Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happiness is...

So, for a while I've been posting my articles for work up here. This one doesn't have all that much to do with autoimmune disorders, but is more about depression and anxiety, but since these often go hand in hand with physical illness, I thought I'd still post it.

Recently I was having a conversation with my friend about what constitutes a hobby, and on a more abstract level – what makes us happy.

We came to the conclusion that there were many things that we enjoy, that don’t quite constitute “hobbies” but that didn’t mean they made us any less happy. For example, I really like reading children’s books, painting my nails and drawing pictures with felt pens. I think most people would think I was quite strange if I called those things hobbies, but having things like these, that I find both relaxing and enjoyable, is essential to my well being.

A few years ago, when I was really unwell, I watched the film ‘Labyrinth’ just about every day. I think most people thought I was a bit weird for doing this, but I really felt it helped my emotional recovery. For a lot of the time, I felt too sick to get out of bed but if I wanted to watch the film – which I did – I had to at least make it to the living room.

If you’ve never seen that film, or if you haven’t seen it since you were a child, I would really recommend rewatching it. In particular the last scenes.

I’m guessing most people reading this won’t know the film word for word by heart, so I’ll summarise here. Spoiler alert – if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want me to ruin the end for you STOP READING NOW :-)

In the last scenes there are some lines which as a child I completely missed the significance of. Now as an adult, I see them not only as significant in the film, but as a comment on life in general.

“You have cowered before me. I was frightening.” The dialogue then goes on to explain that Jareth, the main character is living up to her expectations – therefore, she wasn’t cowering because he was frightening: he was frightening, because she was cowering. I realised this line, “You have cowered before me. I was frightening” could easily be talking about anxiety, depression or any number of other things associated with mental illness. Often a situation does not become frightening until we have anxiety about it – not that we are anxious because of the situation. We are anxious because we are anxious in effect. Similarly, I know if I’m feeling sad I will be upset by situations that I wouldn’t normally be. Essentially, I’m sad because... I’m sad. Not because of whatever is happening.
So this is all very well, but it doesn’t change the fact that the end result is feeling anxious or sad whatever the cause.

I think one of the final lines in the film addresses this: “You have no power over me.” Sarah, the protagonist of the film, realises that even though Jareth is frightening, he is only living up to her expectations. In reality he has no power over her.

The other night, I couldn’t sleep, and since I only get two TV channels, my choice of viewing was motorsport racing, or the Grudge 3 – neither of which is quite my cup tea. So – on went Labyrinth. I could have sat there, feeling sad and lonely, unable to sleep. Instead, I chose to do something that made me happy. I still couldn’t sleep... but that had no power of me.

Thanks for reading, 
Little Miss Autoimmune

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