I believe in seeking happiness. And I believe the path to happiness is not one that can be judged by others.
For me, happiness was an elusive concept for many years. A troubled adolescence, a rocky relationship with my father, and a tendency to lock myself away in my own head started me down a path to clinical depression.
By my mid-twenties, the slightest friction would send me into tailspin. What seemed like logical thoughtfulness was more like an endless interior monologue, and I had no control over its volume. I often comtemplated what would happen if I were dead. While I never attempted suicide, I constantly fantasized about death, as if it were the only place to find relief. I spent sleepless nights weeping over next to nothing, yet at the time my problems seemed monumental. I felt trapped, a prisoner in my own mind.
I finally sought reprieve by seeing a psychologist. This was no small task. Call it Asian stubborness, but asking for help, especially mental help, had always been considered a sign of weakness. There was a certain shame that accompanied each of my weekly visits. But there was a certain hope attached as well.
After a few months of talk therapy, my psychologist recommended antidepressants. She gave me the name of a psychiatrist and told me to give her a call.
I had my reservations. I was afraid antidepressants would amount to medicinal lobotomy. Even though my feelings were unbearable, at least I felt them deeply. I didn’t want to walk through life stony-eyed and numb. But I also didn’t want to walk through life miserable, as I was.
Now, a year later, before I brush my teeth at night, I take 10 mg of Lexapro. I sleep soundly. I wake up and feel stable. Normal.
I’m not always happy, but I’m glad for that. I still feel like me, but an earlier version of me. A better one.
I hope I don’t sound like a pharmaceutical ad. Happiness can’t be found in a pill, and I am well aware of that. But for me, the pill I take each night no longer feels like defeat. Instead, I actually feel strong. I finally sought the treatment I so desperately needed to live the life I wanted to lead.
I sometimes wonder what Tom Cruise would say to me in light of his feelings about antidepressants. But his sense of stability and happiness is equally foreign to me as mine must be to him. And I’ve come to realize that happiness is found in a different way for everyone.
I believe it is up to each of us to seek it out.
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