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The Frustration of Not Always Being Able to 'Choose Happiness'

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Earlier this week, I woke up with anxiety so bad that I had to take a sick day.

While I was doing my best to manage my day, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a positivity meme.

“I am in charge of how I feel and today I am choosing happiness.”

happiness quote

If you have a job (especially a Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 sort of job), every work day you wake up and decide to go to work. Maybe you don’t think about it this way. Maybe you just wake up and go to work because it’s the obvious thing to do. It’s part of a pattern in your life, it’s habit, it’s obvious that you have to go because you have to make money and live.

But you do decide to go to work because you could just as easily decide not to go to work. On Monday when I woke up, my anxiety was debilitating enough that I could not make the decision to go to work. For those of you who experience anxiety, you may know the feeling. Do you brush your teeth or not? Do you wear the black sweater or the white one? Do you put on pants or not?

Every little “regular day” thing you do suddenly becomes as overwhelming as making huge life decisions, and it becomes impossible to move through your day. Your anxiety physically makes everything harder.

So as I was sitting on my couch, watching “Community” (a show I find weirdly comforting on bad days like this) looking at this meme, I could feel myself getting frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong – I am all about being positive. I believe in mindfulness and living intentionally. Fortunately, I am an able-bodied individual in good physical health and can use yoga and other physical activity to help manage my mental health. I know my coping mechanisms and strategies. Most days, even if I am feeling anxiety, I know how to talk myself through it. I can still function.

But as much as I use these strategies, as unusual as it is for my days to get so bad that I don’t feel like I can go into work, they still come from time to time. I know life gets rocky, that applies to everyone. But while many can turn around and change their mindset, for people with depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges – it’s not so easy.

I’m not calling for an end to positivity memes, only for an understanding that for some of us, we can’t just flick a switch. For some, an average day can be transformed into an impossible one with no external factors. It’s not as easy as taking charge of the way I feel.

That day I managed to do a half days’ worth of work from home, do a small yoga practice, and eat. I was proud of this. Sure, there were a lot of moments where I started panicking about something trivial I had to get done and then forgot it two seconds later, but I managed and even accomplished some tasks despite the way I was feeling. I didn’t just go back to bed and sleep to escape the nerves. This was a definite win.

Some days, I can be positive. It’s good to be. But some days I can’t be positive. Some days, I just need to accept myself for where I am at in that moment and learn to live there.

Balance and progress.

How do you feel about positivity memes? Leave a comment below.

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Originally published: January 14, 2017
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