Sunday, August 12, 2012

[THP] I can't do this...

I give up. This program, like so many other programs, is not for me. It falls short. Most of these programs fall short, and they do so for one big reason: they're written for audiences with first-world problems. On page 126, it says, "Just knowing this quirk of human nature---that our fear of the consequences is always worse than the consequences themselves---can help us move toward a more optimistic..." I had underlined that part, thinking that would be my salvation. I just had to have a more optimistic view of the future! I was over-estimating the consequences! Or so I believed until I started vomiting, just because it was o-dark-thirty. Then it all fell apart.

Well, to be honest, it had fallen apart a few days earlier when I got screwed over by my cell phone company: Here's a replacement phone for your old phone! You've been paying for insurance this whole time, so we've streamlined the process to screw you over. We've made more models so that the basic features of our phone now cost $100 more and require you to extend your contract for 2 years... We're sorry if you don't like that. But if you sign up now.... Yeah, I had a full-on, primal-scream nervous breakdown at 75mph on the highway. That's when things first started falling apart. All the work on happiness from the previous month seemed more than null and void... it seemed like a liability when someone tried to take advantage of me because of it... And then there's the jealousy. Some people just hate happy people. So they'll target anyone whose happy and try to steal their sunshine.

But what sealed it was not two days after this going on, my body decided to start vomiting at some god-awful time in the middle of the night. There's nothing else quite like the feeling of springing from a dead sleep, rapidly navigating to the toilet, and having your body void all its contents. I broke down again, but this time I was so pre-occupied with symptoms, I wasn't even able to cry. My fear of consequences didn't even take into consideration something like this could happen. My fear of the consequences underestimated the consequences themselves. I was minding my own business, fast asleep, when all of the sudden I had a mad dash for the smallest room in the house!

That's why I'm working so hard on this happiness stuff. I want to feel better! The truth is, however, it's not realistic to be happy during those times. There's good news in that. It means that my moments of unhappiness are generated by my body, and not by anything I'm doing or not doing. My unhappiness is not my fault. My feelings of being a small, miserable wretch are an accurate assessment of the situation. In the book there are a series of questions to go through, and it finally comes to: "if the adversity truly is bad, is it as bad as we first thought?" The book never takes into consideration that the answer might be, "yes," or "it was worse..." It only assumes that you must be overestimating your problems.

Because thousands of years of evolution have made us so remarkably good at adapting to even the most extreme life circumstances, adversity never hits us quite as hard---or for quite as long---as we might think.


My trauma results from the fact that I had no idea it could be that bad, or last this long. My fear is looking down my life path and knowing that I'm already delicate and fragile from these last ten years. I know how dangerous it is for me just to interact with other people (there's always that person who's being macho and spreading the flu to everyone...and a flu can land me in the hospital, easy). When I start vomiting, that's cause for panic. Because if I can't keep my pills down, I could---quite reasonably---slip into a coma and die. It's why I carry an emergency shot with me. My pills grant me life. If I can't take them, I am doomed. Not exaggerating---my life is literally on the line.

There is plenty of research out there that shows that our optimism can actually land us into hot water, especially when dealing with crisis situations! When something goes catastrophically wrong, afterwards people always say, "We never expected it to happen like that..." Of course we didn't! That's how it was able to go catastrophically wrong. If we knew it would go down like that, we would have prepared for the event, and mitigated the consequences. It would have been handled.

I can come up with three good things daily, I can meditate and do my exercise, I can perform my five conscious acts of kindness, but none of that helps when I'm in the throws of my symptoms. It all boils down to whether the symptoms are managed or not. It's really difficult for me to practice any principles, when I'm in the middle of managing a symptom flare, like vomiting. At that point, it's difficult to think past two words, let alone practice any principles. "Toilet!!!" "Oh, God..." "Nonononono!" "It hurts, it hurts" "Ah, cool, cool tile..." is about complicated as my thought pattern gets. This is where these feel-better programs always fall apart. They don't expect you to be going through this type of trauma on a regular basis.

I have a difficult time reaching "normal" let alone "happy." What I'd like to know is whether I'd be better off trying to squeeze the happiness out of every moment, because I know the misery is going to follow, or if I should play it cool and nonchalant, because I know the misery is going to follow. I can almost hear the author of the book saying, "Well, you know that the good times are going to follow, too. Why don't you just concentrate on that?" Because the good times aren't likely to kill me. I pay attention to the bad times, because the bad times require my attention. They also scare the crap out of me, and I'd like to avoid them, if possible.

Ultimately, thought, I don't like putting all this effort into these happiness programs, when all it takes is one bad night wipe out a month's worth of work. All it takes is one bad episode (well, two, to be fair) with customer service, and I'm having a nervous breakdown. And I'm having that nervous breakdown, after I've already put in a month of work! Where's all that emotional resilience I was supposed to be building? (At the bottom of the toilet, with my dinner.)

So while this program might work well for someone else, it does not work for me. A pity.


  1. I appreciate your honesty. I have had a couple of bad, bad weeks where my symptoms seem to be hitting me on multiple levels.
    I've been drawing from every tool I know to calm my mind and stay strong. Happiness has taken the back burner to "just breath".
    I wish there were more books like "Hang On! This Is Gonna Suck for a While!"
    Meanwhile, there's Make This Look Awesome. :-)

    1. Aw, thank you. Yeah, there aren't really a lot of publications in that category. I guess marketers don't think "Hang On! This Is Gonna Suck for a While!" will sell! lol

      "Happiness has taken the back burner to "just breath."" I understand this so well. And it's also okay for me to be sad and mourn when something scary-bad has happened to me. Sure, happiness is desirable, but sometimes feeling the sad is desirable, because it allows us to let go of what we've lost. Acknowledging a terrible situation for what it was also recognizes the efforts we've made to overcome those situations. We shouldn't diminish that.

  2. It's been a while since I visited - sorry to see you are struggling.

    I honestly think that a lot of the problem here comes from our collective definition of the word "happiness." I believe more in, and work towards, resilience. That is what will keep you going in those bad times - and they happen to spoonies fairly often - and allow you to enjoy the good, too.

    I saw a positive psychology person for a while, and honestly, it's great for people who can't see the good in their lives. But for those of us with deeper issues, I don't think it goes far enough in accepting the pain that is a huge part of life. Acceptance of the pain, or the vomiting, or the fact that we are not supposed to be happy all the time is a huge part of REAL happiness. The biggest breakthrough I've had (with a Gestalt therapist) is that I can feel physically like crap, and be emotionally accepting of that, and therefore feel a sense of peace (not in acute situations, mind, just the general lousy malaised fatigue feeling) around it. It's ok not to be ok. You know what I mean?

    But don't let one setback ruin all the work you did - I mean, the science behind Positive Psychology seems sound, and in my brief experience, it does help to an extent. The good memories are still there, and meditating is still good for your brain no matter what, and appreciation is always good. There was good that came out of your experiment. Now you can build on it.

    1. To be honest, all I had to do to stop struggling and be happier was to stop trying so damn hard. It worked!

      If I had given myself the time to rest and relax, I'd be able to see that I already was happy, and that if I was just /patient/ it would grow... but it couldn't be rushed. This happiness can't be the manic kind. The legs get kicked out too easily. But a slow, thick, solid happiness will withstand setbacks. That kind of happiness takes an entirely different path.

      If I stay away from the mania-type happiness, I should be good... I'll report back later on this experiment... ^_^