Learning To Smile Out Of Happiness

It’s time to stop worrying about who you were. Or what you’re not. Or who you might be in the future. Just look inside your heart. Right here. Right now. This is who you are. And it’s OK to think you’re amazing.

“Are you happy?” She asked me. Then she played down my overly cheerful, long winded reply. “All you’ve done is tried to justify to me, to yourself, that it’s ok to be in the place you’re in but are you really happy with that?” We both knew the answer. I just didn’t want to admit it, to hear myself say it.
I wanted to hide my deep sadness from everyone, deny it to myself and take shelter in it from the terrifying reality of needing to change. “No.” I answered quietly as tears started to roll down my cheeks. Even as my therapist comforted me and explained that it’s ok not to be happy and not quite ready to change anything, the change had already started with the first of my tears. It was the end of a long and difficult journey.

Asking For Help

I was never one to readily ask for help. I’d been a soldier for a decade and, after a stuttering start in Civvie Street, I started to climb the professional ladder as a Manager in a Telecommunications Company. Pressure was nothing, I could handle it. I was successful because I could handle it. Then it all started to break down.

My happiness was the first thing to suffer. I’d changed role within my company and moved away from a support role I’d been covering for 20 years. Now I had to be a Businessman and a Salesman. I’d never related to the people who succeeded in those roles and I just didn’t fit in. Soon my confidence faltered, then shattered. Anxiety became frequent, high blood pressure became a problem and then finally I lost the ability to sleep. I’d sit up through the night as scared of falling asleep as I was of waking up. Exhausted, depressed and close to a complete nervous breakdown, I stopped working, called in sick and went to the Doctor for help. Those actions may have literally saved my life.

Learning What Was Wrong

Finally away from the rigours and demands of the corporate world, I had time to reflect on what had been going wrong. Having admitted to another human being that I had a problem, I had the chance to talk about how I was feeling. I had my brother and my best pal in the whole world beside me doing everything they could to help. But there were things I couldn’t tell them because I didn’t want to hurt them or I didn’t want them to see that side of me. Doctors and phycologists on the other hand, I could tell them anything. Through reflection and talking I started to learn what was wrong.

In his book, The Fear Bubble, ex Special Forces Soldier Ant Middleton uses the analogy that we can get stuck in a corridor of fear, scared to open any of the doors of opportunity that line it’s sides. I read his book during this time of personal reflection and, in that corridor analogy, made a startling discovery. It wasn’t fear preventing me kicking in the doors that was holding me back. It was what I was finding behind them when I kicked them in, the same thing behind every door, that was steadily breaking my heart.

It was me! Behind every door I’d see a fearful, tearful me looking back and it was never enough. I’d shake my head and slam the door and carry on my search. I was always looking for something more. Seeing my life framed up in that analogy helped me to realize that there is nothing more. But that’s more than enough. To move on, I had to break through that door and give the ‘me’ behind it a hug. I had to value that person, accept them for who they are and get to know them a bit better.

It Wasn’t All My Fault

Through Counselling I was able to see how much guilt and self hate I was carrying and had been doing for decades. To admit everything about me to another person and hear them affirm that my faults and my fears were actually common and completely understandable and acceptable was huge.

Finally we got to that moment of truth where, already more accepting of myself, I was able to admit that I wasn’t happy with my life as it is. That admission set me free to explore what a happy life would be like.

You’re reading this because I’ve started a new life as a writer. There’s still a lot about my life that could do with changing but that I’m not yet ready to change. But now I’m fine with that. I’ll change when I’m ready. There’s a new journey for me now. To move forward from a time where I wear a smile to hide my feelings to a time where a smile will be an unstoppable reflection of my feelings. I hope you can make that journey with me as I write it out.

The thing is we are all vulnerable, anxious or even depressed at times. There’s nothing wrong with us, it’s just our nature. Having the courage to admit to those vulnerabilities and explore them in a safe atmosphere of trust, discussion and reflection is the start of finding a way out of what can feel like a trap. As much as we are vulnerable we are also amazing. Capable of the breath-taking miracles of love and transformation.

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