While in eating disorder treatment, the other participants and I needed to check-in after every meal. This simple yet dreaded process meant describing how you were feeling and explaining why. Certain words came easily to me each time: guilty, gross, full, uncomfortable, anxious, bad, disgusting, etc. However one type of emotion rarely passed my lips; I never wanted to admit to anything close to joy.
How could I feel fine after consuming food? This just did not seem right to me. Thus, I eliminated words such as comfortable, happy, excited, or hopeful from my check-ins. If I did accidentally say one, I felt guilty right away and buried it underneath new feelings of anger, guilty, and confusion.
For years, any feelings of joy or contentment filled me with self-hate. What right did I have to be happy while others struggled? Since when did a monster like me deserve good things in life? Quickly, my positive emotions morphed into depression and fury. Although self-loathing bit into me like a poisonous snake, I understand and was acclimated to this feeling. Thus, I subjected myself to negative self-talk and emotions because I believed I deserved them. I could not handle or understand anything even close to joy.
Talking with my therapist a few days ago, I mentioned all of the exciting events in my life. She listened without speaking. I wondered at first if she was upset with me. Recounting blog awards and Toastmasters is not how counseling sessions are usually spent. Nervous, I trailed off and glanced up to meet her eyes. What was she thinking? Was she disgusted with these positive emotions and events? Or did she think we should speak about something deeper and scarier?
What she said caught me off guard. “I am so happy to see you in such a good mood,” was her heartfelt response. After blinking a few times, I smiled back at her. She was fine with me being happy. In fact, that brought her joy and a sense of relief.
Suddenly, I realized that I had also come to peace with joy. Instead of running away for this emotion or fearing its repercussions, I am soaking in its bright rays. Although a little guilt remains, I have come to like positive emotions. Sure, I am not perfect. Yes, there are many suffering people in the world who I pray for and cry about each day. However, I can still be ok. I am allowed to be happy.
Now, I know difficult days await me still. Shame and self-hate still whisper my name enticingly. Yet, there is hope for a future of wonders, adventures, and dreams. Instead of giving up on myself, I am opening up my world to the possibility of being happy. As I allow joy into my life, I can give more freely and cheerfully to others. The joy inside of me will be spread out to those around me.
Links to other related articles:
The Joy in the Journey by Anila’s Nouvelles A-List Blog
Delight by Twolfgcd’s Blog
What is happiness by A Life without Friends