Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happiness Is Overrated

I feel so bad I got a worried mind...

Recently, Newsweek said "Happiness...Enough Already!" and it gave me pause. I remembered when I started going to a psychiatrist and a therapist (two separate people) who both asked me how often I cried. Once a week, was my answer, though sometimes it was more than that. They both looked at me, chagrined and replied with something along the lines of, "Well, let's see if we can't reduce that number." In their defense, I was crying at the time they asked me that, and, if Ricky taught us anything, it's that excessive crying is obnoxious.

But, I wondered, how healthy is it to never cry? I didn't want to cry at work. I hated crying because I was angry or frustrated, especially when crying is often seen as a sign of weakness. I wanted to be strong and not let the bastards get me down. So I went along with their advice. I took the medicine, I applied the coping tools and I went a good year without shedding so much as a tear.

But it always bothered me that I had removed all crying from my life. Surely, it was appropriate to cry at, say, a funeral or a sentimental movie. I missed expressing myself that way. But I also was glad to be able to function at a soul-killing job and not flinch when cruelty was flung at my head.

Savin' nickels, savin' dimes...

Through the help of my family and my therapist, I was able to extract myself from that job and settle in a place with a network of support and at a job where people were like-minded and respectful. As a result of this move, I also had to go four months without healthcare. As my perscriptions ran out, I began to ween myself off the anti-depressants and only take the "nerve pills" when absolutely necessary, approximately once a month.

It went OK, it seemed. By steering clear of anxiety mine fields, I was able to keep the tears and stress out of my life. But in the past month or so, tears have made their re-entrance into my life. Once, they came from frustration. Once, I got a little misty watching a movie. But I over came it. I've had healthcare for the last month and I've been meaning to go back to the shrink and resume what I figured would be a lifetime perscription.

Working till the sun don't shine...

But I'm so busy! How can I book any more appointments? I could if I really want to. And really, I'm not depressed. I've got a healthy family, I've got a good job, I work with great people, my friends are buoys, and I'm enjoying making progress while staying put. So what if I cry every now and then?

I spent some time with my cousin Rachel yesterday. She and I are 9 months apart and have always considered ourselves sisters. We drove to Columbus and back to see her brother Aaron's new baby boy. Round trip, we spent about 5 hours together in the car and it's really the first time since moving back home that I've spent that much time with her. We shared stories and frustrations. We learned that we are both pretty much in the same boat. I felt so good reweaving my family ties with her.

At one point, on the way home, she said to me, "It sounds like your depression is situational. You don't need to go back on medication." She's right of course, but it helps very much to have my own instincts confirmed.

Go to see my baby again
And to be with some of my friends
Maybe I'd be happy then on blue bayou...

Techinically, according to the Newsweek article, "The highest levels of happiness go along with the most stable, longest and most contented relationships." If I wasn't a hundred percent sure of this before, I am now. Reconnecting with my family, building new friendships, making an effort to maintain the old ones, and making my marriage work, makes being happy on Blue Bayou possible.

So, when the impulse to cry threatens to overcome me, I will pause my hand from reaching for the medicine cabinet and consider the circumstances. Am I frustrated or angry? Am I just sad? Did I put on the waterproof mascara? Do I have time to recover and not doom my eyes to red swolleness? Can I employ some anti-crying tactics or should I just let the tears roll? Do I turn to my inner Spock and remain calm? Or do I let the Kirk in me fly? Who knows. But either way, good or bad, sad or happy, my emotions are what they are and I'm perfectly willing to let my heart and head work together from now on.


  1. Flan, I cry a lot, I mean a lot! I always catch a lot of flack because of it, by not being real macho or too sensitive, but I have come to grips with being the type of guy who always has emotions bubbling near the surface.

    And you know what, as soon as I accepted myself for who I am, and stopped worrying about what the norm was, I felt a whole lot better about everything.

    You are a great person, kind and wonderful parent, intelligent writer...

    So what if you have some tears?

  2. I've gone off the idea of happiness; it's overrated. I think the last time I cried was back in 1996...

  3. Thanks, SD. I'd like to say, right back atcha! xoxox

    HL: I think happiness all the time is overrated. But I'd look into finding some happiness if I were you.

  4. Sounds like your making solid progress and gaining a better understanding of yourself. Cheers!

  5. I think it's perfectly normal to cry at least once a week. I always cry when I'm angry and frustrated. I think people who perceive crying as weak are just plain stupid. If I didn't cry, I would hurt people. My tears save lives.

  6. Also, Blue Bayou is an excellent song. I haven't heard it in a while. Thanks!

  7. I shut down emotionally a long time ago. It took the love of a great woman to get me to open up, and expand my emotional lexicon. Even so, I'm still pretty guarded in my emotional displays.

  8. I'm not sure I trust anyone who doesn't ever cry, I mean, how can you not sometimes? Life is such a big ball of crazy! Okay, maybe I shouldn't cry at those commercials but other times, I will.

  9. I have a weird crying imbalance. I never really cry about anything that everyday life dishes out. (Obviously, very serious things will get me - the last time I cried was when my dad had heart surgery.) I think my lack of emotion in real life has caused me to be a giant baby when it comes to entertainment. Movies, certain music, TV shows, even some commercials can really push my weepy buttons.

  10. I'm not on meds and I feel like I'm numb. I feel like I should be crying at my situation, but I'm not. I feel like I've just buried it so deeply.

    Then some little stupid thing happens and I fly off the handle with my kids.

    So, I'm counting the days until I have insurance and can get therapy and feel normal. Maybe just therapy will help... maybe I'll need some "mood stabalizers" so my kids don't hate me.

    Either way, I hope I can write your same post a year from now.

  11. Very good post Flannery. There are so many moments when crying is ok...but we don't allow ourselves that opportunity.

    Pulling back from the situation is a very good that more people should try, since we're not supposed to stop learning from things unless we're dead.

    This proves that you are not in fact dead right now.

  12. Thanks, Phil...I can't stop finding more out about me. And, therefore, neither can you.

    Elizabeth: Crying is a public service...unless, you're Ricky.

    Pezda: I'm still guarded to, but some of it's self protection. If I let everything get to my heart, I'd drown in tears.

    Dale: I am now convinced we were separated at birth.

    Beckeye: It's got to come out somehow...

    Amy: I hope you find your groove soon. I think meds can help. I find antidepressants can give me much needed perspective.

    Jeff: That's such a comfort.

  13. Crying is a way of releasing bad emotions...don't you always feel better after you cry really hard about something?

    Life sucks, depression is normal. But because everybody wants to be happy all of the time, we've got an entire nation drugged up on meds and unable to deal with their problems. I think your cousin is right, it seems like depression situationally. I can say I don't know you to be depressed when things are going well. The only time you medicate situational depression is when it starts to affect your normal body and mind functioning. Being sad and crying is one thing, being unable to get your brain off the floor and its changing your life is something different. That's not you, babe.
    I think you're doing the right thing.