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Happiness is a choice. Sunday December 11, 2016

'Happiness is a choice'. I read that recently. 'If you have a roof over your head and food on your table you are richer than you think'.

I have those things. I have my own car; my own home; a beautiful, loving, affectionate cat to keep me company; some close friends and family members I can depend upon; my health (mainly); a decent job; I'm financially independent. I could go on listing things I have that confirm I am RICH! Rich, beyond my wildest dreams!

I've also spent the last week in a blur of panic attacks, tears, anxiety, and depression.

Am I a spoilt, needy, diva-esque individual who's never happy with her lot? Are my expectations so high that no matter what I have or who I'm with, it's never enough? I can answer that without a moment's hesitation. No.

I'm the kind of person whose heart lifts as she feels the sun on her skin; who feels every breath of wind; admires the loop-de-loops of leaves as they're whisked from the trees. I marvel at the world around me; I appreciate so much. We are engulfed in a myriad of incredible creations that I genuinely do acknowledge every day.

So why aren't I happy? Why isn't unwavering contentment coursing through my veins? Why aren't these things enough?

'Happiness is a choice'. Why can't I choose to be happy? I choose what to wear, what to eat. I choose all kinds of things. Why can't I choose something that will significantly improve my quality of life?

It's not that simple, that's why. Not if the teeth of depression have sunk themselves into you, like dogs dragging you down as you try to escape a gloomy alleyway over a chain link fence. There are a couple on the other side too, so you can't even use one last burst of energy to throw yourself over the top and escape. Nope. You're going nowhere. The good things in your life? They're waaaay over there. You can see them, smell them, hear them, but they're out of reach.

I have two options. I can give in, let the dogs pull me to the ground and maul me to death. Or I can teeter as near to the top of that fence as I can get, hold on for dear life, and wait. Wait for the dogs to get bored and wander off to torment something else so I can haul myself over and collapse on the other side.

If only it took minutes like in the films. I could be up there for hours, days, weeks, maybe months? All I have faith in is time. Time will pass, whether I am here or not. I force myself to hang on, wait it out, refuse to give up. Eventually, the dogs will tire. The depression will loosen its grip. The chemicals in my brain will level out.

That's why I can't simply 'choose' happiness. If I could choose the right balance of chemicals in my brain, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I can't. All I can choose is ways to cope until the dogs leave me alone.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Leah Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 5:46am

What a well written blog.
I think one sentence that I fine more frustrating than Happiness is a choice, is when people say to me I chose not to be depressed.
Then they tell me that they had( insert life event or illness) and they did not get depressed as they chose not to be depressed.
I never knew what to say when people said this until one day I just said I did not choose depression,depression chose me. People usually have no idea what to say!!

Thanks again for an eloquent analysis.
Take care


Mary Wednesday Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 9:44am

Brilliant, Leah! I will remember that one!

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 3:56pm

Thank you Leah - yes, those and 'what have you got to be depressed about?!' are so unhelpful to hear!

Kathryn Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 7:42am

Thank you for sharing your blog, the situation for which many people can identify with. It is very easy for people to say, 'you can chose to be happy', but I understood that depression is to do with the wiring of the brain, and for people that have depression, the thoughts are almost automatic, because the brain is used to having the thoughts 'wired' to be that way. We have to train the brain to think differently when these depressive thoughts arise, and make the 'wiring' change to a different route. I believe this is totally possible, and there are many books and articles on this, and it is scientifically proven that it works.

Meditation, for example, can help you manage to accept these thoughts, and then move on from them. It has certainly helped me. It is not easy to change the way we think about things; I find it almost patronising when people say those words to you, 'you can chose to be happy', when they have no idea how very hard it is to change the wiring of the brain, which is effectively the solution. But the good news is, it is proven that it is possible and it works. Your life sounds pretty good from where I am sitting; perhaps we have a habit of sabotaging ourselves when things are going good for us? As though we don't deserve it. We are all only human, and sometimes we just need to have compassion for ourselves, and be kind to ourselves, and do our best.

