First off, I mean this only “sometimes”, at least for me personally.
I can’t speak for everyone in every life situation, but I know that sometimes it’s really difficult to be positive. It’s hard to be happy. It takes work. Even when happiness is something that comes naturally for us, sometimes it is really difficult to maintain. We all have bad days where it just seems that nothing is going right. Even if things aren’t bad, they may not be great either. It can be hard to keep a consistent positive attitude. It can be even harder when there is an expectation of being a positive individual. I actually feel worse when I’m not feeling great, because then I feel guilty for not feeling great (it’s a cycle).
Yes, we have a choice every day in every circumstance how we will respond. We can respond with a positive outlook. We can accept things neutrally and move on. We can react negatively. This is still our choice. Our choice one day does not mean it cannot be our choice the next day. If it’s in the immediate situation, our first response does not have to remain our only response. There can be a whole mix of responses or feelings.
A few months ago, I had a really bad day. It can’t have been that bad because I don’t even remember what it was about but at the time I was angry and sad. I was home, and I was on the phone with a good friend and venting when I decided I needed an ice cream. I don’t even particularly love ice cream and I don’t keep it at the house, so I walked over to the convenience store to buy some. It happened that it was “Buy one get one free” for ice cream cones. Even though I don’t even usually eat ice cream, I clearly had to get two and had opened one and was eating it as I was paying for it. I couldn’t even wait until I was out of the store. Whatever happened that day doesn’t even matter, my choice was to be angry and sad and eat two ice cream cones. I could have gone for a run or a swim because I know that physical activity always makes me feel better. I chose not to, because I was choosing to be angry and sad. My friend still teases me about the “double ice cream day”.
I have a medical condition that really does make things a little more complicated. Deciding to be only miserable about it all the time will lead to an only miserable life. Being positive all the time can be exhausting, especially when there are days that would be frustrating for anyone. The bus is late. The train has mechanical issues. It rains. I spill coffee on my white shirt at work. The yoga class is full. Starbucks is out of whole milk (if this actually happened my world may come crashing down). All of these things neuro-typical people can experience. Then there are the things that I can choose to just add to it because of epilepsy. I have to take public transit because I don’t have a driver’s license. I get soaked from the rain because I have to be outside waiting for public transit. I spilled coffee because of a little twitch. I was late to the yoga class because of public transit. Starbucks being out of whole milk has never happened in my experience, but I’m sure I would find a way to link it. It is super easy to escalate what would be just frustrating to completely intolerable all because of being epileptic.
I’m usually pretty down after a seizure, for every reason imaginable. It doesn’t help that for the next couple weeks afterwards I get to look in the mirror and see the injuries. I can’t cover them up with makeup until they start to heal, and even then, scabs are super bumpy and still obvious with makeup. In the picture with this entry, I was attempting to run a night race a few years ago and had a seizure. I was super upset because I couldn’t finish the race and I felt terrible because some people stopped to help me and I knew I ruined their race time. I still have the scar on my upper cheek. In retrospect, I’m sure the people who helped me were likely more worried about me than their time. The scar is super easy to cover with makeup by this point. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t times where I am upset about the times that were ruined and the scar.
Here’s my solution. I have a playlist. It is full of the most depressing songs ever, based on an internet search. I will sit in my bed with the lights off, listen to that playlist for an evening, cry, and wallow in my misery. My husband avoids me except to pass me a sandwich. I’m sure he would slide it under the door if he could avoid me entirely. Once I have spent an entire evening being completely miserable, I’m not in the mood for it anymore. The next day, I switch to the perkiest playlist I have. I go for a run and wear neon colours. I feel better and more appreciative of my positive mood. Happiness comes naturally again, and when it doesn’t, it takes less work to get to a positive place.
The whole point of this is that sometimes it’s okay to choose sadness. We don’t have to be excited and positive every moment of every day. It’s our choice. We have the right to indulge in a little misery now and again. Having the power to choose our attitude doesn’t mean we have to choose happiness and positivity all the time. I can’t change that I have epilepsy and if I choose to approach that reality with a primarily positive attitude that is what will make my life brighter. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t spend an occasional evening double fisting ice cream and listening to Sinead O’Connor, just as long as I don’t let negativity dictate my decisions, my relationships, or my entire life.