I Didn't Laugh For A Year, This Is What I Learned

What Not Being Able To Laugh For A Year Taught Me About Happiness

When I emerged from a year of darkness, I learned lessons about self-worth and fulfillment that gave me back my ability to enjoy life.

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When I was in the sixth grade, at the age of 12, I struggled considerably with anxiety and depression. Many would relegate feelings of anxiety as simply "growing pains": part of the process of becoming a teenager that many of us must go through to find our identities. However, in many cases, anxiety evolves in a much more complex manner, manifesting in the form of panic attacks, mood changes, identity crisis amongst other experiences. Anxiety is very frequently coupled with depression, as was my experience. For a 12-year-old particularly, these feelings can be especially devastating.

Outwardly a very friendly and outgoing person, the evidence of my mental struggles wasn't always outwardly apparent. At times, I suffered in private. I would have uncontrollable bouts of crying, often inexplicably crying myself to sleep every night. But perhaps the most noticeable indicator of my complex internal state was my inability to laugh. I found myself unable to genuinely laugh for nearly a year. Nothing. Comedy shows lost their luster, and my favorite corny jokes of the past didn't hit me they way they had previously. Needless to say, young me was very perplexed- and saddened.

After nearly a year's worth of personal progression and evolution, as well as some help from my loved ones, I learned the things vital to help me navigate my feelings of depression and anxiety. Perhaps the most significant of quotes that's stuck with me since the six years I first experienced my depression is that "You are the only person responsible for your own happiness." Now, this hit young me square in the face, as I was very reliant on the people who I thought were my closest friends and my investment in my extracurricular activities (I was a competitive cheerleader at this time) to keep me happy. But the instant those friendships felt apart (as middle school friendships invariably do) and simultaneously I did not make the cheerleading team that I had dreamed of being apart of for so long, I no longer had a source of happiness. And thus came the depression. I realized the hard way that outside sources of happiness are fickle, and the only common denominator was me. After the friends, after cheerleading, I was the only one that had to live inside my brain and deal with my emotions. So I should be the one responsible for cultivating the permanent positivity in my life, myself.

Another thing I learned, although it may seem plainly obvious, is that by recognizing myself as a person deserving of happiness, I manifested that very same happiness in my everyday life. How I felt about myself directly correlated to my feelings of what I was worthy of, and by feeling as if I do not deserve to be happy, I was keeping myself from the very happiness I desired. Recognizing myself as a person who deserved to be happy did not "cure me" by any stretch of the imagination, as I still struggle at times with depression and anxiety. However, it allowed me to shift my focus and prioritize my own fulfillment. I was able to channel my energy into the activities that made me the happiest and reap the benefits of those activities, as I now saw myself as a willing participant in my own happiness rather than a passive spectator.

None of this is to say that people who suffer from anxiety and depression simply "aren't trying to be happy" nor are they to blame for the complex feelings they experience. My understanding of my own journey through the pitfalls of depression and anxiety has given me a perspective of my own, and each individual's struggle is completely unique. Nevertheless, I believe we all can benefit from learning about the experiences of others finding a route to their own happiness.

And now, in spite of the hardships I might face, I laugh louder than ever before.

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10 Photos You Have On Your Camera Roll Of Your S.O. When You've Been Dating For More Than A Year

A wide range from "Aw" to "WTF?"

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My boyfriend and I just hit the year and a half mark of dating, even though it seems like we've been together forever. Over the months, we've taken many pictures together... from football games, to his track meets, to holidays. Although we may have a lot of pictures together, I definitely have a lot of candids of him in my camera roll. If you've been dating your partner for as long as I have or longer, then you'll probably notice you have these same pictures in your photos as well.

1. The awkward first photos together

We laugh at these now, especially this one. Why am I so pale compared to him? It was July! And also, we noticed not to long ago that I was sweating under my arms and his underarms were sweating on me... what a great first time meeting!

2. The ones for VSCO

Every girl who has a significant other posts them onto their VSCO. VSCO is like Instagram, but more has more aesthetically pleasing pictures and there are no "likes." The pictures that include my boyfriend on my VSCO ranges from him holding a bunny to him holding my hand while we went ice skating.

3. Them sleeping

I have so many pictures of my boyfriend sleeping (I promise it's not as weird as it sounds), I just think he's so cute when he's fast asleep while cuddling with me.

