THE BLOG
10/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

It's Okay to be Happy (Some Thoughts and a Song!)

It's okay to be happy.

It took me a long time to learn this lesson, and it was a hard one to fully grasp. Like many people I know who have suffered with depression, I once believed that I was destined to be sad for life. Sometimes it seemed like everyone around me was happy while I was always stuck in misery.

Misery is a progressive illness for me. The more I think about being miserable and worrying that I will never be happy, the more miserable I become. I used to make myself miserable in this way a lot.

Don't get me wrong. Mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and depression that can cause misery in people's lives are real. Thanks to Marya Hornbacher and her powerful book, Madness, I have a deeper understanding of bipolar disorder than ever before. People battling this illness cannot "just snap out of it" any more than I could "just smile" when I struggled with depression.

I never chose to struggle with depression, but I did choose to get better. Then I chose to let the constant fear of the depression returning send me into needless tailspins. I walked around with a constant sense of impending doom. For example, on days I woke up feeling especially happy, I would repeat the following affirmation to myself over and over again:

I feel happy today. It must be a fluke. I am sure the depression is returning.

On days I woke up feeling a little blue, instead of realizing that normal people sometimes feel sad, I would repeat this:

I feel sad today. I am sure the depression is returning.

My negative affirmations only led to more negative thinking and inevitably to misery. For those of you who do not believe that affirmations work, try incorporating the ones listed above into your life for a while. I am being sarcastic here. (Don't do it!) Those thoughts only proved to zap any and all joy from my life. Years ago, a doctor actually helped me to realize that I was sabotaging myself.

So I became aware of the self-sabotaging voice inside of my head. When I found myself repeating those same negative affirmations, it helped for me to separate from those thoughts and to go inside of myself --- to connect with my heart. My heart will not sabotage my happiness. I have learned that I have a choice in whether or not I choose to put energy into negative, futuristic thinking. My new, positive affirmation is: It's okay to be happy.

It's even okay for me --- someone with a history of depression --- to be happy. I am happy.

Check out the song, "It's Okay to be Happy," (written by myself, Dave Berg, and Georgia Middleman) from my new book Goodbye Ed, Hello Me at www.myspace.com/jennischaefer!