Article in brief: The author discusses the joy she found during a short time of unhappiness.
September 2014 was when it hit me; I was unhappy. At that moment, my life seemed like a constant merry-go-round of working, commuting and socializing to the point of numbing exhaustion. It seemed that anytime the ride was nearing the end, my mind would insert more tokens in fear of being alone with my thoughts, my worries, and my anxieties. I sat there in my hotel room and gasped for breath through the tears that streamed down my face. In that moment, I felt hopeless.
The alarm rang and I was on autopilot again. I grabbed my carry-on to head to the airport where I was on the red eye flight to Europe for a week-long training course. I settled into my seat trying to logically make sense of the state of mind I found myself in. I pulled out a pen and paper and jotted down all the worries that I had filed under “will think about how to deal with this later”. Over the course of the next week, I carefully examined each one of the issues I jotted down and had a heart-to-heart with myself. I was making my own peace with all the noise in my head. I was setting myself free.
When I felt somewhat content that I had at the very least addressed a certain issue that I had buried previously, I moved onto the next. The exercise was hard; most likely the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life to date. It is not an easy task to set aside your emotions and try to regain control of your life. Whenever I found that my heart started to race and I tried to forcefully suppress the emotions that were waiting to spew out of me, I would take a deep breath, reach for my phone and call my family or friends. Talking about an issue makes it real. Talking about an issue to someone other than yourself makes it solvable.
The core of all my issues was really very simple; my childhood expectations were left unmet with the realities of life. The person I had dreamed of becoming was not the person who I was today. What I realized during the months since facing my issues is that the person I became is different, but in no way inferior to the person I dreamt of. I weighed myself down by all the things I did not achieve from my childhood expectations and forgot to include the things I did not ever dream of achieving.
That, coupled with the hesitation of our society to acknowledge anything that vaguely resembles “the west’s” wave of anxiety and depression, puts people in the state I found myself in; a whirlwind of confusion, panic and to a certain extent, shame. The truth is that those two mental states are real and does not mean that people are taking all the blessings in their life for granted. It just means that they need to speak to someone, a friend, a family member, or a therapist. Someone who will be able to tell them that everything is going to be ok, and that it is ok to feel this way every now and then.
My silver lining stems from the fact that I have been reassured that I have an incredibly solid support network who recognized my need for help. They kept reassuring me that everything is really not that bad. They reminded me to just take a deep breath and believe that everything is falling into place. Sometimes, that’s all you need.
That is the joy I found from admitting I wasn’t happy.
Haif Zamzam is a bon viveur who just can’t get enough of life. Her inflexibility for the norm coupled with her constant hunt for a challenge pushed her to the private sector where she is a professional in a top-tier consulting firm. Haif has an MBA from INSEAD and a Bachelors degree from the AUS. Through her column, Joie de Vivre, French for “Joy of Living,” Haif hopes to show how living with your head in the clouds is highly underrated.