The Happiness Trap

Yesterday was an exceptionally bad day. My parents left the house and I began to sob and feel utterly hopeless. Only months ago, this would have been the kind of day where I run to the medicine cabinet and take an overdose. The pain was too great to endure.

I even wrote to my husband and said that I know we won’t reconcile and that we should not reconcile, but the pain I feel is worse now than it was five months ago. I’m still in utter disbelief that my husband, a man I thought was so loyal if nothing else, simply discarded me for another woman because in his words, “You were drying me crazy.”

He wrote back that he was sorry. I didn’t expect more from him. I love him and miss him, but I won’t take any action to get him back. I am desperate to heal and move on. Of course, his heart is closed to me anyway.

I finally went to take an ativan and within thirty minutes had calmed down. I continued to work on my website and I realized that, since I cannot run right into another relationship, since I must take care of my health, and not give in to using alcohol, drugs, or food to calm myself, I must really put all my energy into getting fit and my website. Period. Nothing else. I began to feel a bit better, of course that was mostly the drug, but later I sat to read a self help book recommended by my psychiatric nurse practitioner called, “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris and within a few pages I felt I had finally found the book for me.


The book is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which appealed to me, but this book, rather than the ACT workbook I bought a few weeks ago, seems to be in language that I can relate more to.

In a section about the myth that “You should be able to control what you think and feel” I got out my pen and underlined the following,

“The fact is, we have much less control over our thoughts and feelings than we would like. It’s not that we have no control; it’s just that we have much less than the “experts” would have us believe. However, we do have a huge amount of control over our actions. And it’s through taking action that we create a rich, full, and meaningful life.”

It goes on to say that this myth is so widely believed that we tend to feel inadequate when our attempts to control our thoughts and feelings fail.

Those words just jumped off the page to me and I was so comforted by them. I am actually excited to sit down and read more today. I’m so busy that I will probably take weeks and weeks to get through the book. My therapist told me I could bring it in and work on it with her, so I think that’s a good idea.

I woke up today, still melancholy, and went to the staff meeting from 9a-noon at the kids center, then I came home to check email and eat a bit, and then I forced myself to go to the pool and swim for an hour. So glad I did. Now and then I found myself composing a letter “to the other woman” but kept stopping myself and just made myself count laps. I could see that it would only make feel sad, and I don’t need that.

At training today they talked about how a child’s brain is altered when they are exposed to or experience violence or abuse in their home, and my home was very violent. I was a preemie, and my mother was fearful to hold me, first of all. Then when I was two my father had an affair with a woman he worked with and she had a son by him. My mom began divorce proceedings, but meanwhile she had an affair herself and guess what? Yes, my sister is the product of that affair. But during the year or so that my parents were separated, my mother was a monster. She hated me especially, and she abused me, not to mention that my parent’s fights were very extreme.

I would not have known any of this, but when I was in my early 20s my mom took me to lunch and apologized to me. I didn’t want to hear about it. As a child and teen I had a deep hatred of my mother and never let her get close to me.

My sensitive little brain probably could not process all that intensity and negativity. Perhaps that is why I have always suffered from supposed mental health disorders. I don’t know. I don’t care, either. It’s just a logical assumption.

And now, at 56, I am turning it all around. It’s not just turning and making a small change, it’s massive changes. I’m doing it because even this late in life, I feel I deserve a better future.

If anyone reading this feels they can’t change, believe me you can, but it’s not easy. I wish I had made myself go through this process twenty or thirty years ago.

Today we have the windows and doors open and it’s clear that Spring is almost here. I will not say I am giddy, but today I feel that there is some hope for me.

Forget being happy, I just want to not be miserable and to do some good in the world.

Thanks for reading.


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