Thanks for writing this piece. This quote, in particular, spoke to me. A counselor once suggested to me many years ago that I was suffering from dysthymia, although I’m not sure what my official diagnosis was at the time. However, around age 26, I distinctly recall coming to the sudden and very unexpected realization that I felt happy and excited most mornings when I woke up. Life felt lighter. Life felt full of possibilities for joy and fulfillment. And this shocked me because I couldn’t remember having felt that way in a very, very, very long time. Probably not since I was 13; in other words, I had apparently just spent half my life “below the line”… but I didn’t realize it, because that had been “normal” for me. I recall, in hindsight, thinking, “I must have just assumed that this was how life felt once childhood was finished.” In other words, a miserable, disappointing-if-not-terrible grind.
And when I realized this — that something had profoundly shifted inside my head and now I’d been waking up happy for weeks—I was capable of articulating the following thing to my counselor for the first time ever: that I always used to believe that happiness was an event, not a state of mind. In other words, “happiness,” through all those below-baseline years, was a fleeting moment of reaction to something good; not an outlook or a manner of existing. At least not with dysthymia. But at last, after having made some serious changes in my life direction (in favor of my genuine passions, inclinations, and interests), and having worked really hard through some old traumas, I was able to feel more optimistic again by about age 26. And that lighter “new normal” has more or less stuck for me since then, thankfully. Which is amazing, considering that, by the time the dysthymia (or something like it) lifted, I’d already spent half of my life under its cloud.
There’s hope. Not that people with dysthymia seem to look very actively for “hope” anyway, as you probably realize... But just know that it doesn’t have to be forever. Keep prioritizing yourself, and kudos for seeking therapy.