The secret to happiness …

… is probably that nobody knows what it is.

We all have to find out for ourselves. Maybe because happiness – like wealth – is different for everyone. There are days when I have 50K in my account, but I feel broke because my debts are five times that. And there are days I find a random 50 bob in my jeans pocket and feel like a billionaire.

The year has just started, and I’ve found a new definition of happiness. For me, happiness is ‘feeling enough’. Because from a practical perspective, my life is awesome. I’ve ticked off a lot of my boxes and I’m doing good. I’ve even shed weight. It wasn’t on purpose, and the circumstances sucked, but shed weight is shed weight so yay! Now to keep it off … or maybe shift it around?


(I typed *lost* weight, then heard a random voice from my dalliance with Buddhism. A voice that said, “When you lose something you’ll find it again, so maybe don’t use that word for something … unless you want it back.”)

I think I’m a happy person. Because the silliest things make me giggle, I’m easily amused, and my brightness bubbles up like a child. But I’ve had lifelong cycles of anxiety/depression, which doesn’t quite fit with me being happy.

The past few days have been especially harsh. Lots of tears, lots of reflection, and finally, a realisation that all my dark days arise from feeling not-enough. I get into the space of fear and despair. I look at those around me and start to measure myself against them. And because the view is skewed, I fall short.

Expectation vs reality

Result? I scramble to catch up, making dumb decisions out of fear. Or worse, I sink into a hole, feeling I’ll never catch up – why even try? I’m not good enough to be in the same lane, or even the same race. I’m just not worth the effort, or the time. It’s a scary place to be, and a life-defeating one. Literally.

Not-enough-ness frequently dumps me in a spiral and leaves me there. So I figure if I can keep my happiness self-contained, if I can convince myself I’m enough for me, then I’m good. And if the forces around me try to put me down, I’ll know I’m enough for *me* even if I’m not enough for them.


It’s easy to drown out unwanted voices. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Fiction. But when the unwanted voices come from the inside … and they know how to swim … things get a little tricky. So my task for the year is to shush that voice in my head, to talk back when it says I’m not enough. To look it in the eye, smile, and say, ‘Yes, I am. I’m enough for me. Even if I’m not enough for you.’

I don’t want to get angry though. Or mean. Or unkind. I don’t want my self-sourced happiness to be a weapon against the world. I don’t want to get so militant in my *happiness* that it turns into bile I readily splash at others. I want my happiness to be mine, and I want it to be all about me.

And when the darkness tempts me to take off the blind-fold and see what ‘others’ are doing, lures me into exploring the pantone of their grass, I can say nah, I’m good right here. It seems like such a simple thing in theory. I just don’t know how to make it … real. Luckily, I have this year to find out.

♫ Walk on Water ♫ Thirty Seconds to Mars ♫

The year of me

I have this weird thing I do where I look too far ahead. It’s a quality I’ve always been proud of – my not-so-inner overplanner – but now I realise I miss out on a lot. I’m so busy looking forward that I don’t get to enjoy where I am. I only ever have fun in retrospect.

Case in point. A few weeks ago, I turned 37. #4to40 was an amazing hashtag … that I should have used all year … if I hadn’t been so focused on the future. And now that I think of it, I do the same thing every year. I spend 11 months focusing on my next birthday instead of my current one. Then one month regretting the wasted year. And that’s a lot of roses I don’t get to smell.

I’m scared of turning 40, because there’s a shit-ton I thought I’d have done by then, and I’m not even close. But also because my little girl is no longer little. She’s living her own life, and I need to start living mine. But I’ve revolved around her so long I’m not sure what I look like outside her.

Late in 2017, I met my truest friend. It’s been a hell of a year with him, in every way. Emotionally. Financially. Psychologically. He’s taught me to see myself in a new way. To let go of parts of me that weren’t serving me. Parts I thought were permanent, until I shed them. I’m a better me because of him.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Best-friend-ship – at least the way I live it – is as intense as a marriage. And we all know how I feel about marriage. Right now, I feel that way about relationships too. I think they’re nice for other people, just not for me, and I’m fine with that. Sometimes, the feeling changes

But right now, I’m happier on my own, despite the baby-daddy’s drunken rants demanding otherwise. And no, the baby-daddy and the hangover guy are not the same person. Yes, I still think he – hangover guy – is a good man. It’s just that he wants kids, I don’t, and he wants kids more than he wants me. I’m over him, I wish him the best, and I don’t do friendship with former lovers (or almost lovers). It just doesn’t work for me. I’m not that grown up.

But in this year with my best friend, I’ve realised I’m doing all the things married people do (including NO SEX hehehe). And I’m realising this is all the permanence I need. Because I’m giving him all the things I’m unwilling to give a spouse. And our relationship is just as much work – and just as much reward – as an actual marriage. Yes, that includes the drama.

In 2018, he taught me new things about myself, and helped me shed some old ones. I have more lessons to learn. To judge less, especially myself. To let go of my need to be right. To truly love myself. And be kinder to myself. Much kinder. To not take criticism personally. To enjoy the moment.

So this coming year, in 2019, I’m not going to be ‘almost 38’. I’m going to be 37. I’m going to live it. I’m going to enjoy it. And I’m going to give more – way more – to me. I hope everyone does the same. (I’ll take Mpesa. Till numbers available on request.) #PleaseAndThank you. #NaUsitumeYaKutoa.


Stay Zedd

What did you do?

The advantage of having a best friend that shares your mental health issues is the sense of understanding. My best friend has been through a lot of the shit that I have, both in our minds and in our lives. It helps to talk to someone who gets it, gets me, and cares about me, because their advice goes beyond the well-meaning and into the applicable, the actionable, the live-able.

In the past few weeks, I’ve binged on In Treatment. It’s a show about therapy, and the episodes are based on psycho-analytic sessions on the couch. It’s derived from the Israeli show Be Tipul, and many episodes are word-for-word translations, except for replacing Civil Rights with Holocaust.

The show is dark, and I don’t like how the female characters are written, but it’s caught my attention, because I can relate to a lot of the issues that come up, and I want to see how (or if) they get resolved. This isn’t the same kind of therapy I had for two years. Mine was CBT – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. It’s less focused on the past and more on changing current and future patterns of thought and behaviour. It gave me tools to actively deal with low cycles, but didn’t dig into the past events that formed my recurring depressive patterns.

Season 2 of In Treatment has two characters I feel connected to – April and Walter. They both have issues arising from a childhood sense of self-blame that shaped how they deal with the world, especially their careers and intimate relationships. They both push themselves to ‘save’ others at the risk of their own well-being. They suppress their own need and pain.

Following their in-therapy examples, I dug into my own past to see what was the cause of my self-blame, and I found that like many people who experienced rape, I blame myself. But because it happened in childhood, the sense of blame is far more pervasive. It makes me take responsibility for everything and everyone in my life, blaming myself for everything that goes wrong and carrying the weight of trying (and failing) to fix it.

I was talking to said best friend about a particular issue I’m currently blaming myself for, and he asked a seemingly simple question. ‘Okay, so it’s your fault. What exactly did you do wrong?’ The question froze me. Because at first, it seemed silly. I opened my mouth to respond. Closed it. Rinse and repeat. It’s my fault, yes. But how can it be my fault if I haven’t done anything wrong?

I still feel like shit is my fault, but I feel like this is a good base question – what did I do wrong in this situation? Of course there will be times when I did do something wrong, then I can identify it, apologise, and correct it. But other times, many times, the self-blame will be all in my head, and maybe this question will help me tell the difference and keep me just a little more sane.

♫ In the end ♫ Linkin Park ♫