It often helps when you are really depressed, to just go outside of it, and go and do something nice for someone else. It can help dispel the ruminating thoughts. Perhaps you are not getting enough time for 'You', and you need to make some.

Good luck and don't lose heart! It is often said, 'This too, will pass', and it will.

Best wishes, K

Alexandra Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 9:04am

I think I get what you mean with 'do something nice for someone else' long as it is appreciated! Surely if you feel it isn't appreciated (as you are 'depressed') you'll feel worse? Ruminating over that aspect may bring you back down?? Ax

Mary Wednesday Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 9:57am

Alexandra - to a certain point you are right and we can train our minds to hold onto positive thoughts. In fact, I blogged on this topic in Brain Muscle Memory last year. We can gain control of our thoughts; with, as you say, a lot of work over time. What I believe we cannot control is the swamp of black emotion the chemicals in our brain inflict. We cannot control the physical exhaustion and trembling weakness in our limbs, the insomnia, the incredible feelings of isolation and alienation depression brings. Depression is an illness. Even when our minds are as highly trained as an Olympic athlete, depression can still win. I think Sophie's description is spot on. Of course, there are many types of depression and everything you say is good medicine. It's just that those vicious black dogs are mutated wolves crossed with air breathing sharks for some of us. Hanging on until they go away is the only thing to do.

Mary Wednesday Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 10:38am

And of course I have now realised my reply was to Kathryn. Apologies for getting it wrong.

Michael Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 12:43pm

The great adventurer arctic explorer, mountain climber Ranulph Fiennes said his biggest challenge was Depression. Which puts it in perspective as I'm sure he must be pretty good at self motivation, discipline win fighting geography and the elements

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 3:59pm

Thank you Kathryn, you are absolutely right, I too believe that we can rewire our brains and form new, healthy habits - the hard part is just like it takes time to develop the negative habits and neural pathways, it also takes time to reverse the 'damage'. But facilities like moodscope help, i think, to get through the tough times while we work at it :)

DAVE Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 8:29am

Hi Sophie,
Like you I'm solvent, don't owe anybody anything, own properties without mortgages, investments, money in the bank, and so on.

I am married 50 years Three grown up Children, Eldest daughter 48 years, middle daughter 40 years, and a son 37 years.

My favourite expression, usually addressed to a congregation of 150 people is, "Blessings are these, I have a roof over my head, food in the larder, a bed to sleep on at night, legs to get me around, and a vehicle to keep me mobile.......I volunteer at the Multiple Sclerosis Centre, 3 days (twice a day) a week, for the last 8 years. These wheelchairs are terminally ill and are deteriorating before my eyes, and I can only make them smile and laugh.

I have both physical ailments as long as your arm, and mental issues, But arriving at 8am at there homes.....I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEMS AT ALL ! !

I spend 3 hours with folks like me with Bipolar, and during the rest of the week after Church I call, visit or Text, those who're I'll, struggling, or suffering and need some practical help/advice/counsel.

Happiness (Inner Happiness, and Inner Peace)...Seek me out.
I am not a 'Religious fanatic'.....So why do I go to Church...I go through learn how to become a better person, how I can improve myself, and no one else.....For how can we possibly help others who struggle with relationships, family, friends and strangers, to lift them 'up' upon high ground and a clearer view of how we can manage and find our way through this 'Minfield' of joys, adversities (of which we're experts in self inflicted adversity), and adversities not of our making.

Happiness is not a choice, but to attract it we need to 'EMIT' give out, give of our time and talents to those who don't have these luxuries, with which you and I are so blessed !
At peace with the world, no contention, never allowing myself to be OFFENDED, always deal with all issues as they surface and never procrastinate.
That is the 'ELIXIR' of this Mortal Sojourn.
God bless Sophie.

