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What My Therapist Called Me, and Why It Made Me Cry

“You’re more than stable. You’re happy.”

I could see her eyes starting to water as she said that and, the second she said that word, I knew my own were doing the same. I felt like I was floating on air. Dizzy. Unable to comprehend what had just happened but, simultaneously, overwhelmed with the emotions of it.

I have not allowed myself to be called “happy” in a very, very long time. Intense depression that had held me underwater since I was 12 years old kept me from believing I could ever be truly happy and, over the years, it just became a meaningless word. Empty to my ears. What did it mean to be happy, when I had become comfortable with my depression and anxiety? Could I really be happy, when each week of good spirits was followed by two or more weeks of low ones? How could I become happy, when nobody knew how much I was struggling and I was convinced nobody would care?

Not long after I finally told my mother last year about how much, and how long, I had been depressed, she asked me how I felt about the idea of “being happy.” The only way I could describe my dissociation with the idea was to describe the feeling like being born on a raft in the middle of the ocean, with the ocean being my depression and anxiety and dry land being happiness. I told her that I felt like, while I may have heard of land, or even caught a glimpse of it when my lows aren’t so low, I couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to actually touch it. I even admitted I had become so used to being surrounded by my depression that I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to risk the unknown of happiness.

But a year later, here I was, sitting across from my therapist who had been working with me every week since I was a high school sophomore. Who had insisted I send check-in emails to her and talk with my mother every day I was studying in England for university, after I told her I was petrified about going back but didn’t want to take a year off. Who contacted a psychiatrist for me, because my anxiety kept me from doing so myself, opening the door for me to take medication for my mental illnesses for the first time (I had been resistant to the idea for years after hearing horror stories, but decided to take the chance after telling my mother made me realize exactly how bad things had gotten for me).

I sat across from her and saw how proud of me she was. How happy she was to hear that I was no longer spending days hiding in my room and missing classes. How relieved she was to hear that I was finally making friends and learning to trust them, after years of hearing me doubt every second I spent among others. How grateful she was that I wasn’t having as many panic attacks or nightmares as before.

To be honest, I was proud of me too.

Of course, I know I’m not “cured” or anything. I can’t get rid of the lingering thoughts that this bout of contentment will end soon, to be balanced by an equally major bout of depression. I still have bouts of depressive lows where I feel hopeless and alone, when I doubt all my relationships. It took two attempts to get the right dose of medication, and I know I may need to increase it again in the future as my body gets used to my current dose. But I can breathe easier. I can smile and go about my day without feeling like my life is stuck on a raft in the middle of an ocean. It took a lot of work and frustration and a lot of forcing myself out of my comfort zone, but I can finally accept that, for now, I am happy.

I am happy.

It isn’t impossible.

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Photo by Tess Nebula on Unsplash