch by not looking at all these great things in my life. Which made me more depressed. If you are sad, it doesn't mean you don't appreciate all the happy. But all the happy is surrounded by a fog and it can be very hard to see. This is how I lifted the fog, and I hope it will help you too.
I started a 100 Happy Days project.
This seems counterintuitive when happiness is the furthest thing from your mind, when having a happy day seems completely absurd and unreachable. That is exactly the time that it needs to start. Happy is there, if even just for a fleeting moment, just a glimmer. You need to find it, and this project will help you.
To do this- simply make a commitment that for 100 days you will notice something that makes you happy. You can just note it in your mind, or jot it down on a piece of paper, but I highly recommend making the commitment to post it on social media because it will give you a bit of accountability and you can have friends encouraging your journey. I post mine on Facebook and Instagram with the tag #100happydays. I recommend using a tag specific to you though, I'm going to go back and tag my happy days photos #cjbphappydays so that I can easily see all of my happy days posts in one place. It's healing to look back and see how far you've come.
When I first started, the happy moments were very fleeting and hard to find. Some days, I woke up with the attitude- "I'm going to get this stupid happy moment over with so I can spend my day not worrying about being happy." I'd look out the window, see a pretty sunrise, and post that as my happy. It doesn't have to be something big. If you can't get out of bed, it could be a pretty sunbeam shining through the window, or a cat at your feet, or a comfy blanket.
The accountability helped me because some days I would lay in bed at night and get a message- "I didn't see a happy days post from you today what's up?" So, I'd think back and find a happy spot in the day, or sometimes even get up and do something to make me happy, like grab my favorite blanket to bring to bed or kiss my daughter on the cheek as she was sleeping.
After about a month went by, I would find some days had multiple happy things and I'd have part B or C to my happy day posts because I couldn't decide which happy thing to post. But it isn't a linear process at all, and some days I would be floored by how strongly the pain came back when I thought it was over. I actually made a place to cry as one of my happy things, because it became my safe place to escape the feeling that I needed to be happy, a safe place where it was ok to not be ok, with a photo memory, and a favorite blanket, and a comfy chair. Depression comes in waves. In the beginning the waves come so strong and so often that it doesn't ever feel like they'll be gone, like you'll be living in that turmoil forever. But as time goes by, the waves get a little smaller and further apart, and there might be a day with no waves at all, just smooth sailing. Then a little trigger can happen, a little memory, and a huge wave can come out of nowhere and blindside you. Things you do everyday that keep you on course and not letting these waves blow you completely off your path helps, and I found my 100 happy days project to be an important anchor during those sudden storms.
If you forget a day, if you have a day where you simply found no happy, don't beat yourself up over it. Simply try again the next day. Don't start over in numbers, just pick up where you left off.
As I am nearing the end of the project, I find myself multiple times a day saying "this makes me happy." I'm a photographer and lately during shoots I found myself saying a lot- "the way the light falls on you makes me happy" or "your smile makes me happy" or "the curl that is falling on your cheek makes me happy." I hope clients don't think I'm crazy! I have learned to focus on the happy instead of the sad, and to seek out the things that makes me happy. I also find myself saying sometimes "this does not make me happy" out loud and I know it's time to reevaluate whether I truly need to do the thing that is making me unhappy.
These are some of my favorite 100 happy days moments from my Instagram. If you'd like to see all of mine, you can follow me on there, I'm cindyjohnsonboudoirphotog . I would love to follow your happy journey as well.
If you can not find happy at all, if you are truly lost, please please seek help. The national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-TALK. Your light is truly needed in this world, even if you don't see it right now. It gets better. I promise.