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 4:02pm

Thank you for your thoughtful reply, I used to volunteer once a week at a care home and found it brought so much satisfactilon and fulfillment to my life, I definitely gained more from the experience than the residents did. It feels so good to be able to help those not as fortunate as ourselves

Ruthless Mon, Dec 12th 2016 @ 3:31am

Dave God Bless-you are givng back and that gives me a tremendous feeling of joy. keep up the good work,you are truly amazing!!

Hopeful One Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 8:56am

Hi Sophie- thank you for your thought provoking blog. I agree with much of what Kathryn in her lovely reply has written. To me happiness is a state of mind and the choice lies in accepting that as our default state rather than any other. Easier said than done given that it is calculated that we need five positive thoughts to counteract the effects of one negative thought such is the bias in the system we have in our minds. Happiness is also a habit and like most habits the more often one does it the more likely it is to become permanent.

To be able to laugh is a habit and ,as fellow Moodscopers know ,I promote it when I can.
Like this....

Obama, Hillary and Trump are standing at the throne of heaven. God looks at them and says, "Before granting you a place at my side, I must ask you what you have learned, what you believe in."
God asks Obama first: “What do you believe?" He thinks long and hard, looks God in the eye, and says,

"I believe in hard work, and in staying true to family and friends. I believe in giving. I was lucky, but I always tried to do right by my countrymen".

God can’t help but see the essential goodness of Obama, and offers him a seat to his left.

Then God turns to Hillary and says, "What do you believe?" Hillary says, "I believe passion, discipline, courage and honor are the fundamentals of life. Like Obama I believe in hard work. I, too, have been lucky, but win or lose, I've always tried to be a true patriot and a loyal American."

God is greatly moved by Hillary's high-pitched eloquence, and he offers her a seat to his right.

Finally, God turns to Trump and says, "And you, Donald, what do you believe?" Trump replies, "I believe you're in my seat."

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 4:04pm

Thanks for the laughs, Hopeful One! Happy habits sound like very good habits to have :)

Sally Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 9:05am

Hi Sophie, a good blog, and you raise an interesting point. Why CAN'T we be happy with the monetary aspects of our life solved etc etc. Because when depression takes over, we are out of reach and the normal reassurances or would- be helpful comments are of no help. People who preach a solution just don't get it, do they?
I think the overfull jar image is one that works for me, knowing that, as you say, I am not a diva, but just have too much going on and the wiring in my brain is struggling to cope and the jar spills over. When this happens, toughing it out ( and I love your dogs image!) is our only ressource and be that with or without medication and psychoanalysis.
Good luck, Sophie, and thank you for writing.

Mary Wednesday Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 10:00am

Spot on, Sally

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 4:06pm

Exactly, Sally. I use the overflowing bucket m=analogy too, it's funny isnt it how things like that so perfectly describe how we feel. Thank you for taking time to reply :)

Angela Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 9:22am

Thank you for your blog Sophie, it really spoke to me. As for choosing to be happy, easier said than done. Life events plus an un co-operative mind leave me floundering and simply treading water, never getting very far at all.

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 4:08pm

Hi Angela, treading water is better than giving up, so I'd say keep on treading water until the currents take you along to somewhere where you can reach the ground and take back some control for yourself. It's hard to be in that floundering state and feel like you're getting anywhere isnt it. 'Struggle is good, it means you haven't given up' :)

Angela Mon, Dec 12th 2016 @ 10:00am

Thank you x

Michael Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 9:42am

Phew. When I saw the title on my email, my hackles had started to rise. Which I guess says everything about your blog and how a comment like that effects us. I think the word "depression" should be made obselete, it doesn't work anymore. The vast majority of people these days will say "I'm feeling depressed today". When they really mean they are upset or sad. If instead genuine suffers said I'm currently experiencing an exacerbation of "immune mediated encephalitis", we would not be subject to the "what you need to do" mentality.

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 4:10pm

I agree Michael, i suffer with anxiety as well as depression, and I admit i find it much easier to tell people 'im having a bad day, anxiety-wise' (for example) than saying i feel depressed, because it has become such an umbrella term and the significance of true depression really is lost on the majority of people

Katie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 9:56am

I so relate to this. I am in the middle of a funk. I can pretend to be happy and function NORMALLY for a 2 hike but then I crash badly. I watch my friends happy and I feel just jealous of them and wish being happy was so easy.

