What Happiness Feels Like When You Have Anxiety


It feels like a trick more than anything.

You want to enjoy the happiness. You want to just live in the present and let things be and to ‘not chase it.’ Because that’s what everybody tells you is the right thing to do: let happiness happen to you. Enjoy it. Just breathe.

But sometimes it’s impossible to live in the present and enjoy your happiness, when all your brain keeps saying is This is wonderful, but it’s too wonderful. There is no way this is going to last. 

And no matter how much progress you make, no matter how much mindfulness you practice or how much meditation you attempt or how hard you try to just be, it feels pretty damn difficult when your brain is going against you, and deciding that it’s a better idea to instead come up with every possible way that things could go wrong.
Happiness, when you have anxiety, is almost painful. You can sense how close you are to feeling purely lighthearted, and relaxed, and content. You can sense how close you are to joy and bliss. But you also know that these kinds of feelings are (painfully) just out of reach. They are almost there in front of you, they are almost yours, but not quite.

Happiness, when you have anxiety, feels like failure. Because rather than enjoying it, all you can think about is how you’re doing it wrong. Something that should be so intrinsic, so instinctual, can feel like such a challenge to you. A burden. A strain. And – because you think you’re doing it wrong – it can cause a strong a sense of shame.

It’s a simile that’s been used time and time again, but happiness, when you have anxiety, feels like trying to hold water in the palms of your hands, and then feeling it slowly seep out, no matter how tightly you try to hold on. It feels impossible, and exhausting, and like an undertaking that is impossible to win.

Happiness, when you have anxiety, is the epitome of bittersweet. It’s lovely and delightful and wonderful, but it’s also whispering in your ear that it can only stay for so long.

Happiness, when you have anxiety, can feel like the most isolating thing in the world. But, when you look closely, when you search for it, it’s also one of the strongest threads in the history of mankind, because it connects so many of us to one another. We’re all worried about it. We’re all trying to hold that water in our hands. We’re all waiting for the moment that happiness whispers to us that it cannot stay much longer. We all fear this, we all feel this. At least, in that sense, we are never alone.  Thought Catalog Logo Mark

I’m a staff writer for Thought Catalog. I like comedy and improv. I live in Chicago. My Uber rating is just okay.

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