Letting go of Brad Pitt and other ways to be happy

If you don’t know me or haven’t followed my blog, you may not know this about me:

I was once very angry. Not outwardly angry- not slash your tires angry or kick the wall with your boots on angry. I wasn’t even punch a pillow angry. I was anger turned inward- a soul crushing sort of inner angry that manifested itself through debilitating depression that left me unable to get out of bed and at times, suicidal.

Well that was one hell of an opener. (I promise, it gets more light hearted…).

The hows and whys of how one gets to that place are as unique as each person and so are the ways to get out. My cocktail for survival has been a mixture of therapy, time, musical sing-a-longs and medication.  But my goal was never to just simply survive that time, I wanted to come out better for it. To live through a war like that makes you a survivor, but I wanted more. I wanted to thrive. I wanted to come out stronger, to prove to myself that the hell I went through was for a reason. And as much as I love what sing-a-longs and therapy do for me, I knew they weren’t going to be enough.

Today? I feel a lot of joy.

I use the word ‘joy’ on purpose because ‘happy’ feels to small. “Happy” doesn’t stretch to all the places I feel a level of grace, appreciation and giddiness over my life. Outwardly, my life is very similar- I have the same job, live in the same place, deal with the same stress. But inside? My insides feel like they have been taken out- repaired and polished, allowing me to be me- but at optimal performance. Along with my “cocktail for survival”, the following 5 things helped me.

1. I stopped multi-tasking. Cold turkey. Not only did multi-tasking leave me feeling frantic, I completed everything to a level I was never happy with. Perfection might be the enemy of the good but knowingly doing a half assed job is the enemy of happiness. My happiness. So I quit talking on the phone while marking math tests. I stopped trying to pay bills online while walking Macy. I walked away from the dishwasher while also trying to watch a documentary. If something was worth my time, my effort- it was worth 100% of it. Or none of it.

2. I used to be in a constant competition with everyone in my life. Of course, no one knew it but the internal dialogue I had with myself as I tried to measure my success against others was exhausting and always negative. And while I was wasting time beating myself up for not being where others were? They were using their time to be where they wanted to be. At school I always tell my kids to keep their eyes on their own paper during an exam. We talk about how when we cheat- when we try to look at the work of others, we cheat ourselves. And as one student pointed out, you could always be copying down the wrong answers. I teach my students to work hard and have faith in their own abilities. I started doing the same. I’m worth believing in myself, rather than risking it all by copying someone else. 

3. I began revelling in my joy. When I was happy, I let it sink in. I marvelled at it. When is the last time you let yourself sit in your happiness? Instead of thinking of what could go wrong, I allowed myself to reflect on everything that had gone right. I gave myself permission to be happy over every damn thing that deserved it. There was no minimum requirement that was needed to receive appreciation. A great tomato sandwich? Hallelujah!  New magazine in the mail? Why yes, I did hug it tightly!  Lengthy email from a dear friend? Cue the parade! Eventually I was that smug asshole smiling at the red light at 8 am on a Monday morning.

4. I kept it real. Some days the tomato sandwich didn’t warrant a dance party. Sometimes I felt a dark, sinking feeling creep in. Instead of panicking or denying- I accepted that yes, today was a shit day. I would call a friend, go for dinner, send an email and recognize the shittiness of the shit day and let it be. I did not allow myself to keep that feeling to myself. I did that before and eventually it became bigger than me and I was too scared to talk to anyone. I knew better now. I made a conscious effort to start fresh each day. I checked myself on the drive to work- “am I allowing yesterday to ruin today?” and if I was I planned to do something that would lift my mood as soon as I got to work. (More often than not, ‘lifting my mood’ involved googling “unlikely animal friendships”. I recommend.)

5. I learned from Susannah. In the best movie of all time (no questions or debates allowed on this), “Legends of the Fall”, the ridiculously beautiful Susannah (played by Julia Ormond) tells Tristan (played by Brad Pitt at his most knee buckling time- lookswise) “I’ll wait for you. However long it takes. I’ll wait for you forever.”. As a teen, and later as an adult- I thought that was what true love was. Sacrificing yourself, giving up your time, waiting endlessly for the man you love to return to you. I remember actually saying the lines with Susannah and letting myself cry while watching because OMIGOD THAT IS HOW LOVE IS. Except it’s not. Not at all. You know how I know? Susannah kills herself. Because no one can wait forever. And no one deserves to have to wait forever. Realizing that someone who loves me will do everything they can to be in me life, THAT is love. And letting go of those who prompt me to want to pull a Susannah, well that’s self preservation. I realized this and although it hurt, hell- it STILL hurts, it doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as laying in bed wondering how I can get up.

