Sept 2014: In pursuit of happiness

This is the third try at starting to write this post. You see, some people write on their feedback surveys that the site is a disgrace. Some write that it is useless as it does not give enough info. Some say it is great. Some say my story is inspiring. So how to write a blog post that appeals to such a wide audience is beyond me!

I remember writing in the Help me section of the website that life is always changing. In February 2014, when I started writing this post, I had written:

 “I worked out this week that in my entire life I have only managed to spend a total of 38 months in relationships. And I am in my mid 40s. That was depressing. More depressing still that the average length of a relationship was just 4 months, and never more than 6 without trying to end it. So yes, I do lose hope over my ability to be in a relationship. To love. To be loved. To be able to relate to someone on a deeper level.”

Within a few weeks of that I was in a relationship, which lasted 7 months. And it was a good experience. My best yet. My girlfriend was one of the kindest, most generous, authentic, warmest and genuine people I have ever met. I learnt a lot. Had some good times. And yet, at the same time, I can’t say I woke up in the morning feeling “happy”.

Last night, as my head hit my pillow, I was contemplating what happiness is. When in my life have I been most happy? Well, there have been a few events that made me happy – great sporting wins, exceptional rounds of golf. But that happiness was very event driven and thus short term. There has been excitement when someone I really wanted to date said yes, which was matched by the anxiety of whether they really liked me, and the depression if they rejected me. I never remember being particularly happy just because I was in a relationship.

Which made me wonder have I ever been truly happy? And what does that mean? Looking back, I am starting to wonder whether the happiest periods of my life were those where I was so focussed I wasn’t thinking about being happy. Is it the more you think about being happy, the less happy you are?

Psychologist Eric Fromm wrote a book called the Art of Being. In it, he teaches that people need to avoid the consumer-driven culture we live in, where having what we don’t have seems to drive us all. Whether that be money, love, excitement. And that we need to learn an inner completeness, or being. It is reducing the need to “want” and “have”, and moving to a state of “being”, that creates happiness. By learning to be centred in the self, a person is less swayed by the endless pressures and dissatisfactions of the culture of consumerism.

Now this does make a lot of sense to me, but of course the question is – how do you achieve a state of “being”. And there have been many books written about that by people much more knowledgeable than me. And I think it is more complicated than meditating every day. All I can say is that for me, when I am truly immersed in something, and concentrating on that and not my life, I am not unhappy anymore. Perhaps not happy either, but just neutral. And maybe neutral is OK. It must be, because it is when I stop the evaluation process I seem OK. When I am constantly measuring myself against the things I want but have not got, or the person I am versus the person I “should” be, I feel bad.

Well, this is beginning to sound like a mini lecture. Back to my life. I am adjusting to being single again, and it is hard. My relationship dominated my headspace for a long time, and now I am just back to me. And I am not a great fan of myself right now. I should be richer. I should have a beautiful, fit, bright and lovely girlfriend. I should be doing a better job at work.

In reality, 2 weeks is not a lot of time to have found a new girlfriend. Work is actually going OK. It has been a decent year for the company I lead, and I am feeling I did a decent job. I have played a little less competitive sport this year which I think has been good for me, as I was finding it hard to cope with the pressure I was always putting myself under to do well. In fact, less sport, and more time in a relationship has meant it has felt a very different year.

So we are into autumn in the northern hemisphere. I like spending time outdoors, so I always find it hard when the evenings get shorter and weather colder. There is always an adjustment period for me, which is a double adjustment this year now I am single again. I don’t deal with change that well. I don’t feel I have permission to do anything badly really. And even though I know, in time, I will settle into an autumn/winter routine eventually, I find it hard to give myself the space to adjust. Like I am not allowed to be miserable about it all. And I hate, hate, hate, having to admit to any of my friends that I am miserable.

Last night I was looking at my diary that was a sea of nothing, and I thought – I want my friends to ring me and arrange stuff. But they haven’t, and in the end I just had to admit I was going to have to tell a few I was down and needed taking out if I wanted to avoid staying at home and being miserable. That was hard.

Meanwhile, therapy continues, and I will work through the issues that I am now facing.

It feels hard to write a post like this. Admit to the thousands of people that will read it, that me, the founder of this site, is not happy right now. I want to inspire everyone that comes to the site and say – yes, stay alive, things will be OK. And broadly, I guess they have been OK for me. It is coming up to 12 years since I tried to kill myself. A lot of it has been OK. I just try and face the bad times now without thinking of killing myself as the only option.

And in truth, when I am happy and content I probably have an inner resistance to write a blog post. As I know that when you are down, sometimes reading about someone else’s happiness is the last thing you want to read. No-one believes that will happen to them. If I don’t like to post when I am happy or sad, no wonder I have not written much!

So I will try and write more in future. On legal advice, we removed the opportunity for people to email in on the site, so I am sorry no-one can respond to anything I write. I hope you find it interesting reading though, and if you don’t, please at least go to the Help me section of the site before you leave.