“I hate my life!”
“I wish I was never born.”
“Why does this always happen to me?”
If you’ve ever had thoughts like these, you’re not alone! Life happens. Struggles come. Difficulties arise. But it doesn’t have to sap your joy. And it certainly doesn’t have to destroy your happiness.
After going through the worst bout of depression of my life, I am confident that my thoughts were a major cause of my own depression. It wasn’t simply because of the things that were happening “to” me or around me, but very much because of how I reacted to the things that caused me pain.
After being diagnosed with Caregivers Fatigue and Burnout, I was forced to take a leave of absence from work and really focus on my own mental health. 2020 was a rough year!
Add to that the fact that my nephew, who is now officially in my care, had been diagnosed with CLN3 Batten Disease.
A devastating bit of news.
This was after months of being in hospital with him, only to be discharged just before Covid reared it’s ugly head. Going from one quarantine-like situation to another.
When I was given the news, I broke down, I cried, and I shouted internally for God to help me. The pain I felt was so intense. I couldn’t imagine a world where I would have to watch him decline physically and neurologically. That’s when I was given my first piece of truth about perspective.
Once I calmed down, the most difficult part was ahead of me… letting my nephew know of the diagnosis. It was quite honestly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. I could feel myself fighting off tears and trying desperately not to choke on my own words. I had to be strong.
I had to at least show some sort of hope for his sake.
But hope did not come from my words. To my surprise, hope came from his. “I don’t care.” He said to me. “I know I’m here for a reason and I’ll keep living my life that way. I will be the first to survive this and they will use my stuff to heal other people too.”
Anyone receiving news like this could easily fall into depression. Give up. And quickly submit to the devastating effects of the disease. But his perspective was positive.
His perspective was hope.
He would not give Batten Disease a foothold into his life. We are currently witnessing the longest period without any seizures, or hallucinations or any other symptoms. It’s been a month and a half with no signs of any symptoms on the horizon. This is unheard of.
My brother-in-law recently had a dream about me. In the dream, I was looking at a painting and told him I was waiting for that. The painting was a representation of everything I wanted.
All the happiness, the joy, and blessings I was waiting for. But he could see something I couldn’t. He could tell that the painting was made up of hundreds of tiny little images that, together, made one large image. I was so focused on the big picture that I couldn’t see all of the little things in my life that brought me joy, happiness and blessing.
I was blind to the fact that I already had what was represented in the painting, but in many smaller pieces. Focus is everything. Perspective is everything.
I’ve come to realize that what you focus on is what you get. When you focus on the negative, you get really damn good at seeing all the negative crap in your life to the point where you become blind to all the good things in your life.
And so, it’s easy to become sadder, more bitter and angrier as your emotions reflect what you experience. If you focus on the negative, you experience the negative and get nothing but negative things. But more than that, you begin to cause negative things.
Your mood defines your experience!
If you’re in a bad mood everything you experience is filtered through how you feel. It doesn’t matter what someone else’s intentions are, you experience it through you own filter. A great example of this is a video made by Key and Peel about how we read text messages.
My negative outlook through burnout and depression caused me to create even more problems in my life. I snapped at my nephew, I was passive aggressive with my wife, and I was angry with my friends. Worst of all, I placed all the blame on them. I was reacting to what I felt was happening and not on what was actually happening.
My nephew’s symptoms seem to worsen under my negativity. My wife and I began to drift apart. And I thought my friends weren’t there for me.
I’ve made it a point recently to focus on the positives in my life.
I don’t focus on the burden of being a caregiver. I’m now focusing on the extra time I have with my nephew. Did I mention how long it’s been since the last symptom? Being more positive and joyful around him doesn’t trigger past traumas and doesn’t give power to disease.
I don’t take offense if my wife is upset about something, I focus on what I can do to help. Our relationship is growing stronger than ever. Our commutation is at a level it’s never been before. It feels more like when we first started dating.
I don’t focus on how my friends should’ve been there for me, I focus on the time we have together and try to be a blessing wherever I can. Just last night I was invited on a sushi date with a friend. I LOOOOOVE sushi. It was such a pleasant treat. I’m invited to hikes and pool parties like never before.
All-in-all, I’m more pleasant to be around and people WANT to be around me more. I’m focusing on the positive things and more positive things are happening.
That’s not to say that troubles don’t come. They always come. But I don’t linger on them like I used to. I try to see the silver lining, I deal with it, and I let it go. Then I focus on the next good thing.
I’m seeing beauty all around me like never before. The reflection of the sun on the leaves of a tree. I see the confidence someone exudes when they feel good about how they look. Even now, it’s raining, as I sit on my front porch writing this but I’m not focused on how gloomy it is, but the sound of nature’s orchestra as the pitter patter if rain drops hits the ground.
Most importantly, I no longer feel depressed. In fact, I feel happier than I have in a long long time. Bad things still happen, but I don’t experience them like I used to. Happiness is a matter of perspective, not a matter of circumstance.
So if you want to be happy, start focusing on all the positive things in your life. They’re there. They may be small, but they’re there. Focus on that, then the next good thing. And if something bad happens, don’t let your negative emotions dictate your reactions. Don’t focus of the negative aspect of it. Take a breath, deal with it, then let it go.
Once you change your focus and perspective, you will begin to automatically see even more positives. You will feel better, happier. As a happier person, you will produce even more positive things in your life. And subsequently, more positive things will happen.