Happily Ever After Is Bullshit & That’s OK

by Bill Brenner on September 21, 2010

Often, when depression slaps me upside the head, it’s on the heels of a prolonged period of good feelings and positive energy. Especially this time of year, when the daylight recedes early and returns late. These setbacks can be discouraging, but you can survive them with the right perspective.

Mood music:

It’s easy for people who fight mental illness and addictive behavior to go on an endless, futile search for the happily ever after, where you somehow find the magic bullet to murder your demons, thus beginning years of bliss and carefree existence.

I’m sorry to tell you this, folks: That line of thinking is bullshit.

There’s no such thing as happily ever after. If you want it that badly, go watch a Disney film.

I used to grope around for eternal happiness in religious conversion. But some of my hardest days came AFTER I was Baptized a Catholic. I eventually found my way to abstinence and sobriety and got a pretty good handle on the OCD. But there have been plenty of sucky days since then.

The slide back into depression this past weekend was an example.

I like to think of these setbacks as growing pains. We’re supposed to have bad days to test the better angels of our nature. We’re supposed to learn how to move forward despite the obstacles that used to make us hide and get junked up. When you can stay sober and keep your mental disorders in check despite a bad day, that’s REAL recovery.

This is where I consider myself lucky for having had Crohn’s Disease. That’s a chronic condition. It comes and goes. But you can reach a point where the flare ups are minimal.

It’s the same with mental illness and addiction. You can’t rid yourself of it completely. But you can reach a point — through a lot of hard work and leaps of Faith — where the episodes are minimal.

The depression flared up this weekend, just like the Crohn’s Disease used to. But I’m better now. And I didn’t have to take a drug like Prednisone to get there. I just needed a little extra sleep.

Prozac, therapy and the 12 Steps have helped me immensely. But they don’t take the deeper pain at your core away. These things just help you deal with the rough days without getting sucked back into the abyss.

The depression I experienced this weekend felt more like a flare up of arthritis than that desperate, mournful feeling I used to get. It was a nag, but it didn’t break me. It used to break me all the time.

That’s progress.

Maybe I’m not happy forever after, but that’s OK. My ability to separate the blessings from the bullshit has improved considerably in the last five years.

That’s good enough for me.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin Brenner September 21, 2010 at 4:07 am

So many Americans misunderstand the Declaration of Independence. We don’t have a right to happiness, just a right to pursue it. This ain’t heaven, kid, this is earth. No perfection here.

That said, it helps immensely when your wife tells you to go to bed and you actually do. Now, who’s going to tell me to go to bed?

Jennifer Leggio September 21, 2010 at 11:45 am

As always, very moving and insightful post, Bill. Thanks so much for sharing, and I’m glad to hear you’re feeling better.

Christy December 31, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Glad Erin is so supportive for you and your family Bill.What a blessing. I know you will most likely think I’m some weird Holy Roller or something but praying this scripture helps me when I am feeling depressed or basically anything other than peace and joy. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians%206:13-20&version=NIV
I have taught it to my kids and they pray it when needed-most likely after nightmares. I hope it is helpful to you and others.

Nickie January 5, 2014 at 1:16 am

Great post love the “Black Flag” reference! Rad!

Katie July 11, 2016 at 11:55 pm

Awesome article!!

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