Susannah, girl- you needed some therapy, medication and good friends to remind you that you didn’t need Tristan to rock your life. Years later, you could have written an old timey blog (I think these were called letters) to your friends revelling in your joy and giddily sharing how you survived those dark times.

You deserved that.

We all do.

What are your never fail strategies for getting through a rough patch, bad day or serious depression?

27 comments to Letting go of Brad Pitt and other ways to be happy

  • So this is all kinds of beautiful and perfect. I’m starting to claw my way out of an anxiety hole myself, and have learned some things on the way.

    When I’m sad, I let myself be sad. I’m gentle with myself. I make tea and warm up a chocolate chip cookie (or three) and put on my most comfortable fleece pants and wear the hood of my sweatshirt and browse Pinterest for hours. Because that’s what I need. I don’t distract myself from my sadness, but I don’t wallow in it, either.

    But when I’m happy, I refuse to feel guilty about that giant Starbucks latte I just splurged on and I wear the jeans that make my butt look good and I take my J.Lo butt to Ann Taylor and attempt to find the best deal on overpriced blouses I can and then I turn the dubstep up really loud in my car and I just soak up my own pure awesomeness because goddammit I’m worth it.

    So basically I’m relearning how to feel feelings.

  • Vitamin D. Whether its out for a hike, an epic bike ride, or just a five minute walk down the street, getting outdoors and getting a bit of sunshine whenever possible helps a lot with whatever I’m going through. Speaking of which, I need to remind myself to do it more lately…

  • Oh Brandy, this is so good and makes me so happy for you, you wisdomful and self-aware creature, you!

    Also, crikey it is hard to learn not to be Susannah. I learned it before and I’m learning it again. My love might be unconditional, but the time I’m willing to sit around waiting for someone damn sure has some conditions, some limits. That’s such a good thing to write down and to read as many times as need be until it sticks. So thanks for that.

  • Kez

    Oh, lady!!! Every point you made just resonated with me on SO MANY LEVELS. It’s the blog post I wish I had known how to articulate (especially as I struggle with writer’s block lately)! You’re awesome and inspiring :)
    I find that I use the same techniques as you to get through and be better. I especially find these important being a (relatively) new mother (14 months and counting). The pressure I feel as a parent (and the judgement – perceived or in-your-face-obvious) can get very overwhelming, so I need to remind myself to chill out and keep perspective almost daily.
    I also love a good inspirational quote when I’m feeling angry, confused or inadequate! Such a sucker for those things on Facebook haha.
    Keep being you :)

  • For the past few weeks, I have been saved by reminding myself that there’s no one right way to be a person. Everybody makes mistakes, so it’s okay if I do, too. This keeps me from falling into the trap of your second point above and it’s also helped me accept your fourth point as well. For me, 2013 is the year of embracing failure…and believe me, there have been some pretty big failures so far and I’m only 29 days in. Except this year, I’m feeling okay about that.

  • Bridget

    1) I’ve been learning the value of NOT multi-tasking lately. It’s brought a sense of calm I didn’t know was possible.

    2) Being brave enough to let go of the Tristan in my life is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Some days I still have to remind myself to let go but I, too, never want to lie in bed and wonder how to get up again.

    Thanks, Brandy!

  • I think I might have hurt my head because I was nodding too hard to everything you wrote. In fact, I’m still nodding my head because I see myself in this SO much. I’ve been thinking a lot lately that I need to stop multi-tasking and I’ve also been thinking I need to start revelling in my joy. I used to be SO good at joy-revelling and somewhere over the past year and a half, it’s disappeared. I want it back!

  • I feel kind of embarrassed admitting this to you, but I just watched Legends of the Fall for the first time recently and was struck by the tragedy of Susannah — the unfairness of it all! All she wanted to do was be in love and have Tristen’s babies. I could write an essay on that movie and all the feelings, man.

    That aside, I think this is really good advice. I am still working on the happiness part… but I am getting better about multi-tasking. :)

  • Oh boy, did I need to read this today! I’ve been having a little bit of a rough patch here lately, and I’ve been struggling trying to figure a way out of it. I plan on especially trying to remember #4. It’s way too easy to let yesterday’s shitty-ness ruin today’s potential.

    One thing that never, ever fails to work for me is to take Penny on a walk. It allows me time and space to breathe and think through my thoughts. Plus, Penny is adorable and funny so I always end up laughing at something.

    Here’s to hoping that today is a better day. Thank you for sharing.

  • I love this. I love that you are full of joy.
    You deserve it.

    When I feel down I try really hard to let myself do whatever I want.
    I find that a lot of my sadness stems from self-induced guilt. I “should” do the dishes, I “should” go to the gym, I “shouldn’t” have had that cookie, I “shouldn’t” spend all day on the couch. When I notice I’m feeling down I immediately start looking at these thoughts. I try to do what I really want to do when I really want to do it, as much as I can. I give myself a guilt-free pass.

