From the Greek ‘an-‘ meaning against or not, and ‘-hedone’, meaning pleasure. Therefore, a lack of pleasure. One of the hallmarks of depression. Not to mention something I’ve been suffering from to one degree or another for months (years?) now. Really, I can’t tell how long anymore. When was the last time I was truly happy and enjoying my life? I don’t know.
I define happiness as an overall contentment that makes a person pleased when they wake up in the morning and eager to get out of bed to meet the day’s challenges, whatever they may be. Those challenges are not met with anxiety but with fervor and gusto. Episodes of unhappiness or down feelings are fleeting and do not last long, unless something big like a death has occurred. A happy person has things that they work on that make them feel fulfilled, whether it’s their job or their home or doing the New York Times crossword puzzle for the day. It doesn’t matter what it is.
I’m missing these things, and I can’t tell anymore if it’s because of my brain chemistry or because the inherent elements of my life are no longer fulfilling or pleasing. Worse, it’s entirely possible that my brain chemistry causes me to think that the inherent elements of my life are no longer fulfilling or pleasing. Like a horrible trick is being played on me from inside my head.
Then the shoulds come marching in, like Pink Floyd’s hammers in The Wall. I understand that double-album so intimately now, from end to end. I get it in a way I really wish I didn’t. But there they are, those hammer-like shoulds. You should be happy because you have a beautiful family. You should be happy because you live in a great city. You should be happy because you have great friends. You should be happy because you have so much freedom. You should be happy because your husband takes such good care of you and makes sure you have what you need. You should be happy for a billion reasons that you must be ignoring or else you’d be happy, and therefore you should feel bad because you are not happy.
The shoulds spiral around in an ever-tightening circle that inevitably leads back to me, laying the blame of everything in my life that should make me happy but doesn’t at my weary mental feet. Guilt, shame, and blame: the staunch guardians left over from a childhood of watching the hammers beat down the other people surrounding me.
I would give anything to want to get up in the morning and to greet the day with enthusiasm about what it may bring, rather than weariness or fear.
I would give anything to go through my day with ease and contentment, addressing each task in a relaxed way that did not tense my body and mind.
I would give anything to deal with my family with a serenity that did not treat every problem as though it may be earth-shattering.
I would give anything to lay my head upon my pillow each night feeling good about the day, knowing that there was another one on the other side of my dreams.
I would give anything to be freed of this demon that has followed me for so many years and has only relented when I’ve been able to travel, have been in school, or have been in a position to have goals, dreams, and hopes bigger than myself. Perhaps I have these things and I just can’t see them for whatever reason, and need to clean those shit-colored glasses I seem to find myself wearing so often. Is this one of those places where it’s difficult to tell where I stop and where my illness begins? If so, I truly hope the answer is found soon, as my tolerance for the medication dance is already wearing thin. “Nope, that didn’t work, let’s try another one!” This can go on for years for some people. I’m not sure if I have the stamina for that.
In the meantime, I wait and tell the appropriate people when I’m feeling particular ways and try not to do too much damage along the way, to myself or anyone else. And hope that I am bigger, stronger, and more patient than anhedonia.