Happiness in the city: reaching rock-bottom to feel alive again

Exactly a month ago, I wrote a (granted, very dramatic) journal entry titled ‘who stole my happiness?’. It wasn’t the first unhappy entry though. I had been pouring out negativity and anxious ramblings for two, almost three months.

Four months ago, the anxiety started. At first, I masked it with a dark joke here and a self deprecating quip there. But they snowballed into one anxiety attack, followed by another, with a grand finale in the form of a panic-attack-cum-mental-breakdown. Before I knew it, that feeling of all-encompassing sorrow and discomfort embalmed me from head to toe, like a depressed corpse ready for her untimely burial.

Five months ago, I got offered my dream job. Editor of a reputable website with over 100,000 subscribers. After two years of working in music – away from my true passion of writing – it felt like coming home.

Six months ago, my boyfriend of three years proposed to me at our favourite spot in Dubai. I was over the moon, counting down the days until the moment we exchanged I do’s.

To an outsider, it sounded like my life was going in the most wonderful direction. Instead, I’d become the sort of person who compared herself to things like depressed corpses.

Arrival fallacy, a term first coined by Tal Ben-Shahar in his book, ‘Happier’ (2007), describes the feeling of disillusion once a person reaches their goal. In my case, I was feeling an overwhelming sense of emptiness. I had put so much pressure on myself to achieve my career goals before turning 30, that when I did, I felt like they did not live up to what I had set them up to be in my head. It was a rude awakening that the grass was – without delving into details – quite brown and dismal on the other side.

In parallel, I felt too paralysed to allow myself to be happy and excited about my approaching nuptials. This made me fall deeper into the depression rabbit hole. Every miserable day that passed was a day wasted on not feeling the elatedness of preparing for a wedding – a marriage – I had worked so hard for.

Five weeks ago, I handed in my resignation.

I always thought of myself as a career-first person. But when it came down to it, I chose something that had never even crossed my mind as a goal: happiness. The noise in my head suddenly fell silent when I asked myself: “what can I do right now that will make me wake up and feel happy?”. The answer was clear.

Of course, I recognise the extensively privileged position I’m in, where resigning with no concrete future plans is even a feasible option. But in my position, it felt a hundred times better to lose my steady income than my sanity (which, let’s be honest, was never really fully intact).

One week ago, I woke up and felt excited for the day ahead.

I felt happy.

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