Even if “faking happiness” doesn’t become the title of my book, it’ll definitely be a major theme since it’s the foundation of most of my heartache, and the way I approached living starting as young adult. I became a master of secrecy and pretending for the ability to appear happy, and over time developed a strange addiction to the idea of happiness because it wasn’t an emotion I felt often or trusted, all while slowly suffocated emotionally. It’s exhausting to live a double life, and it wasn’t just my fake reality I needed to protect, I was also hiding the ugliness of daily abuse from those who claimed to love me most. When I was young I couldn’t understand why abused women would stay in their unhealthy relationships, but after going from one abuser to another, I felt like I finally understood them… I had become one of them. I settled for unhappiness, justified and excused it, carefully veiled my disappointments related to life not matching my childhood expectations, all while thinking that’s what it meant to love, respect, honor, support, and care for your husband.
When I felt unloved, uncared for, and unsatisfied with my life, I would suppress my feelings while chastising myself for being “selfish” or “ungrateful”. From a young age I did everything in my power to “be happy” even when I wasn’t, and I simply pretended everything was ok, while also developing a damaging internal dialog with myself. And honest-to-god, the entire time I believed that this was how life worked, and that most of my unhappiness was related to resisting reality by holding onto my youthful dreams and ideals about life and family.
Leaving my first marriage was damaging to my friendships, my relationship with my immediate family, and professionally. And while there was a part of me that felt like my life had been saved, there was a bigger part of me that was ashamed that I hadn’t found a way to fix everything and somehow make it work. I felt like such a failure.
With years of practice at faking happiness, I pushed forward and started over physically with a new city, new career, and entirely new life, and told myself that I was changed, different, and never going to experience anything like what I’d survived and escaped. The problem with my minimal understanding of life, lack of self awareness, and ideas about how relationships are supposed to work, is that I ended up back in an identical marriage a few years later. I convinced myself it was completely different, yet I was accepting of treatment and a lifestyle I didn’t support and wasn’t comfortable with, I accepted influence into my young daughter’s life that I wasn’t happy with, and I minimized my dreams, personality, likes and dislikes, to give my husband room to shine and feel powerful. I was suffocating and I didn’t know it, and my way of surviving life was to become more and more disconnected and hopeless, while pretending everything was wonderful.
Everyone has a story, and in every story there’s a breaking point. It took me a long time to realize I was at “rock bottom”, because when you’ve been slowly dying emotionally for years, the change isn’t always inwardly obvious. My sister provided my “eye opening experience” through a single heartbreaking speech delivered while she gave me facial. She had an hour to challenge me, tell me a million truths, and push me to step-up in life for myself and my children, while I quietly laid there as she applied product after product to my face. . . and my entire life was forever changed. I’ll always be grateful for her bravery and insight. I was suddenly done pretending on behalf of my family, whom I desperately didn’t want to disappoint. I was done pretending I was happy in an attempt to hide feelings of brokenness, loss, and worthlessness. I was done being a shell of a mother. And I was done making excuses and being submissive to an abusive, unloving man.
The years I spent surviving abuse taught me powerful things about myself. I had a tendency to please others or say what I thought people wanted to hear, instead of thinking for myself, because I thought that’s how I would find and experience love. I was successful and independent outside of the house, while hiding so much hurt that I always felt moments away from tears, and I carried significant fear that someone might learn the truth about my personal life and that ugly reality would somehow eliminate all the goodness I’d created for myself. When I ended my second marriage, my entire life changed in beautiful ways. I began a journey of enlightenment, self-care, and a deep dive into my own spirit, personality, lifestyle, and preferences. I discovered grace, power, compassion, patience, and a deep love for myself, my family, and my life that I’d never known. I’ve definitely learned what I don’t want in life, but sitting with myself in silence, forgiving myself and others for the hurt I endured, and discovering who I really am and what I want in life was incredible, and scary, and emotional, and beyond anything I could have comprehended or imagined. My healing journey brought me to a place of wholeness, peacefulness, and a deep sense of self-love and self-care. I’m thankful for my past experiences, thankful for hitting rock-bottom, thankful for the love and support of my closest people who have supported my journey as I’ve worked diligently to transform my life, and I’m so thankful that life is journey not a finish line.
I’m hopeful that sharing truths about my life and transformation will function as inspiration for others. Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone is enough motivation to fight for yourself, and sometimes having a guide is the only way out of the darkness. When I didn’t know what to do or how to change, but knew I wanted a different life and was tired of feeling broken, I started small daily habits that I knew were positive and healthy (like walking and drinking a bunch of water). . . and I did them even when I didn’t feel like it, day after day after day. While this may sound too simple to turn an entire life from negative to positive, please trust me when I tell you that it created momentum in my lifestyle and spirit that turned into a wildfire. Sometimes there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, and sitting and waiting for something (or someone) to change your situation or motivate you to take action simply means you’ll be sitting there forever. If you’re feeling stuck or can relate to anything I’ve shared, maybe it’s time to light your tunnel on fire, create your own light, and stop faking happiness or pretending that your unhappiness is justified? You are worthy of living your best life!