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 4:13pm

I've never heard anyone refer to it as a funk before! I have 'wobbles'! I've been fortunate and am grateful that i've not had a wobble for a good week or so, and I'm trying to ignore the fact but also appreciate it, but ALSO keep a secret eye on myself in case I start to show signs of a crash after this relative high. I hope your funk diminishes soon and you feel able to have some regular, normal days like we crave so badly

Jonathan Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 9:56am

Hi Sophie
This is the first time I have commented on a Moodscope post. It is difficult for people who have not experienced depression to 'get it'. Your description was as good as the many others out there a bit more active than how I would describe it but I think you capture the trapped feeling well.
I am lucky/blessed whatever word chimes in that I respond well to medication. However, this does not make me immune and I can still go down. Like some of the others have said try and catch it early, which is not easy, as the very process of monitoring our emotions can lead to unhelpful introspection and unhelpful thoughts.
Depression is an illness, the treatments available help some more than others and if you are Bipolar losing those fantastic highs can be difficult along with sometimes the feeling of losing part of yourself.
I hope you can spend less time atop your chain linked fence and try and not turn into the alley in the first place. My wife helps me monitor my mood although she struggles and is aware I can go down without her realising it always.
Thank you for your blog it really spoke to me and I hope 2017 is a better year

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 4:16pm

Hi Jonathan, 'the very process of monitoring our emotions can lead to unhelpful introspection and unhelpful thoughts.' that is exactly how I feel too and try to find a balance of taking care of myself and just letting things 'be' without over analysing.I've started taking the moodscope test every other day to see if having that longer period without a 'crutch' is doable and also to see if it does me good to give myself a bit of a break from monitoring my emotions so often. Thank you and here's to a good 2017 :)

Jonathan Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 10:03am

Apologies but I am posting again
To me if we compare depression to heart disease then it is like this
We take our medication the same way people with heart disease take their aspirin and statins
We practise meditation and mindfulness as they take aerobic exercise and watch their diet
However in both cases there is an inherent weakness or disposition so they can have a heart attack and we can have a depressive episode. Sadly both can be fatal but often we get a chance to pick ourselves up and carry on
Good luck

Mary Wednesday Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 10:36am

Perfect post, Sophie and beautifully written. If I tell you it is a post I feel I could have written myself I hope you will take that as a compliment. Please know you are not alone clinging to the razor sharp top of the chain link fence listening to the growling below and just - waiting for the black dogs to get bored. They do eventually, my darling. They do eventually slunk off to their lair and you will be free for at least a time. Big gentle hugs coming your way.

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 4:21pm

Thank you Mary, since a few days after I wrote the blog, I've had a week or so of feeling pretty good / content / able to cope. To know the dogs aren't snapping at my ankles is such a good feeling. My goal is to work on making this good spell longer than the last one :)

David Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 10:50am

Last week I had it all then the Somerset Mental Health Crises Team made a drama out of a crises became involved in a domestic dispute so they are aptly named
I was arrested by the Police placed in a cell for a night without medication and support for criminal damage in my own home by breaking an ornament
Released on bail and made home less by not being given access to my home due to Bail conditions but now happy as I realise my marriage of 42 years is over with the conclusion, my wife was contributing to the detriment of her health and mine.
I look forward to the New Year without the support of a Mental Health Team, who in my hour of need were not there for me but only for my wife and that are not fit for purpose.
What little faith and trust I had in the Police and the Criminal Justice System has been destroyed after spending a whole day in Court listening to justice being dispensed.

