The Experiment ~ A 365 Day Search For Happiness ~ Will You Help/Join Me?

Houston, we have lift off!

First of all let me say that I have a few people to thank for this project/post and if you read yesterday’s post and then this one it will perhaps be a rather startling sea change but there are reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the dose of my anti-depressant, raised several times in 2 months, have finally, I believe, kicked in. I am telling you this because many people wonder what it’s really like to be on an anti-depressant and what it feels like when it really does, at last, work. Some people never stick with the drug long enough to find out. For me, this morning, it was, I am imagining, like that feeling when you have lift off in a hot air balloon, when you finally leave the ground, when you are airborne, aloft, and for maybe the first time in your life you are looking at distant vistas and things from above, not below. It is nothing short of a miracle. I don’t know how long this state of mind will last, but it’s enough to get me off the ground with this project, and I am hoping that this project will keep the ball rolling from there. I am taking not a mind over matter approach but a mind + matter, the latter being the medication that I take religiously. I have been on medication and off and back on. For me, on is better, it is a tool in the tool box we use when suffering from long term mental illness. I want to note, at this juncture, that I am no Little Mary Sunshine and my life circumstances have not changed from yesterday until today but the medication is giving me the lift that I need to undertake this project.

Now, to the people. First, the beautiful Effy Wild who started this¬†September Blogalong Challenge With Effy¬†and got me writing regularly on my blog again. You somehow have to get the ball rolling. Effy did that for me by inviting us to this challenge. I will finish the September challenge with Effy even as I start my own 365 Day Project because I want to finish the former, and if I wait to start until October 1 to begin my project the air may quite literally have come out of my balloon. The second person I want to thank is the amazing Jenny Lawson whose 3 books absolutely saved me. In the midst of a months long deep depression that seemed as though it would never end, when I couldn’t even smile, Jenny’s books had me laughing until tears ran down my cheeks. My therapist is reading them now and loves them. They are the best. And finally, I want to thank Neil Gaiman because of what he did for Jenny Lawson. I have heard the same story from both of them. First in Neil’s incredible commencement speech referred to as “Make Good Art,” in which, without mentioning her name, he tells the story of the young writer that he gave advice to. Then from Jenny Lawson, who happened to be the young writer he gave advice to. She was starting to read aloud the audio version of her book and she was utterly terrified. When she contacted her friend Neil Gaiman he told her to “pretend to be someone who was good at it.” She did just that, she got the book recorded, and all went well. “Cowabunga! That’s IT!” I thought last night when I was reading before bed. It just came over me like a sudden burst of heavenly song, I don’t exactly have to BE happy just yet, but I can pretend to be somebody who is happy. And the 365 Day Search For Happiness was born.

Also I was reading, before bed, a book that I’ve really come to love and appreciate, The Wishing Year, by Noelle Oxenhandler. It is, to me, an interesting and not woo-woo book. I got to the part last night where she quoted something we often hear today, “thoughts become things.” She wrote about how she had read that things we focus on we bring more of into our lives. Now I am not about to start quoting The Secret or go all New Agey on you but it did make sense to me that writing incessantly about my struggles with mental illness, focusing on it so much, wasn’t really helpful. I meant to be helpful by sharing what I was going through in an attempt to help others who also suffered but the outcome has been that I spend the days living through the hard times and then writing about them so that my whole day is focused on the hard stuff. Even if it is helpful for others it is not helpful or productive for me. This is why I have stopped writing every book I was trying to write on living with mental illness. It just brought me down and amplified my suffering.

I am not naive. I am not going to spend a year recording my search for happiness and somehow be cured of mental illness. But, in trying to write, every day for 365 days, something that made me happy, recalling some happy time in my life, or making lists of things I love, or some days, if I’m really struggling, to just put up a happy picture and a word or a quote or a line or two (pretending to be someone who is happy, at least for that moment) the cumulative effect could be a shift in consciousness, perhaps ever so subtly, on the days my brain dips down into darkness. I live with mental illness, that is a fact, but living with it, and letting it consume me, can be two quite different things I have decided. Or so I hope. I’m going to try. That is The Experiment.

One thing that came to me immediately, last night, as I was reading and this project was rising in me, was that for these 365 days, save this one where I had to lay it all out for readers, I will NOT use the words Mental Illness. It will not have gone away, I am not denying it or ashamed of it, and certainly I will be talking to people close to me as well as my therapist as my real life healing journey continues, BUT at least on this blog I am only going to write about the things I am finding that make me happy. On a hard day maybe I’ll put a picture of a horse with the caption, “I love horses, they make me happy.” At least, in this way, I can keep going, I will not set myself up for unrealistic expectations about writing long blog posts about the search for happiness every single damned day! But I will keep on keeping on, come what may. I am writing to save my life, to change my life, and I am hoping that I might be able to help you too.

To that end I am shamelessly asking for your help, and hoping to help you into the bargain. It will help me enormously to have a cheering section to help me keep going. If you can come here and read the posts as often as possible and then leave a comment to cheer me on (The comment could simply be a smiley face!), that would be just SO fabulous and I would appreciate it more than I can say, AND if you would come here each day, and maybe, whether you comment on my post or not, leave your own happy thought for the day, even if it’s a quote you find uplifting, or something you saw or experienced that day (maybe you found one of those amazing wildflowers that come up through a crack in a sidewalk, maybe a tiny snail crossed your path, maybe you watched a youtube video or read a book that made you laugh.), the only “rule” is that you DON’T leave a negative or down comment. This will be a place where like The Little Engine That Could we will keep going until words become things, until we actually feel a lift in our heart, at least in some precious moments, and if I’m right, this could grow! And if we join together here we will become a community of people dedicated to our own personal search for happiness.

Will you join me? Will you cheer me on? Will you share these blog posts on with as many people as you can? I think there would be a lot of people who could benefit by just coming each day and leaving a happy comment on their own search for happiness, whatever their circumstances or for whatever reason. I would be so grateful. I am 63 years old. This is my moment, the moment when I am actually taking my life in my hands and trying to make a difference, and I know 365 days is a long stretch but I also know, having lived under these dark clouds most of my life, that 30 days just isn’t enough to affect a change. And finally, as I have long asked my students, “If not, why not? If not now, when?”

It’s time. Let us begin…

(For today I will start with one so easy it’s kind of cheating, but PUGS make me happy. Very, very happy. They save me everyday…)