By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN
Life is difficult and awesome. Life is fulfilling and frustrating. Life is filled with one loss and sadness after another. Life is filled with surprises and delights. Life is a series of choices, satisfactions and disappointments. The journey of life includes the peaks and the valleys.
Isn’t it amazing that life is all of those things at once? How is it that each of us has the strength, perseverance and optimism to keep on keeping on? The will to live and keep on living, struggling, succeeding and failing, laughing, loving, crying and celebrating is an awesome force inside of all of us.
Living is hard. Whether a person was born into privilege or scraping by from month to month it is challenging, difficult and occasionally rewarding. What can you do to cultivate greater happiness and mental strength through it all? Intentionally meet your needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom every day in responsible and respectful ways. When we meet our basic psychological needs we are continually cultivating our Mental Health & Happiness during the hard times as well as the good. Meeting the basic needs gives us strength to keep going as we face struggles. Consistently meeting our basic needs brings even greater happiness during the good times.
Several years ago a woman learning Choice Theory psychology told me about her adult sister, Mary. Mary had suffered with mental illness since she was a teenager. She had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since age 15, with a diagnosis of undifferentiated schizophrenia. Over the many years Mary had taken the entire range of psychotropic medications. Some were better than others, but even the best turned Mary into a zombie. Mary complained of feeling flat and “out of it.” She went through the motions of her life but felt empty of any joy and expression of all feelings, good and bad. Mary did stop hallucinating so her need for hospitalizations were less frequent. After almost fifty years of treatment Mary was able to function and live in the world independently with supervision from Mental Health Counselors.
I just learned something, Mary told her sister. You, who are normal and happy, have to work hard too. I thought once I got well, cured and was normal life would be easy. I just found out that this isn’t true. I thought life was hard for me because I don’t know how to do it right. I just learned life is hard, whether you’re sick or well.
This woman, who is now in her mid-60s is just discovering that part of being human means that life is hard work with hard times for all of us. Now that she is learning to meet her needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom every day in respectful and responsible ways she is also discovering how to create more joyful times too. Mary is finally learning what she can do to be in charge of her own Mental Health & Happiness.