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 4:22pm

Sorry to hear you've had such a turbulent time David, but glad to hear you are looking forward to the future

Ruthless Mon, Dec 12th 2016 @ 3:38am

Hi David So sorry to hear your story. I have been at the mercy of the local mental health care trust who are rubbish sadly. policy here in Herts no is that you are well you are discharged from their care,even though Bipolar disorder goes on for life. When I go down into deep depression then they take me back in.Its revolving door syndrome.It serves no purpose yet it keeps people in desk jobs when they need to be out in the community helping those in despair Please take care of you Try to have a Merry Christmas if you can

Denise Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 11:55am

This today was so true I've never commented on here before but read daily I find it a great help in the daily grind u find myself in most times! But today really struck a chord as I too would like to find out why I can't t be happy like most others I know!

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 4:25pm

Isnt it the million dollar question, Denise?! I suppose there is no magic formula that will work for everyone, we're all different, people who dont suffer with mental illness are all different too and I'm sure they all do things and react to things differently. the hard part is finding what works for us so we can enjoy ourselves and be able to handle life and all its ups and downs...

Debbie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 1:27pm

Sophie what a beautiful explanation.I am new to this diagnosis but not new to the grip of depression. People try to help by offering suggestions like you can choose happiness or have positive thoughts to replace the negative ones. Oh if it was that easy but we all know that it isn't. Thank you for sharing and for your honesty. Your an amazing young woman with incredible talents and a very big heart.

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 4:26pm

Thank you Debbie, it's not easy but we'll get there! Slow and steady wins the race :)

Lexi Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 2:23pm

Yes. This. Beautifully written. Thanks Sophie!

Sophie Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 4:29pm

Thanks Lexi, its funny really, its been a long time since I found any solace in writing, but i had an urge to expel all these thoughts and questions and feelings, and it really did help. It helps to share it on somewhere like moodscope, with people who understand

Emma Sun, Dec 11th 2016 @ 5:05pm

This is very familiar Sophie. Thank you for expressing it so well. I have found that in the grip of anxiety and depression you loose touch with the things that will make you better again. Meditation has helped me open a gap where I can see more options and interrupt the spiral down. Taking a walk, accepting that my friend's problems are not my own, having a nap and doing a small nagging job are all things which move me away from downward and towards stability and hopefully back up. As you say, the knowledge that these feelings will pass really helps.

Sophie Mon, Dec 12th 2016 @ 2:24pm

You put it perfectly Emma, I'm the same in that I know there are some things I can do/avoid to try to help me though until the fog clears

Liz Mon, Dec 12th 2016 @ 7:44pm

Hi Sophie

I have just your blog...
You have a fence, I have a mountain edge, high up amongst the fog.
Can't really see very far, but I can sence stuff is out there.

I have a lot if the things you noted also, and yet I wonder why I am the way I am.

This evening I have decided on a few new moves to make in my giant game of life jenga.
One of those choices led me to moodscope, a positive move already I am feeling.

I wanted to say that your blog, felt very personal, very familiar.

It's made me feel that while I'm on that edge, and it's really foggy:
I'm not alone
I'm normal
The edge isn't the end

My life is that giant game of jenga... But I really would prefer it to be twister, lots of friends, loved ones who even if it's with a helping foot, are all there with me.

This, this evening is the start of putting away my jenga blocks.
My medication is a jenga block
My fear is a jenga block
My lack of confidence is a jenga block
My lack of ability to move forward, leave behind badness is a jenga block

My determination is a green spot
My humour is a red spot
My confidence is a blue spot
.... ..

I don't want a edge, I want a great green meadow to play twister in.

Reading your blog, ( and I'll read it again) ... I say to myself that I'm not alone

Thank you for that. The best support anyone can give I think.

Sophie Sun, Dec 18th 2016 @ 8:09pm

Hi Liz, sorry for the late reply to your comment, I've only just read it tonight. I'm so glad you found my post helpful and you are absolutely right, you are not alone at all; I hope you find comfort and reassurance and support in the tools Moodscope offers - I know I have. How wonderful to know when the fog clears and you can safely navigate away from the edge, you can retreat to the beautiful meadow and continue with the fun and contentment that your determination, humour and confidence will bring you. good luck x

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