Unlocking Happiness

The year 2022 was a complete disaster for me.

To say I was struggling with my mental health would be an understatement.

The misconception clouded my thoughts that losing weight would solve everything. I spent so much time consumed with how I looked I forgot about caring for that thing between my ears.

It’s tough when you look in the mirror at 38 and realize you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Then your kids run into the room, and you remember you are grown up.

I hallucinated I would be in a world without self-conscious thoughts when I lost weight. 

I now know that my brain shifted the focus rather than ridding me of intrusive self-conscious thoughts. 

Good news? I no longer say mean and hurtful things to myself when I look in the mirror.

Bad news? You don’t need a mirror to tell yourself that you are a failure, behind the rest of the world, and/or destined for a life unfulfilled when you’re driving home from work.

You may be familiar with the following cycle. 

  1. Something inconvenient happens during your day. 
  2. You search for something or someone to blame. (I start with myself, but if that doesn’t fit or make sense, I blame the expanding infinite universe for having it out for me.)
  3. The hopelessness creeps in, and you get sad. 
  4. Your mood affects your family’s mood, so no one is happy now. 
  5. Dissociate in whatever way possible.
  6. Go to sleep.
  7. Repeat.

I envy you if this cycle is not familiar because, let me tell you, it is awful. 

I felt lost. Then one day, while scrolling through TikTok (see step #5 in the list above), I came across a video referencing a TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal titled How to Make Stress Your Friend. 

Fourteen minutes and 28 seconds later, I felt something unlock in my brain. I looked in the mirror and said, “Well, that unlocked something….”

Regardless of your relationship with stress, watch the aforementioned TED Talk. If it resonates with you, I recommend reading her book, The Upside of Stress

If you’ve read anything on this site, you know anxiety or stress has played an enormous role in my life. It is something that I have carried with me, like a bag of rock salt in a Baby Bjorn.

Any hint of stress or anxiety would lead me to obsess over how to make it disappear. I tried breathing exercises, meditating (not sure I’ll ever understand how to do that), or removing myself from the situation if I could. 

None of it would work. 

The stress and anxiety would remain.

Next, I would feel guilty and broken because I could not manage my stress. 

The stress of work and parenting two children led me to multiple panic attacks in 2022. I hid under the desk of a cubicle at work twice until the tears and shaking hands stopped. My wife found me in the shower sobbing uncontrollably once (not the other two times, though). There were a couple of times legitimate reasons for a breakdown (at least I thought so), but the other times it came out of nowhere. 

I am linear in my view of the world. For example, I can cook good food with a recipe. However, if you were to hand me all the right ingredients and let me go, I would be flooded with anxiety and terrified of using too much or not enough of every component. 

In life, there are recipe writers and recipe followers.

I have lived my life as both simultaneously. I constructed a recipe by observing others live their lives and have followed that recipe without question.

I have concluded that my recipe is shit. I don’t like the recipe and am no longer interested in sweating in the kitchen trying to make it. 

My 38th year will be the year I break free from that recipe. I am going to have fun in the kitchen of life.

I have no interest in living a life overcome with stress, anxiety, and sadness. I’ve given it a chance, and it turns out that it is not for me. 

If I can lose 77 pounds and shift the way I view stress to make life happier and more manageable, I can come up with a way to make a living that involves doing things I love with inspiring people I love.

I admire those that enjoy networking and looking for avenues to advance their career. I can’t do it. I can’t write resumes for jobs I am less than enthused about. I can’t pretend to find people fascinating, insightful, or intelligent when they are not, just because it might help me get an interview for a job I will not enjoy. And I am running out of patience dealing with people who make six-figure salaries that can’t think themselves out of a wet paper bag. At the same time, far more capable people are being passed over for arbitrary reasons.

To begin with, I am renewing my commitment to writing here. I appreciate everyone who reads the stories I write here. I appreciate your kind words, ‘likes,’ and shares. 

From now on, I will make the rules for how my life moves forward. Well, as long as my wife approves. 


P.S. Writing this was difficult. Talking about mental health is complex. I have been more honest about it lately. Those I have spoken with about my mental health have been open, thoughtful, and can (usually) relate. You’re not alone. You deserve happiness. Talk to someone; it helps. If you think you don’t have anyone, I’m easy to find.