When Living With Depression and Anxiety, Sometimes It's OK to Steal Joy
I have had a unique opportunity to enjoy three different events I would not have previously been able. These events have been documented on my personal blog, but I will summarize and detail why I would not attend them in the first place.
1. The Zoo Run: I am not a morning person. I had to wake up myself, and the family at 6:30 a.m. to attend. I also do not like to run, or in this case walk, any distance. Combine that with my anxiety in crowds and this was not where I wanted to be.
2. The theme park: I normally enjoy theme parks when it’s not a busy day, but in this case it was “bring a friend free” day. The park was packed with people. Lines to get food were an hour and a half long. Crowds we know are an issue so that was not fun. This was immediately following the zoo run so I had already walked 5k, so what’s another 10 for my legs?
3. Wrestlemania. OK, I have not watched wrestling since I was a kid in the 90s. This was one that was way outside my comfort zone. A friend called me last minute and asked me to go. I am not a last minute guy by any means. Crowds, loud noises and sweaty men grappling each other are not my cup of tea. I had no vested interest in going.
Why did I do all these events?
More specifically, the joy of others.
I made a mental decision to go to all these events not for me, but for those around me. My family loves going to the zoo and we had friends who went with us. My daughters love going to the theme park as my youngest was able to ride more rides because she was taller this trip. My friend wanted someone to share the Wrestlemania experience. These were all acts that brought joy to others.
And in doing so reciprocated joy to me.
I found that joy can directly combat the effects of depression and anxiety. I stepped out of my comfort zone and shared in the experiences. I grasped the joy that came off my family and friends and held it close. I used their joy to inject some back to me. I stole their joy to increase my own happiness. In doing so I was able to fight of the depression and anxiety that vexes me so often.
These are things, as I have said, I would not do under normal circumstances. However, I felt compelled to do them. I was presented with the option of doing or not doing these activities. Instead of my usual “thank you, but no” response, I decided to take a risk.
And it paid off.
During the Zoo Run, I was able to get my exercise, increasing blood flow and help fight off depression. I got to laugh at the silly costumes with those around me. I got to see my daughters running and chasing their friend while their mother and I gasped for air running to keep up with them. I got to see the wonderment that came across their faces when we got to the zoo portion and the joy fill their bodies when they got to see lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). I felt fantastic at the joy around me.
At the theme park, I was able to again see the excitement on the faces of the children (both mine and their friends) as we got to go on roller coasters and merry-go-rounds and log flumes. The ear piercing screams were a bit much but were almost magical in and of themselves. They laughed at the excitement and cried out in terror. The second to last ride of the day was my eldest daughter’s “favorite ride ever, Daddy!” More joy to seep myself with.
At Wrestlemania I did not have my family, only a good friend. Instead of just one person, I was swept up in the 100,000 people cheering, booing, laughing at the antics in the ring. Seeing everyone hiss and boo as the wrestler with a bad reputation comes strolling into the ring with a unique unification that amazed me. I had one little boy break down crying in front of me as his favorite fighter lost while his sister put her arm around him to comfort him. It didn’t last though, because by the next match the action was back again and the crowd was cheering. While I knew almost nothing about who was who or what was going on, the excitement was infectious. The joy of people enjoying themselves was thick in the air. I drank it in, stealing a part of it for myself.
As a known introvert, it was difficult to say yes to these events. I am more at home with a good book and a nice cup of tea or coffee. I made the decision to break out of my comfort in order to find the joy I was lacking in myself.
So I ask, dear reader, are you lacking in joy? My pastor defined Joy as something that wells up inside us and is consistent. Happiness can come from joy, but it will fade and leave emptiness. Words I took to heart when setting this up. I was seeking joy. And I found it.
In places and activities I would never have gone too.
When was the last time you took that plunge? When was the last time you said yes to something you could do but you really just didn’t feel like it? You can sit it out.
You can go and look for the joy in places you didn’t expect. Try and seek it out. Judge not o, least ye be judged. Someone is having fun. Share in that fun. Someone is experiencing joy. Steal some of that joy for yourself. Take up the fight with your depression. Stand up to your anxiety.
You may be surprised at what you find with an open mind and a willing spirit.
Oh, and bring your plushie or something that comforts you. There were several times I needed a moment to fight the anxiety, but the willingness and the strength I got using my coping mechanism helped me through it.
#hugapony my friends. Go find joy.
Follow this journey on My Stuffed Little Therapy.
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