November 21, 2016
An Emotional Post This Thanksgiving – My Path To Happiness
by Corrina Thurston
Below is an unusually private and emotional post. This has been a year full of challenges and hardships, so as Thanksgiving comes nearer, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come and all the things for which I’m grateful. This is especially true of my overall happiness level.
Read this post and take from it whatever you can. In essence, it’s a short personal essay about how I found happiness after falling chronically ill, despite growing up with depression. A big part of my newfound happiness was discovering I could draw.
Feel free to share this post if you feel it will help someone else in some way.
My Path To Happiness – Finding Happiness After Falling Chronically Ill
When I was growing up, no one understood where my shockingly well-developed maturity came from. They couldn’t see past the façade I kept up that blocked my darkest emotions and my thoughts of self-harm.
From the age of 8, I felt I had a darkness inside me that no one could possibly understand or accept. I knew some of my thoughts weren’t normal, so I kept them to myself in order to both protect myself and prevent those around me from worrying.
It was around that same time that many people I knew began to pass away, and it went on for years, which was likely the first major trigger. Person after person in my peripheral life died, giving me the lasting impression that I shouldn’t get close to anyone because they’ll get taken away from me. The closer I got to someone, the more I knew it would eventually hurt, so I kept everyone at a distance, pretending I wasn’t lonely, pretending I didn’t care.
I was great at pretending. Being an introvert helped me to mask my fear of getting attached because I actually did enjoy and need my own space. No one would have guessed at how purposeful those actions were, even at a young age.
Some of my teachers might have guessed at my brewing depression. I could see it in their expressions of sympathy when they asked an innocuous question, but there was no way they were getting in. In my mind, they couldn’t fathom the depth of my emotions, the lingering terror and dread that enveloped my gut on a day-to-day basis. No one could. But I also didn’t recognize it as depression. I thought it was just part of my personality.
At the age of 18, I became chronically ill with an unknown illness that forced me to medically withdraw from college. I had to move back in with my parents and was nearly bedridden for 6 years. With a 24/7 severe migraine, insomnia, fatigue, body pain, eye sensitivity, nausea, shakiness, hallucinations, digestive issues, etc., my life became a living hell because there wasn’t a single moment without excruciating pain, nor was there much of anything I could do to distract myself.
If I had depression and loneliness before, just imagine what 6 years of that could do to someone.
I broke. Shattered, to be more precise. After about a year of being sick, bits and pieces of me fell to the floor with each day that passed, clattering and collecting beneath my bed. I cried, I shook, I grappled with whether or not I believed in a God, and I contemplated suicide. I was angry and frustrated. The darkness that had simmered in me as I grew up started to boil over until I melted on the spot, a puddle of spent emotions.
There was nothing I could do.
There was nothing anyone could do.
I was helpless and broken and the future seemed hopeless.
I never knew until now how much a sudden random thought could potentially change the course of someone’s entire life. For me, it was the urge to pick up a pencil and start to sketch. From my bed I taught myself how to draw, working a little at a time, as my migraine, vision, and fatigue would allow.
Piece by fragile piece I gathered the fragments of myself and reconfigured them in a way that focused on the good. Before long, I realized that the darkness usually occupying my gut was diminishing. The more I recognized how grateful I was for certain things, things like my parents, my siblings, my cats keeping me company, my newfound ability to draw, the rare moments of lucidity, and more, the happier I felt.
I taught myself how to meditate and forced myself to think of things I was grateful for each day. And most importantly, I recognized that I had been taking out some of my frustrations on the people closest to me and I stopped doing that immediately.
Those closest to me, my parents and siblings, were amazing, especially my mom who was the one taking care of my day-to-day needs and keeping me company in the evenings. Having kept them at somewhat of a distance for most of my life, I was astonished at the amount of effort they spent trying to take care of me, and the incredible depth of their love. I didn’t feel like I deserved it.
I spent the majority of my life trying not to become attached, being as independent as possible. Then, as I was struck down by this illness, I became completely dependent on the care and sympathy of other people, those same people I had pushed away.
Slowly, purposefully, I started letting them in.
It’s taking time and effort to overcome the fears that have been ingrained in me since I was 8 years old, but I’m learning to love more completely than I ever could have before. That may sound cliche, but I’m honestly not sure how else to put it.
In 2014 I was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease, Bartonella, Babesia, two types of pneumonia, Epstein Barr, and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I’m still on treatment, but at least I’m seeing progress!
There’s even been enough progress where I’ve been able to start my own art business, which is something I never imagined could happen. If you’d told me a few years ago that I would now be a professional artist, entrepreneur, speaker, teacher, and mentor to other artists, I would have laughed at you for being so ridiculous. I never would have guessed at this path for myself, but I’m incredibly grateful it’s now the one I’m on.
Every part of my life is more open. Now I’m in a relationship with someone who’s been through a lot of his own life difficulties and can understand where my emotions come from better than most. Because of what we have in common and my new pursuit to let people in despite the threat that eventually it could hurt me, this is the best relationship I’ve ever been a part of, despite the challenges life has thrown us, and it continues to grow.
So do I.
Every day I’m grateful for so much, and somehow in the midst of the worst and longest experience of my life, I’ve learned to be happier than ever before.