The Ferris Bueller Theory: Making the most out of life despite our struggles
To my fellow people struggling with mental illness: don’t wait to be happy. I was covering a college graduation for my job a few days ago (I’m a reporter) and I looked around at all the graduates. Their smiling, hopeful faces brought me back to my time in college just a few years ago. I thought about all that I struggled with, not just in college but before that, in high school. I thought about my mindset, how I thought I could never be happy until I got all my OCD, anxiety and depression “fixed” or “properly treated.”
How wrong I was.
For starters, I lived with the unrealistic expectation that my illness would just one day be “cured,” or live dormant within me. For some, lucky people, they are able to take medication and have treatment so effective that they have periods like this, but for many of us, we live with the day-to-day struggles that come with mental illness.
For another thing, happiness isn’t a state of mind. It’s a feeling, one that comes and goes. Rather, I’d like to seek to be content with life. Happiness is something that happens when your favorite team wins the championship, your significant other surprises you with a delicious, home-cooked dinner, etc. Contentment, obviously, is a more constant state of acceptance and a calm with the life you live.
I was wrong to think I needed to have everything “fixed” in my life, not only because it wasn’t possible, but because even if it had been possible, it would have taken years, and to go years without ever experiencing happiness is a miserable existence. Not that I was never happy throughout those years. Contrarily, I did have a lot of fun in college with great friends and good experiences. I even enjoyed myself in high school, usually when sports were involved. But in all, I was so focused on my mental health goals that I enjoyed myself far less often than I would have if I would have just taken some time out and said “my life is very difficult, but this is an opportunity to enjoy myself and I’m going to take it.”
This is certainly not to minimize mental illness and the effect it has on our lives. I understand as well as anyone that mental illnesses, especially severe depression, can suck the joy from just about anything. My point is not to devalue the experiences anyone is going through, only to say that when you can enjoy yourself, certainly take the opportunity to.
Nor am I saying that treatment goals aren’t important. In fact, they are essential to mental health improvement. What’s important is being able to differentiate between treatment goals and being so hung up on your problems that you can’t enjoy life.
When I look back on all the opportunities I missed to enjoy life, it makes me sad. However, it also makes me want to make the most of the time I have now, and the time I will have. Join me in making the most out of our lives, despite all we have working against us.
I gleefully dub this The Ferris Bueller Theory, because “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”
By: Aaron McKrell