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When Trauma Turned Me Into a Pessimist, This Quote Helped Me Heal

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I used to be a pessimist. If you spend two minutes chatting with me or scrolling through my social media profiles, you’d never guess this in a million years. I used to see nearly every circumstances in a negative light. Years ago when my boss discovered someone had placed a full cup of tea at the bottom of a wicker garbage can at the wellness center where I worked, my response was, “People are silly.” Sure that was a rude way of disposing a full cup of tea, but I had uttered that sentence so often that it rolled off my tongue without me considering what my boss might think.

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For much of my early 20s, I didn’t bother trying to go out to meet a guy. I assumed they were all pigs.

I thought money was the root of all evil, because as I worked hard to save for a down payment for a condo, I kept chasing the amount I’d need thanks to the rise in prices from the real estate bubble in the early 2000s. I had to live at home with my mom because I couldn’t afford even a small apartment.

Time with friends always involved gossiping and complaining. I thought “Chicken Soup For The Soul” was the silliest book ever written and I mocked people for reading it. Fairly tales seemed ridiculous and I thought anyone who had success must have cheated or stepped on someone in order to achieve their fortune.

This negative mentality resulted after I developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was 20 years old, and up to that point, life was pretty rosy and happy. My world was turned upside down after I witnessed a tree fall on my father during a fast-moving thunderstorm. He passed away a day and a half later. The anger that resulted became the undertone to my emotions, sometimes bursting out uncontrollably over the most mundane things, but mostly living deep below the surface where its influence was just enough for me to become the pessimist that I’d never been before.

Life sucks, then you die. Money is evil. People are “stupid.” This was what I thought constantly. I didn’t think I was being pessimistic. I thought I was being realistic.

It’s hard to believe that watching an episode of “Dawson’s Creek” started my journey back to being an optimist. I noticed in the background of a scene in Dawson’s bedroom, there was a quote on the wall:Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. It took me by surprise. I stared wide-eyed at the screen hoping I’d see it again to make sure I read it correctly and so I could jot it down word for word. It was the first time I’d ever seen a suggestion that you could do something about your own happiness. I went online and discovered it’s attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

I kept thinking about that quote. I started to wonder about the years I felt unhappy after my dad’s accident. I knew not everyone was “stupid,” but why was I saying so? I knew money could be used for good, but why did I think it was evil? Why wasn’t I celebrating my peer’s accomplishments instead of bashing them to others?

I didn’t want to be living with my mom. I didn’t want to constantly feel like everyday tasks were a burden. I didn’t want to continue feeling stuck in this pattern that wasn’t giving me much joy.

From that moment on, I worked on seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. This quote became my daily mantra, and I’d think about it all the time. I’d catch myself saying people are silly and immediately I’d feel embarrassed and silently promise to myself not to say it again. I put effort into dating, trusting that guys with good intentions existed. I began to feel gratitude that I could afford my bills, or that I even had bills for things that most people in the world lived without, even if some months were extremely tight. I stopped gossiping. I committed to no longer complaining. With effort, the optimistic mentality became an effortless lifestyle and is now my identity today.

What’s even better is my anger that was a part of my PTSD is no longer an undertone to my emotions. When things go wrong, I start thinking of solutions rather than dwelling on the problem. When loved ones pass on, I remember the many wonderful moments rather than wondering why they had to be taken too soon. Finding the silver lining is not always easy, but for me it’s worth the effort.

The way I see everything now has resulted in me having a life that brings me joy despite my PTSD symptoms that have lingered over the last 20 years. I own my own business and it affords me a lifestyle that makes me comfortable. I found a guy with good intentions and fell in love with him. We’re celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary this month. I have amazing friends whose aspirations I admire and whose support I appreciate. I laugh more. Most mornings I wake up early and feel excited about my day. Not every day is perfect, but I have way more good days than bad.

I never chose to have PTSD, but I am boundlessly grateful that I have a mentality that now serves me well.

Follow this journey on Peace With PTSD.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Originally published: May 14, 2019
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