I know that my blog is called “The Art of Choosing Joy.” I have taught a Big Picture Scrapbooking workshop with the same title. But my month-long bout with postpartum has given me a reason to pause and really think about that phrase “choosing joy.”
In dealing with all of our challenges with regard to Jason’s health and lengthy recovery from his car accident 12 years ago, I learned what it meant to say that happiness is my choice. True, we may not like our circumstances or situations but we still have the autonomy it takes to decide if we are going to feel joy within those circumstances. I learned a long time ago that I don’t have to like hard things in order to be able to be happy within them.
So as I found myself hit a low about a month ago, I looked at my blog header and wondered, “Is it really true? Do I have the choice to be happy?” I knew that I wanted to feel better. I wanted to feel like my old self – optimistic, positive, ready to tackle what was placed in front of me. I wanted to have hope. I wanted to do more than take naps and feel exhausted. I wanted to feel something other than overwhelmed and unsure.
But for some reason, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t get there on my own. Yes, I got help from a doctor. He said, “I think you are going to pull out of this yourself.” To which I responded…”I don’t think so.” I know myself and I know what it took for me to simply see the doctor in the first place. I had no desire to try and muddle through postpartum issues on my own for months. I was ready for help.
I have never had to take medication for anxiety or depression of any kind and as I started the medicine I began to wonder how much a little pill really could do to help me. Sure it would level me out like I needed it to, but what about the rest? What about my role in this healing process? Where did the idea of “choosing joy” fit into this scenario?
I have decided that this experience of postpartum depression is no different than any other difficult situation that we have gone through. I had to choose that I was going to heal. I had to choose that I was going to be happy. I had to choose that I was going to do everything I could to put myself in a position to let the medication do it’s job. I had to choose how I thought about things, what I did and how I lived my life in order to feel the best I possibly could as I made my way back to the real me.
Some of you might think that this comes naturally or automatically when a person is happy by nature. But although I am a very positive person, it didn’t come naturally. I had to work for my joy. I had to make conscious decisions that I knew would help me feel better. There was nothing accidental or automatic about pulling myself out of my postpartum pit. Instead, my most effective weapon was living very deliberately and learning about yet another aspect of this idea of “the art of choosing joy.”
Joy is a choice. I have always believed this to be true and after the last six weeks I am even more convinced of it. I have the power to decide if I am going to be happy within my circumstances. Some days may be harder than others and that’s ok. There is a year or two of our lives that I wouldn’t mind erasing completely from my memory! But the point is that we recognize that we have a say in how we feel. We decide to fight back when the blues threaten to overwhelm us. Our arsenal may be small and we might feel weak compared to the challenges we face but we have to do something to fight back, block out the negative influences and take control of our own happiness.
How did I do this? I’ll tell you about my hands-on, real life strategies in my next post. And in the meantime, recommit yourself to your role in “the art of choosing joy.” I guarantee that you’ll be happy that you did.