The Secret to Happiness
The Secret to Happiness
So after living an agonizing, unhappy life for years I finally reached a turning point. I decided to choose happiness. I firmly believe that BPD is rooted in low self-esteem. People who do not have BPD take their self-esteem for granted. Those of us who have been diagnosed with BPD do not understand what it means to have self-esteem, let alone a healthy sense of self-esteem. For me, my journey on the path to discover the secret to happiness began with me deciding to get braces as an adult. My teeth had always looked bad because of a large space between my two front teeth. I finally had enough and decided to correct the problem once and for all. That is when I decided that I was going to recreate myself. Since getting married in 1979 I had gained more than 100 lbs. First, I set out to try to lose 50 lbs. I adopted a small dog, a shih-tzu and I acquired an iPod touch and he and I began to walk. We first started with walking just around the block because that was literally all I could manage. After about a month, he stopped doing his business with such a short walk so I extended it by one block and then another and then another. Before I knew it we were walking between 6 to 8 miles per day. And the weight started to come off. I started to eat a healthy diet and track my food using a site called myfitnesspal.com because it helped me keep track of my caloric intake but also because it made me accountable to something other than myself. I downloaded and began to use a step tracker called runtastic.com because I could link it to and sync it with my myfitnesspal account. As I did these things daily my self-esteem was empowered and it grew every day. I had very low expectations of how my weight loss would proceed and I lost the weight at a rate of about 1 pound per week but it was steady progress and I gained validation from that and it made me happy. My philosophy was: baby steps. I knew I wanted to lose my weight slowly because from my reading I learned that was the best way to ensure it would stay off. I needed to change my eating lifestyle. I did not expect to grow my self-esteem overnight and it didn’t . The changes were incremental but steady.
I also joined a meetup group because I had become fairly socially isolated after my husband’s death. I started going out with them and gradually made some new acquaintances and some new friends.
Next I began to practice gratitude. This was spurred on when a friend to whom I regularly complained via email wrote back to me once saying, “I don’t understand you. You are always miserable and unhappy yet you have four beautiful children who love you, enough money to live without having to work and can go anywhere you want to or do anything you want to. Why is that?” My initial reaction? “Who the hell do you think you are?” But that night I went to bed and as I lay there I began to think back on the last time I had overdosed. I gave myself a stroke and ended up being hospitalized for six months during which I had to learn to speak again, tie my shoes, get dressed and walk. When I was discharged I was a non-smoker despite having enjoyed my habit for more than thirty years. I went home and the next day had to decide if I was going to walk over to the store and buy a pack of cigarettes or not. I decided that I was going to be a non-smoker for keeps. Over the course of the next three years I had to battle my cravings on a daily basis and choose each day not to buy a pack of cigarettes. Eventually the cravings went away and I remain a non-smoker to this day. So, as I lay there I thought, “You know, in the same way you chose to remain a non-smoker, you can also choose to practice happiness.” And I did. Each day for the next two years I posted a daily gratitude affirmation on my Facebook page. Simple things like: today I am grateful for clean water, today I am grateful for my little dog, today I am grateful to be able to walk without assistance. And gradually, over time, the way I saw the world and the way I interacted with it began to change.
I can teach you how to do this for yourself so that you can discover your own secret to happiness and joy. Does this mean that I am always happy and live life like Shirley Temple dancing her way across the deck of the Good Ship Lollipop? No, not at all. I still have my bad days but I have learned to be able to keep them in perspective and not throw in the towel completely because life is giving me a temporary hard time.