I'm Happy and It's Scary As Hell

Am I the only one who's always waiting for the other shoe to drop?
Publish date:
May 1, 2012
happiness, feelings, i do lots of therapy

I have nothing to talk about in therapy. For the past few weeks, I've been sitting awkwardly on couches giving casual what's-ups for 135 dollars an hour. I go 3 times a week, so that's a lot of awkward couch-sitting. And awkward distance-gazing. And awkwardly waiting for the "Well..." that will signal our time is up.

How's everything? Good. How are you feeling? Great. Any challenges or pressures? Yeah, but I can't feel them through my pink happiness suit.

There has been a lot of really awesome stuff in my life for awhile -- my job, my apartment, financial stability -- but recent events have catapulted me into this creepy, giddy, probably temporary but still very enjoyable state of bliss.

The voice in my head that shouts at me that I am ugly and worthless and not good enough has been, not silenced completely, but put on half-mute, so its viscious whisper feels distant and hardly noticeable. The daily struggles of being an addict -- the compulsions, the cravings, the skewed thinking -- have been stragely whited out, obscured by a soft blanket of contentment.

The aching hollowness in my chest, the proverbial addict's "hole" that I've been filling with food and drugs and booze and shopping and sex for so long, is gone, or rather, filled with something substantial for once. Dare I say love? Ugh, I know.

For so much of my life, I've been defined by my issues, been circling around in the sketchy neighborhood of my slightly tweaked brain. But lately? I'm out of my own head for once. And it's such a goddamn relief.

Still, while considering my cozy apartment, beautiful family, successful career and 3+ years of sobriety, all I can think is that I'm due for something terrible to happen any day now.

Our culture gives us lots of narratives about finding happiness but almost no guidance on what to do once you get there. And when you're not used to it (and maybe don't feel entitled to it?) happiness can be as terrifying as any negative feeling. Maybe more so, because at least when you're miserable you pretty much know what's coming next.

That's the deal with misery, and why some people choose it over the unpredictability of a happy-sad-happy-mad life -- it's familar. Once you've molded yourself to misery's contours, happiness fits like a thrift store jacket that's a little tight in the shoulders. You may love it, but you'll never get entirely comfortable.

This is why they tell recovering addicts to be careful in times of trial and in times of celebration, because both can be triggering. All feelings are dangerous to those of who have spent decades trying to outrun them/void them out with copious amounts of chemicals. Sadness? Happiness? I'll just black out instead, thanks.

There's also a strange guilt factor when it comes to happiness, especially for women. I've discovered that there's a thin line between reveling in your own happiness and shoving it in other people's faces. Some people respond to joy as a sharp reminder of its lack in their lives.

"Hearing about your life just reminds me that I'm alone," said one life-of-the-party aquaintance when I filled her in on the past month's events. While I believe firmly in the axiom that comparing leads to despairing, the sentiment just confirms the free-floating sense of unease currently holding hands with my happiness. What have I done, after all, to feel this amazing when others don't?

It's worse when said happiness is partially related to romantic love, or a child. In a society where we are all told that we are supposed to acquire a husband and baby before it's too late, recognizing the joy that they bring can seem like gloating to those who want those things and don't have them, annoying to those who have opted out entirely.

I don't want to make anyone feel bad, but in the same way that life's most tragic events are out of our control, I can't help it that everything's currently coming up Emily.

So I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life, and simultaneously afraid to acknowledge, enjoy or talk about it. And I'm pretty sure a piano or something is going to fall on my head at any moment. Normal?