by Belle McGhee
Having spent a good portion (read entirety) of my childhood in a situation where chronic depression, domestic violence, and generational poverty held sway, I know a thing or two about hopelessness. The desire to wallow in self-pity as a result of this experience led to a self-destructive phase during my late teens and early twenties, which in turn resulted in an addiction to certain illicit substances that the media liked to term at the time, "Hillbilly Heroin.”
I cannot rightly say why the life of an addict did not suit me well. I felt the necessary feelings required to fuel an addiction, i.e. unloved and unworthy of being loved paired with a deep-seated sense that the world owed me something better, some kind of recompense. These had been planted and nurtured diligently within me my entire life by my narcissistic mother and absent father. All the prerequisites were there to ensure that I fall into the ditch that is perpetual addiction and wallow there forever. But that was not the case.
It would seem that certain aspects of that life went against my very nature. The search drove me crazy. The search for pills. The search for the money to get the pills. The endless wait for the phone to ring signaling that this or that dealer came through. The feeling of being trapped by four walls feeling so much like the endless summers of my childhood when Mom locked herself away, Dad had left us yet again, and my sister kept me at bay with her cruelty.
I worked hard in support of my habit, don't get me wrong, and not in the ways that might automatically come to mind. I worked hard at a real job. Never did I steal, or cheat in a deal. Never once did I use my femininity to score, although I knew many girls who did. In fact, my integrity in these matters was a source of pride for me. I took pride in handling my addiction with honesty and integrity. At my core, I was honest. I valued integrity. And while I was living my life in many ways that were at odds with these ideals, they continued to express themselves in many areas of my life.
These innate character traits prevented me from maintaining my addiction for more than a handful of years. Well, those things combined with a calling to God that began as a murmur in the back of my mind, and eventually became a persistent plea each time I snuck away to self-medicate. Even in the midst of the process, my soul knew better and sought a higher power over and over again, until one day, the higher power answered.
That is a story for another day, however. Today, let's discuss how walking through and away from an active addiction allowed me to strip away the hopelessness of depression and see it for the simple, biochemical process that it actually is. Let's talk about how knowing that I would no longer fill my body with this or that chemical all willy-nilly led me through research, trial and error, and to a new understanding of happiness. Turns out, it is a simple thing to design a life that generates joy. You just need to know a few things first, and guess what? A few of them just happen to follow here:
Did you know that depression occurs when inadequate amounts of certain chemicals are produced by the brain, i.e., serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine? (Full on biochemical business buddy!)
Did you know there are things that you can do in the real world that result in a release of those chemicals in the brain?
I leave you now with this: we were not made to hate, to wallow in insecurity, to focus on ourselves to the exclusion of all other things. We were made to give back. This is not hippie, flower child, spiritual malarkey either. The things that are scientifically proven to increase the expression of mood elevating hormones in the human body are the very things that every great world religion compels you to do. The science is infallible, the practices are simple, the only thing holding you back is you. Get out there and find your happy! Or, I should say, get out there and make your happy happen!
Have a great day and have it all day long!!
(Oh, and just say no!)
Belle McGhee is a Language Arts teacher who grew up in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She is a some-time poet, full-time wife and mother who fully intends to write a book or two someday.
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