    Doing something new always picks me up. An open mic night, a farmers market, even a restaurant. Variety is good. Novel is better.

    I’ve also found that I need a delicate balance of communication in my life. I do so much communicating without ever opening my mouth or seeing who I’m speaking to, I think it screws with me. Sometimes a phone call to a friend or my mom sets me right, other times I need to completely unplug and take a long ipod/phoneless walk with Bruno.

    This is the longest comment ever. Jeez.
    One more thing, lately when I need a pick me up I turn on Netflix and search for stand-up comedians. If they don’t make me laugh in 5 minutes, I try another. It makes me feel like I’m a queen dismissing poor jesters. Feeling royal is always a mood booster.

  • Oh this post makes me so happy for you, for your joy. You so deserve all of it my friend.

    For me, when I’m in a bit of a funk (or a really huge funk), I let myself BE in it- try to feel the feelings and not avoid them, but also not let myself get all sorts of wrapped up in them either. I acknowledge them, and I try to practice really good self care around that time, being kind to myself, working out a little extra, taking a yoga class, going to the movies, reading a good book. I also try to look at my thoughts and realize that so often, my thoughts control how I feel. I try to replace my angsty and sad thoughts with positive afirmations and sometimes that helps. Sometimes it doesn’t, but I try at least.

  • This post makes me so happy and I’m so glad you’ve arrived at a place where you can say you have joy. You’re an incredible and amazing and brilliant and hilarious lady and you deserve all the joy in all the lands.

    I’m still learning to take each day at a time, to remember that each fresh morning is a reset button, that the things that happened yesterday or last week or yesteryear don’t have to have impact on today’s mood. And I think I’m still trying to be more and more okay with me. It’s a process. I spent high school trying to be the me that I want to be and my 20s have been about finding my tribe, finding the people who don’t mind that I laugh to loud, or occasional laugh-snort, or say fuck a lot or sometimes get really, really sad. Being okay with me and stopping that whole comparison thing you’re talking about out has made my life better.

  • Thank you for sharing this!
    Growing up, I never thought I’d have dark days….but I have: very dark days, weeks, months even. Life sucks sometimes and even when we try our best to deal with things, our bodies and spirits rebel beyond our control. At least, that’s what happened to me.
    I’ve learned to just let emotions come and go, to not fight anything.
    Because? Most likely tomorrow I will feel different, better.
    I eat things I like without guilt, I watch my shows, I lounge on my couch, I treat myself easily with the reassurance that no matter what happens, I’ll be ok.

  • I love ALL of this. Really great. Thank you so much for sharing. This spoke to me on so many different levels.

  • this is just perfect brandy. heart it & heart you so much for writing it.

    i have definitely cut back on multitasking and have focused on just being more in the present. and accepting when there are things i can’t change. definitely the biggest lessons/actions i’ve taken lately.

  • “But my goal was never to just simply survive that time, I wanted to come out better for it. To live through a war like that makes you a survivor, but I wanted more. I wanted to thrive. I wanted to come out stronger, to prove to myself that the hell I went through was for a reason.”<—That, right there? is EXACTLY what I focus on when I'm dealing with the ugly feelings or going to my dark place.

    I feel like Xena freaking warrior princess when I get through a rough time (which was pretty much all of 2007). When I look back on how I learned how to deal with the extreme brunt force of emotions that year, I'm so proud of myself and realize that growth is pretty damn painful. and normal.

    Now I've been going through some ups & downs since last year (currently in kind of a funk) and I try to actively focus on the delight of my favorite song coming on the radio or blasting my favorite CD (I have been known to put 'survivor' by destiny's child on repeat FOR HOURS), I will give myself 'pep talks' while in the car, journal all of the junky feelings so I can get them out of my system. But I have been having a hard time at night because all of the thoughts and feelings come rushing at me. I've been working on listening and counting each breath or just counting out in my head.

    It's definitely not easy but as cliche as it is, it gets better.

  • I’m so glad you are in a better place and thankful for your brave posts along the way. You give words to feelings that many of us aren’t sure how to express, so thank you for that!

  • Sid

    I absolutely love this idea “If something was worth my time, my effort- it was worth 100% of it. Or none of it.” Loved this blog post. When I’m in a bad space I go for a run. It just helps to put everything in perspective.

  • Rachel K

    Excellent post and I am so happy to read about your joy.

  • [...] Some excellent tips for the angry or depressed by Brandi. [...]

  • [...] Some excellent tips for the angry or depressed by Brandi. [...]

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