Happiness, Love, and Mental Illness are rather difficult topics for me to write about. Not just because they bring up emotionally difficult concepts, but because it is often tough to explain to other people, neurotypical or not, what these things mean to someone like myself. While I cannot obviously attempt to speak for everyone with a serious mental illness diagnosis, I simply was never mentally hard wired to have a universally accepted definition of happiness. My personal definitions of happiness is “a sense of calmness and peace about myself and my surroundings” and “a state where depression, sadness, anxiety, anger, and stress are not my dominant emotions for any set period of time.” I cannot obviously comment on what happiness means or is interpreted by others, simply because it is impossible for me to get into someone else’s mind and see the world exactly as they see it. I was not made in such a manner as to know what constituted most pleasant emotions such as love, happiness, joy, etc.
Some will no doubt think that my stated definitions of happiness are very odd. Others may even think I am a liar when I state that I literally don’t know what others feel when they are happy. In fact, I usually cannot tell when others are happy. I especially cannot tell when others are happy or pleased with me unless they specifically say so. Even though I have the ability to know how others are likely to act in certain situations, I simply cannot tell what others are feeling. It is impossible for me to read any non verbal queue. The only way I can tell for sure is through their actions. I have a very hard time telling when someone is being deceptive, manipulative, or when a person is being sincere and honest just by their non verbal queues. As I tend to feel paranoid and threatened even on a good day, my usual default mode when dealing with people is the assumption that others are malicious and untrustworthy unless they prove otherwise through their actions and reassurances. The only people I know I am in good standing with no matter what are the handful of people that I’ve been confidants with for more than several years. Growing up with the early stages of schizophrenia that had not made themselves manifest, I never knew with any kind of certainty where I stood with friends, classmates, teachers, adults, and especially my own family unless I was specifically told where I stood. To this day, I just assume I’m out of favor with someone unless I am assured otherwise. To me, that is just as natural as the sky being blue and the sun rising in the east.
As tough as happiness was in writing about, talking about an emotion that is a very tough one for even neurotypicals like love is like climbing Mt. Everest without supplies or a guide. I simply do not understand the neurotypical ideas that are entailed when they state the word ‘love.’ I have no real basis or understanding of the word love. I don’t know how to interpret it from others, I have no built in way to tell if someone loves me (especially if it’s a member of the opposite sex that peeks my interest) and I don’t think I even know how to send out the idea that I love someone. In fact, there really is no hard definition in the English language of the word love. I like how the ancient Greeks had several different words for different types of love. The Greeks had separate words for love between a husband and wife (eros), love for a nation or group of similar people (philios), and unmerrited or Divine love (agape). Having something like that would make things easier for people like me who have difficulties understanding cliches, vague ideas, and things that lack a hard definition.
We live in a civilization that is obsessed with the idea of finding true love and how to preserve such love. Yet there is really no hard and accepted definition of what love truly is. To someone like myself, it is aggravating that there is no hard set definition. It is especially aggravating to me that when I do feel something special for a woman, I have absolutely no sure fire way or instructions as to how to let someone like that know exactly how I feel about her. In the vast majority of cases, what I felt for a girl and what she felt for me where nowhere near close to the same feelings. As a result, I have been on very few dates over the course of my life. With my mental make up being what it is, even though I assume the worst about other people I really don’t know well, the rejection I get from others is still painful deal with. I simply am unable to read non verbal queues. The verbalized ones I do receive, I often interpret in my mind as very likely being far worse then what the person talking with me ever intended. Thus the idea of even casual dating, let alone marriage, scares me so much I won’t even attempt it anymore. It is not within my definition of love or friendship to be in any kind of relationship or partnership where there is any real strife.
People think I’m lying when I say I’ve had friendships that have lasted for around 20 years where I have not even had a real argument with the friend. Others may argue that this a sterile friendship that lacks any substance and character. That is far from the truth. The best friend I currently have, who is by the way a woman I have known since my junior high years, we probably have a better, more fulfilling friendship than most friendships or even marriages could imagine as possible. The only serviceable definition of love I know of in the English language comes from St. Paul’s second letter to the early church in Corinth (2 Corinthians, Chapter 13 I think). Even that wasn’t originally written in English (it was originally ancient Greek) and it was written almost two thousand years ago.
In closing I have much chaos in my mind due to my mental illness. That is why I crave stability and absolutes in my outer life and when dealing with others. Yet, I have rarely found any lasting stability in my relations with other humans. I have certainly never found any stability and absolutes when trying, and failing miserably, when trying to secure the affections of a woman I have feelings for. I have failed so miserably in looking for stability and reason in my dealings with other humans that I have essentially accepted this as a futile and pointless task. And that continues to cause me a great deal of stress, sadness, anger, and strife to this day. As I stated earlier, having such feelings dominate my mental outlook is my standard mode of operation because of my mental illness. By my own definition, I am typically not sensing what I understand to be happiness and certainly I don’t know what it is to feel loved.