The last time I talked to my dad, he kept telling me that he just wanted me to be happy. We were talking on the phone, and I was trying to explain to him how difficult life has been in the past five years, and that mom was making things worse with her tongue lashings. So it got me thinking, what is happiness?
Everyone has a different answer. If this question was posed to my cats, they would reply that happiness is tuna, cat treats, cuddles (only when they want it), tuna, sunbathing, watching birds on the porch, tuna (yes, they love tuna this much XD), and playing with cat toys or each other.
If I were to answer this question about happiness five years ago it would be different than what it is now. Before my health took a steep decline five years ago, I thought that a big house, fashionable clothes/accessories, traveling, dancing ballet, being attractive, having a nice car, and a successful career would make me happy. These things would definitely bring happiness, some of it only short-term, but how do you find happiness when you are bed-bound for several years with debilitating chronic pain? Granted, I am well aware there are people much sicker than me because I see them every day in the health forums, but that doesn’t negate my personal struggles.
I actually think I am as happy as a person can be given my circumstances. I was diagnosed with a relatively rare genetic disorder earlier this year, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which means I produce defective collagen. Collagen is in basically in every structure of your body. There are several different types of collagen and they are present in different amounts in your body, so there’s a huge range of symptoms and severity with EDS. I have had three hip surgeries (two hip scopes and an open surgical dislocation) in the past five years, and I’m not even 30. My whole spine is degenerating, and I’m dealing with a shoulder injury right now. I also have a mildly enlarged right ventricle and several other health issues due to EDS. I was in so much pain over the past three years that I was pretty much bed-bound. Not only that, but I would cover my body in icepacks several times a day and lay on a heating pad. My hip was partially dislocating several times a month for the past year, and afterwards it felt like there was a fire burning in my hip joint for several days. It usually popped out when I got up from a chair, so I learned to stick my butt out when getting up from a sitting position and waddle like a duck to get it to go back in. Sounds fun, huh?
The best part is that every time I told myself things couldn’t get worse it did. I suppose fate felt he was being challenged, and I needed to be punished accordingly. Things are better now since I had my last hip surgery, and I’m in the process of reclaiming my life. I’m also writing and reading again, and as soon as I get off crutches I will apply for a job. My husband joked that he was ready for me to be his sugar mommy because my earning potential is greater than 100k/year 😄 Anyway, I made a list of things that make me happy, and I spend most of my time trying to focus on the positive aspects of life instead of the negative.
1. Cats, lots and lots of cats. I’m not even sure why I love cats, but I just do. They are so cute, and I love their cattitude :3 I have two cats that mean the world to me, and they are a daily reminder to stop and smile, at least once a day.
2. Chatting with friends and/or my husband. Most of my friends are actually online, but I don’t consider them exclusively online friends. They have provided more love and emotional support that my parents combined over the past five years. I feel very lucky to have such amazing friends. I have been able to meet some of them, and when my health improves I’d like to meet a few others. A few of them are in Europe, one is in Australia, and the rest are in the United States. I enjoy spending time with my husband as well, playing video games, cooking, watching a movie, eating out, etc.
3. Watching or playing video games. I acquired a bad case of rotator cuff tendinitis in Dec. 2012, so I couldn’t play any video games in 2013. Instead, I watched people play video games online. My favorite Youtube video-gamer is Harshly Critical. He’s fairly intelligent and has a great sense of humor. I have been playing video games since I was a little kid, and I love the way you can immerse yourself in their world, and then your problems temporarily fade into the background. The last video game I played was Tales of Xillia, and I really enjoyed it. I’m anxiously awaiting Final Fantasy 15, assuming it isn’t vaporware u_u
4. Cooking for my husband. This is something that I made a real effort to do in 2013. I actually love to bake and cook, but I relapsed into anorexia and shut down five years ago. I’m now okay weight wise, but anorexia always lingers on the edge of consciousness so I have to be vigilant to prevent it from resurfacing. My husband is Japanese, and they definitely have a strong food culture. Cooking symbolizes love for my husband, and I enjoy making him happy, especially since he has made so many sacrifices due to my health issues.
5. Writing also makes me happy, but it takes an inordinate amount of emotional and mental energy. Blog posts don’t but writing fiction does. So unfortunately I wasn’t able to write last year. It took all the strength I had to keep myself together and not fall apart. I started writing again a few months ago when I felt strong enough.
6. Reading is another thing that makes me happy, but I did very little of it in 2013 because it takes a lot of focus and concentration to read a book. And I didn’t want to read anything sad because that would only accentuate my own sorrow.
7. A friend of mine got me into nail polish. A bonus is that it actually doesn’t cost that much money. When it comes to nail polishes I love holographs, sparkles, and duochromes. Bright, sparkly colors lift my spirit on bad days. I think I have 100 nail polishes, which my husband thinks is 99 too many 😄 I tried to explain to him that other nail polish bloggers have like 1000+, but that didn’t change his perspective.
8. I love TV, and I watched a lot of it last year to drown out my negative thoughts. I got Hulu on my phone as well, so that I could listen to it while I was doing chores around the house. My favorite shows are probably “Law and Order: SVU,” and the “Twilight Zone”. One of my friends is trying to get me into, “Hannibal,” so we can fangirl together, lol.
9. Music also greatly affects me. Sometimes I like to listen to sad music and cry along whereas other times I enjoy happy and upbeat music. I listen to several genres: pop, Kpop, Jpop, Jrock, heavy metal, alternative, rock, indie, etc. Music helped me get through many nights when my pain was so debilitating I couldn’t eat or sleep.
10. I also enjoy helping others and making people happy. I used to post a ton of reviews on fanfiction.net because I knew how much it meant to authors, and I would make them long and detailed. I also like getting nice gifts for friends. I start collecting gifts at the beginning of the year. If I see something that reminds me of a certain friend, I buy it and then hold onto it till their birthday or Christmas. I spend a lot of time on hip preservation support forums to help others with hip issues because I know quite a bit after going through 3 hip surgeries. I want to help people so that they don’t have a failed hip surgery like me.
11. I love to garden. We live in a ground floor apartment, and it has ample space for a patio garden. I have 4 roses, a hanging fuchsia, lots of petunias, a bushy flower plant (don’t know what it is as we inherited it from a neighbor), and dahlias. Flowers just make me happy, and it is therapeutic caring for plants and watching them grow.
12. I’m Christian, and God gives me a certain sense of tranquility. I have hardly been to church in the past five years due to the fact I can’t sit for long periods, and if I lay out on the bench or floor people would stare at me. I should listen to online sermons, but I haven’t.
13. Another key component of happiness was liberating myself from toxic relationships. I mentioned the problem with my parents in an earlier blog entry. Growing up my mom was emotionally abusive, and my dad was verbally abusive. My father just told me the other day that he resented me my whole life because I was born out of wedlock, and then he felt he had to marry my mother. He was also very young at the time. It wasn’t a big surprise because I already knew. Maybe he told me to absolve his own guilt. He and my mom almost got divorced last year, and I don’t want to get into the specifics because that is not my story to tell. But my dad has asked for forgiveness, and he’s making a sincere attempt at returning to God, so I feel like I should forgive him because he’s trying to change. My mother is not trying to change, and she is not sorry for the things she has said, so the past will keep repeating itself. I don’t deserve her judgement and criticism, so it’s best for me to take a temporary (perhaps permanent) break from her.
If anyone out there is still reading I applaud your efforts 😄 I didn’t anticipate this post to be so long. I think my dad doesn’t have an interest in most of the things I listed, so it’s hard for him to understand that I am happy most of the time. If anyone cares to share, what makes you happy?