I am what some might call a happy person. I did not always like this label. Happy people walk through life looking at the bright side. Happy people see the ray of sunshine in dark clouds. Let's face it. Happy People are annoying.
With their constant need to whistle while they work as they attempt to spread joy to everyone around. When you are feeling down, they are armed with a lot of platitudes and positive energy. Not exactly what you want when you are looking for a shoulder with whom you can commiserate.
I did not ever want or expect to be this type of person, but I am.
The difficulty of defining happiness
As with most things, the definition of happiness is elusive. Of course, it means different things to different people. However, scientists have developed a definition of happiness.
At its most simple happiness "...is an emotional state that reflects the positive feelings and satisfaction of life." 1One thing to notice is that happiness is not defined as a sustained outlook. It is an emotional state meaning it can be transitory and is not a permanent state of being.
Trust me. For me, being is not a 24/7/365 way of thinking or feeling. It is as much of a feeling as being angry or anxious. It just so happens that I am built to lean towards the happiness state of mind more often than many people. I think it's in my nature.
Happiness has always been a part of me
Before I was diagnosed with MS, I was a cheery person. I got notes on my report cards that I was too talkative in class. I would sometimes be mocked for my wordy ways. To be fair I was never gossipy. I was just curious and interested, so I ask questions and like to spark conversations.
This was not always appreciated. When I was 12 years old I was paid to be quiet. My parents had had enough and wanted peace and quiet. I proved them wrong by being quiet for two hours. It was not difficult with the proper motivation.
My fervent hope was that at 27 years old I would wake up and be a more taciturn woman. One that would not bother people with her sunny side of the street personality. Did it mean that I was a happy camper all of the time? No, I was not. For those times, therapy was a happiness helper.
Therapy. Therapy. Therapy.
I cannot stress enough how important it was for me to go in for counseling. I may lean towards cheeriness, but that is not a continual way of living. I have known sad and difficult times. I have hung out in the dark side and had a cup of coffee or ten.
I have been fortunate enough to have access to a good counselor. I am well aware that this is not the case for everyone. The feeling of futility is one that should be addressed and seeking help is not a sign of anything other than taking care of your mental and emotional well-being.
The tools I learned in therapy would come in handy after my multiple sclerosis diagnosis as well as during it. Researchers have found that "... taking part in counseling sessions with a positive approach can help prevent psychological problems and improve the psychological state of patients affected by multiple sclerosis.2
It still isn't an easy road
Multiple sclerosis is not a prescription for depression, but it is not unknown to people living with MS. This is a difficult chronic illness to have. We do have a lot to deal with on a daily basis. There is pain and anxiety. There are lots of medical visits. It is not an easy road.
Strangely enough, having MS or any chronic condition can actually help with being happy. "Based on empiric examples of people who suffer from multiple sclerosis, I demonstrate that people with a chronic illness can experience happiness in spite of illness, but also as a consequence of it."3
For me, multiple sclerosis did not make me happier. It did make me more comfortable with the fact that I am a generally happy person. How? Multiple sclerosis created challenges for me, but my road was considerably smoother than most. It propelled me into advocacy work and sharing my story and that led to me letting my natural personality come through without my own judgment.
So, here I sit throwing sunshine in the faces of everyone I meet. Just blasting them with my contentedness. It is okay. I am a Happy Person and I now accept it.
Does anyone else in your family have MS?