Wednesday, January 26, 2011


This was such a funny coincidence. Today I was watching Oprah's show on Happiness. At the same time I was baking pre-shaped, refrigerator dough cookies. Look at the cookie that came out of the package:

Glad I took this picture, because I didn't recognize it once it had baked. It's probably already making my tummy happy.

Oprah and her people discussed the various factors that can help increase happiness. I "fit" several of their criteria. I am very happily married. I have a nice, warm home and enough food (too much, in fact.. just look at my waistline - on 2nd thought, don't look), and we can pay our bills, with only a normal amount of pain and angst. We have two grown children who are fabulous adults, and both have wonderful partners whom we love. I had a great career, and retired with a pension (a real plus in these days of do-it-yourself retirement plans). Hubby and I take occasional vacations. I'm happily, actively involved at church. I do substitute work that I love, and I do volunteer work that I love.

So, by all those accounts, I'm quite happy.

However, I have been dealing with depression for pretty much all my life. I'm sure some people would be surprised to hear this. I do enjoy life! But sometimes I've had to fake.

I always used to wonder why I felt a little "under-happy." I used to picture a line that indicated most people's happiness level. Mine was slightly under that line. I spent a lot of time and energy faking my happiness. I never could understand what was wrong. It wasn't something I could just snap out of. Sometimes I'd have such a rush of anger or frustration. Even I wondered where this completely out-of-proportion response came from. What a helpless feeling!

About ten years ago I started getting worse. I knew I was in trouble when I had no energy for the things I love. I could barely force a smile onto my face. I couldn't get out of the chair. And one day I began to fantasize about "being lucky and getting cancer and dying." All of that scared me, and I went to see a doctor. I have been on anti-depressants ever since. I'm now convinced that I have some kind of genetic depression, because I know I experienced a lot of it when I was younger and didn't understand what I was feeling.

The meds have helped a great deal. I am more cheerful, have energy, and feel 99% normal. It's not a cure. I feel like the meds help me to barely hold on. They help a lot, but they don't cure. Without them, I know I would sink back into the black chasm of depression. I'm happy to have something to help me feel happy!

I guess this means I have a mental illness. I'm able to control it and keep my life happy. This is another way I'm lucky. The meds work for me. They don't always work for everyone. But definitely, if you or someone you know seems depressed, I encourage you to seek help. It is worth finding some sympathetic helpers who will understand what you are going through and will offer some help.

If all goes well, you, too, can get back to feeling normal and enjoy eating a happy cookie!


Unknown said...

I believe there are more people that suffer from depression than we can ever comprehend...

quiltmom anna said...

Thank you for being willing to share your own personal experience and challenges of being healthy and happy.
There are many people out here that are frightened and deny their feelings. It is a brave person who recognizes that they need help and seeks it. It is also positive that you have found a medication that helps you deal with your depression. May they long continue to do so.
Thanks for your uplifting courageous post.

Anonymous said...

Carol: Thanks for this post. So many people don't admit depression because they fear how the world will view them. It has never changed my impression of anyone. I am so glad that you've found something that helps you. Folks can't get to where you are if they never get over the stigma barrier. You're very brave and I hope it helps even one person to ask for help.

Love the cookie photo, too! I'm glad you spotted the photo op!

Megs said...

LOVE the cookie photo! LOL

Thanks for writing this post, Carol - thanks for your honesty and openness. Your bravery gives someone else the inspiration to be brave!

Linda at Roscoe's Ma said...

Great post, Carol. It is very hard to admit you have depression based on some people's reactions. It is not a personality flaw! It's an illness and treatable for many of us. (Like strep throat and penicillin, right?!?!) And yes, I think genetics can contribute as it runs in families sometimes. You definitely are not alone...

Mama Drama Times Two said...

Your post today was very much appreciated. It is really hard to talk about depression publicly. I was nervous when I recently wrote a post about my own depression but now am happy and releived that I did. By the way - I think a cookie with a happy face probably has far less calories than just a plain old cookie!

BrendaLou said...

Carol, you are my inspiration! You are one courageous (and sometimes even a bit outrageous!) woman and I'm so very proud to call you my friend.

woolywoman said...

I had a doctor tell me that that was the easy way to diagnose depression- that the person had everything they needed, but were still sad.

I think of antidepressants as heart medicine. I might be able to live without them, but in a much diminished state. Interestingly, people with untreated depression have a shorter life span than those without,(even taking suicide into account). It's actually bad for you to be sad!