Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"What Makes Us Happy?"

Three years ago, Joshua Wolf Shenk wrote an article for The Atlantic about one of the longest and most comprehensive longitudinal studies ever carried out. The study, which started in 1939, asked for lifelong commitments from 237 Harvard physically and mentally healthy sophomore males. The men would undergo a comprehensive initial physical and mental evaluation and would answer questions about their home lives and upbringing. Then, every few years, the men would fill out questionnaires about their lives at that point in an attempt to evaluate how financial, relationship and familial success correlated with happiness.  The conclusions were fascinating and I highly recommend reading the above-linked article all the way through. It's long and daunting, but very interesting.

As you might expect, many men who'd achieved giddy professional success were sad and unfulfilled. Many of their relationships fell apart. Some were alcoholics. A few committed suicide or died early from preventable causes. There's pretty obvious data about what not to do if you want to be happy and live a long life: don't smoke and don't drink.  But what should you do?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Back to therapy I go

My recent history with panic attacks has led me to believe that I'm doing something wrong in taking care of my mental and emotional health.  I've gotten on an anti-depressant and have a small supply of fast-acting anxiety medication on hand in case I need it.  But I know that's not enough.

My home teacher is a therapist. The night of my first panic attacks, he came over to help with a blessing and coach me on some techniques for avoiding panic.  One of the things he brought up was the use of medication. He likened it to getting a tooth filled; you could have a tooth filled without novocaine, but why would you? Likewise, you could just inject yourself with novocaine every hour and not have your tooth filled, but again, why would you?  His point was this: therapy is helpful, as is medication, and in some cases, both are required to achieve total health. In the tooth analogy, if you want to feel whole, you might need pain killers and restorative treatment.

In that wise, I'm beginning work with a therapist this week.  He has some experience with homosexuality and even though I'm attending BYU-Idaho, our sessions are confidential and free from the influence of the Honor Code office. I'm excited to begin my work with him and start building some trust in him.  The safe space will be a good place for me and even though I'll likely be swamped with other commitments as the semester wears on, I know that my own mental health needs to be a high priority, even if it means I'll have less spare time.

I've been meaning to write out a list of goals for this year. I'll get on that and submit them here for my own accountability and because I apparently like baring all of my private matters to the Internet.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Love and heartbreak

[I started this post on Wednesday, April 17, just after the events herein. For various and sundry reasons, I haven't posted it till today, so it will sound disjointed.]

I don't know how to start this post. It's a difficult one for me to write for lots of reasons. Even so, I feel that I need to get it outside me, so I'm going to write it.

I fell in love this year. I made a friend, there was a mutual attraction, that attraction turned to infatuation, which turned to deep respect, which turned to love, which turned to falling in love.  I fell hard.  I wanted this man to be mine so much. Many of my waking hours were spent thinking of him, dreaming of the life we'd have together. We kissed, there was a connection, there was attraction, it all seemed like it was going to be okay.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The most terrifying three seconds

I have a new niece, for whom I am extremely grateful. She is a precious little girl, an absolute angel. I'm falling in love with her every moment I have with her.

A few days ago, I was holding her and bouncing her gently to get her to sleep.  She was laying on her back in the little gap between my thighs as I sat on the couch. She started to relax, but then convulsed so that I could feel the tension in her little muscles.  She opened her mouth as if to cry, but no sound came out except for these awful, tiny little gasps punctuated by gurgles. I scooped her out of my lap and against my shoulder and started smacking her back, thinking she was choking on something. The gasps continued and I began to panic. For about three seconds, I was convinced my darling niece was going to die in my arms.

Thankfully, breath returned to her lungs within a second or two of that panic setting in and she calmed down and began to cry normally. I rushed her to my sister and told what happened and my sister explained that my niece had a harmless reflux problem that merely appeared to be horrific. Relieved, I sat down and thought about what happened.

I have never been more petrified with fear than in those three seconds where I felt out of control and helpless to save my niece. I have never been more convinced of my own guilt that she was in my lap when she began to gasp and that it was therefore my fault. For three agonizing seconds that lasted far too long, I was in Hell. I'd forgotten all my other joys, all my other anguish, and could only think about my niece and how I was about to lose her.

Without putting too fine a point on it or being overdramatic, things became a bit clearer in those moments following the most terrifying three seconds of my life. This whole gay thing seemed like a drop in the bucket of worldly sorrow compared against that of those parents who helplessly watch their children slip away in hospital beds. It also made me wonder what other experiences I haven't had (nor would care to have) that I take for granted. It made me count my blessings that in lieu of worldly Hell, God gave me gay instead. It's a lonely road with many paths, all of them isolating in some way, but I'd take loneliness over those three seconds played on repeat.

This post was more for me than anyone else. I just needed to remember this experience.

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