The Pursuit of Happiness

Many people in the United States and many of the western European nations love to celebrate the diversity of all people, and that is a fine thing. But there are three components we all possess that, combined, make us uniquely human and these are the things we hold in common regardless of our differences. I am referring to mind, body, and spirit. The mind includes our intellect, our ability to reason, to create, to feel, and to believe. And that, along with our physical being, our body, which when properly cared for has positive effects on the emotional and psychological parts of ourselves, and with our spirituality, make us who we are.  As one who has a deep and rich spiritual life, you won’t be surprised that I am going to focus for a bit on Spirituality.

First let me make clear that I don’t believe spirituality is about religion. I believe spirituality could be described in the words our Founding Fathers enshrined in our Declaration of Independence as “the pursuit of happiness”. Happiness is a state of being that includes contentment in our state in life, joy with the good things we experience, possess, or know. Happiness is not just an emotion, not as it is understood in the Declaration, but is an ideal for the human person to strive to attain in his or her life. That pursuit is an “inalienable right”, according to the Founders who signed that timeless document. A right is something we all should have because of the dignity of our personhood. And so, on a spiritual, and not a purely intellectual or physical level, each one of us is always on that spiritual pursuit, trying to find that state of being happy.

Spirituality isn’t necessarily a creed but might be an understanding of God, maybe a relationship with Him.  I happen to believe in the triune God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit), but that’s my belief. How ever you conceive of an entity greater than yourself, or if you simply have a reverence and regard for nature and humanity, for the vast majority and throughout the history of civilization, there is something within each of us that longs for, searches for, something greater than the self, or, at the very least, appreciates, the complexity and diversity of our world and of our own existence, as well as the lives of others.

We often include ‘social and emotional’ within the mind/body/spirit model and I believe that’s because they are other dimensions of our spirituality. We are social beings; and I think we want to know that somebody is out there who knows we’re alive, cares about our triumphs and our setbacks, someone we can talk to who will really listen. Those are basic desires of our human hearts and we all long for them.

In my own life, in a very difficult circumstance, there was a time when I knew I was not alone, that God was with me, but I felt little to no comfort through the heavy, ugly oppression that engulfed me. I knew God loves me, but I couldn’t do anything about it.  And by that I mean, I couldn’t rejoice, I couldn’t be productive. It was my husband who encouraged me to seek behavioral health support. It was out of his love and concern for me. When I finally shared with him how I had been feeling, he was shocked, I would say. He said that what I described was “alarming” to him. When your husband expresses that kind of concern about your emotional state, it is the wake up call you need.  It was certainly for me, anyway. There was never any concern about what ‘others will think’ or worry about how it might effect his career, (which it didn’t nor would it); his response was ‘go get the help you need and I’ll support you no matter what happens’. Just sharing my inner struggle & suffering with my husband was a huge burden lifted, but his compassionate response, and the time I spent with the psychiatrist in Heidelberg’s American Army hospital in the following months was a huge blessing. I very quickly found I was feeling lighter, less anxious, more grateful, more energetic, than I had in a very long time. I would go back occasionally, once I was doing better, to follow up with my doctor and things remained on an even keel for me emotionally. I share my depression story because I want to encourage other people who are close to despair to find a professional to work with them and help get them back to hope and living life again. I have had a mere glimpse into the state of being so hopeless and sad that even a loving family doesn’t give joy anymore, there is no comfort there.  I experienced that in a small way. When I hear of someone who dies by suicide, but who seemed ‘fine’ and had ‘so much to live for – how could they?’ I remember how I felt right before my husband sent me to get help. I started to think that my wonderful, loving family, would be better off without me – that’s how far I’d sunk. In that state of depression, everything seems so awful you can’t imagine being good for anyone. So, if you are feeling anything like this, please tell a loved one, whether that’s a Spouse, a friend, a parent, a sibling so they can walk with you on your journey back to a productive, positive life.

I believe things happen for a reason: I believe that I walked through that darkness in order to be a more compassionate, less judgmental person who could encourage other people who are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress or depression to seek help to get well. I have an empathy I could never have known if I hadn’t gone through depression personally. There will always be a stigma attached to behavioral health problems if we aren’t willing to publicly share our own experiences with them.

If you struggle with the pressures of life, you can always find a chaplain in your unit or in our community to speak to. Or there are behavioral health professionals who you can confide in and seek support from, if you do not want to consider a religious person like a chaplain. But I do think it is vitally important to seek help.

You are here for a reason. Your life has purpose, God loved you into being and you can be grateful for that, and then live to honor the One who gave you life. God will also be your strength, forgive you anything, and love you endlessly.

 

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