4. The embarrassing ones they want no one to see

He's going to kill me when he sees this... but we all have those embarrassing Snapchat pictures that we start to send each other because we've gotten more comfortable with one another.

5. The ones for Facebook

The good looking pictures so you can keep yours and his family updated on how you two are doing. I took my boyfriend to a baby bird meet and greet since he loves birds and has one for a pet. I posted this cute picture of him and his new friends on Facebook so my family can see our adventures together.

6. Old pictures

One of the best parts of dating someone is finally seeing their old pictures. Although, sometimes they may make you cringe... like the one I posted above of my boyfriend after prom in his sophomore year of high school.

7. Their accomplishments

My boyfriend pole vaults for his college and he's really good at it. He just went to division III nationals in March because he qualified! I'm always at his meets so I make sure to get him on video in case he or anyone wants to see. I always try to snag a picture with him too because I'm always so proud.

8. The straight up ugly ones

He sure knows how to make me laugh. And I know he's going to be mad at me for this one too but I think it's a talent that he can do that with his stomach! Sorry, Adam, I promise I still think you look good when you send me these snaps for the most part.

9. But you have the hot ones too

He may be funny and sweet, but he is pretty good looking too. I know us girls keep some attractive pictures of our S.O.'s so we can remind ourselves of what a great looking partner we have.

10. FaceTime screenshots

If you and your lover go to different colleges like my boyfriend and I do, then FaceTiming happens a lot. Sometimes I get some great screenshots, like the one above, to make fun of him later.

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You Know You're From Trumbull, CT When...

The best memories are made in this boring, little, Connecticut town.

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1. The majority of places you will consider to eat at are in Fairfield or Westport... Colony, Shake Shack, Country Cow, Playa Bowls, BarTaco

2. But if you find yourself too lazy to get on 95 for food, Panchero's is the go-to... never Chipotle. If it is past midnight, the choice always comes down to the McDonalds in Monroe, where you are almost guaranteed to see a group of people you know, or Merritt Canteen.

3. Once you got your license, your Friday night plans consisted of picking up friends, driving up and down Main Street, and, somehow, always finding yourself at the THS parking lot seeing who's car is there because there is nothing better to do.

4. In the Fall, you couldn't wait for Friday so that after school you and half of your grade could walk to Plasko's Farm for ice cream and apple cider donuts... and hope you could get them before the owners would yell at you to leave. (This one only applies to Hillcrest Middle School kids, AKA the inferior middle school in town).

5. You couldn't wait to be a senior so you could officially lead the BLACK HOLE at football games... if you were even willing to go in the cold.

6. You looked forward to the annual Senior Scav, the last week of summer before your senior year where a list of tasks is passed down by the recently graduated class... the official kickoff to senior year.

7. You pass by Country Club Rd. and get flashbacks from the worst Cross Country practices ever. Driving up Daniels Farm Rd. in the Fall and Spring, you are conditioned to yell "hi" out the window to your friends at practice.

8. You knew someone who worked at Gene's gas station... and found yourself spending more time there on the weekends than you would like to admit.

9. You are convinced Melon-heads are real after frequenting Velvet St. to see the abandoned insane asylum with your friends, IF you didn't want to drive all the way up to Fairfield Hills in Newtown.

10. You have had/have been to at least one middle school birthday party at the Trumbull Marriott.

11. You know that the 25mph speed limit on Whitney Ave. is way too slow... and can't help but hit a little air going down the huge hill at the top.

12. The guy at Towne likely knows your name.

13. You never find yourself turning right out of THS... that side of town is irrelevant for those who do not live there.

14. You know to avoid the Merrit Parkway from 4:00-7:00pm at all costs.

15. You know more than you would like to about people you aren't even friends with... in a town so small, things get around very quick.

16. Going shopping really means going to Target, or any store in the mall, for the millionth time that week.

17. The marching band was the best in the state and you would see them practicing, literally, every time you drove by THS.

19. Depending on the side of town you lived, you spent a lot of time at Five Pennies Park or Indian Ledge Park.

20. You would say you couldn't wait to leave, but when you got to college, you find yourself excited to come back to your hometown so you can reminisce on old traditions and make new memories.

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