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Happiness Found

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By Deborah L. Kunesh

©Copyright 2012 by Deborah L. Kunesh

Panic ripped through me, my heart racing, my legs attempting to steady their wobbling while my toes struggled to gain a grip on the wood floor. I stood up, hesitantly, trying to regain some composure and head to the shower.

My body had become so weak that I felt certain that I would just disintegrate into nothingness if given the chance. My appetite was gone, 20 pounds stripped away from my body within just weeks, leaving me so slight that from the side, I almost appeared to not even exist, and at times, I thought that wasn’t a far stretch from reality. I had become one with nothingness, and yet, I felt pain on a level I had never felt it before. A ripping, deep emotional pain that would not leave.

My goal each day was simply to try to maintain some sense of normalcy, despite that my days had been taken over by un-relenting terror that came from within. Severe panic and anxiety that swept over me like a torrential storm with no end in sight.

Within a year’s time, I had lost a family member and endured things that just a few years prior, would have been foreign concepts to me. The stuff nightmares are made of. All of this combined with other toxic situations in my life to create symptoms that anyone who has ever suffered from severe panic and anxiety, would easily recognize. There are hundreds of symptoms. I am pretty sure I had them all.

Every day had become like this for me…every morning, panic greeted me, until I felt I was trapped in a prison that I felt completely unable to get out of, only to fall asleep restlessly each night and wake up to the same doom each morning. Weakness, dizziness, visual disturbances, irrational fears, increasing allergies, pain and inexplicable symptoms engulfed me, day and night. Dehydration weakened me further until my eyes could cry no tears, even when crushed with emotional pain. I wasn’t just frightened, I was scared. Really scared! Scared that I would never feel normal again, never heal, never again experience what “happy” felt like. Scared that I would never be able to climb out of this cavernous darkness that consumed me.

My thoughts during those weeks and months were simple. My prayers, a familiar cry. I wanted to be happy again, to be healed. I wanted to feel normal, to enjoy life, to feel joy and to break free from this sense of imprisonment. I longed to be strong and healthy and vital. I would have given anything to have that normalcy back and to feel happy and content. Problem was, I had no idea how to bring that about and I could not find that road back. At least not at first.

Fast forward to the present, to the healing that I so longed for, come to pass. The healing that my spirit screamed out for inside of me while I sat in a church, listening to a choral concert on the anniversary of my Father-in-law’s passing. The same church that less than a year earlier, had held in its bosom the casket of the man I considered to be a second father. The emotions were deep and troubling and I felt there was no escape.

My plea? “God, PLEASE….HEAL ME!” Never in my life had I felt so desolate and in need of God’s help. Never before had I cried out internally in such emotional agony. The force inside of me, the desire to be healed, was so strong, I caught myself before this scream came out as an audible wail.

God delivered on that prayer and from that day forward, I never looked at life the same, again.

There is something about deep pain and suffering that allows you to dig deeper and find a much more tactile happiness than was previously possible. Something about going through torrential storms that, once the skies clear, you come out stronger and more able to find not only the joy in life, but to discover your true self…to become truly comfortable in your own skin.

Now, instead, I pay attention to every moment and I breathe in the joy in the simple moments around me, like sitting at an outdoor festival, with music playing and children running around chasing one another. Another group of children innocently bouncing a ball back and forth makes me feel as if I’ve been transported back in time, to more innocent days. Days I wish were more plentiful in everyday life.

With a renewed perspective, I realize that to the casual observer, happiness as an abstract, generic concept, seemingly requires some magical formula, or money or some grand plan, and many feel that it’s elusive.

However, most of the time, it’s the basics, the simple things in life, that we so often don’t take the time for, or that we rush past in our fast-paced lives, that we are really seeking. The magic potion whose outcome is true happiness. It’s well within our grasp and this was a big lesson that I learned from what had been an experience that I am not likely to want to repeat.

Preceding all of the turmoil that had become my life during those very dark days I encountered, I was working non-stop, getting little sleep, under severe stress and not taking very good care of myself. This is where our trouble begins most times and where I found myself.

We can so easily forget to take the time to slow down and really take in and savor, all of the beauty and wonderment that is around us. The beauty in the creation around us, in nature, in the simple joys. We become so entrapped in a pattern and feeling as if we cannot stop until the work is done, that we don’t even notice at times, ourselves slowly slipping away, joy replaced by fear, happiness, replaced by stress and tension.

Before all of this took place, many well-intentioned friends warned me to slow down and take time to take care of myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t think they made some good points, it’s just that I thought I was stronger than I was and I felt that I couldn’t take the time off from the many responsibilities pulling me in a million directions in fear of what might happen in absence of my keeping the proverbial ship afloat.

I’ve had many thoughts about this physical and emotional struggle that became a turning point in my life. At times, trying to see a deeper meaning in it.

In the most basic of truths, our bodies will break down…mentally, emotionally and physically, without the proper care. On a spiritual level, looking back, I’ve realized that at times, God will break us if need be, to get us to draw nearer to Him. The Creator wants a relationship with His created.

Just as my experience with the agonizing pain of kidney stones taught me to stop drinking soda pop and instead to drink lots of water and make sure that I was keeping myself properly hydrated, as well as being cautious of other triggers, so this pain taught me to stop taking on the pace of the world, to stop neglecting the life I’ve been given, to appreciate the person I was created to be, the blessings I was given, and to seek the healing spiritual water that only God can provide.

Whatever truths lie in the struggles faced, there was amazing beauty that came out of such sorrow and pain. That’s the thing with pain and struggle that we so often forget…the beauty that is birthed through it, much the same as a beautiful child born from the agonizing pangs of childbirth.

This unspeakable beauty emerges, something that can only come from sinking to the depths of despair only to find yourself gazing down from the mountaintop, holding that once-elusive prize, sought and won through sweat and tears. The prize of peace and happiness now so easily attainable simply by catching a glimpse of a beautiful summer sky, the intense blue splattered with cotton ball clouds, the birdsong on a beautiful sunny morning or the soft patter of rain outside your window.

The appreciation of nature, God’s creation, around me, the simple things like really enjoying the food I am eating, or slowing down to take notice of all of my blessings is now something I make sure not to ignore.

Watching our cats cuddling one another, or really taking in our dog’s earnest excitement to go out for a walk so that she can sniff, bark and greet to her heart’s delight is pure pleasure. Animals take pleasure in the simplest of things.

The secret, I have found, to true happiness, is a strong faith and relationship with the Creator, an appreciation of all of the beauty that surrounds us, a thankful spirit, a true purpose in life, helping others, and rediscovering that child in all of us, the child that we once were, that is at our core, because that is the person God created us to be.

For me, this has meant going back to activities I enjoyed as a child. I’ve always been a big reader, however, I read mostly self-help and non-fiction books. As a child and teen, I loved to read fiction. As an adult, I felt I had outgrown it. During the course of my healing, I suddenly found myself interested once again in fiction. What a wonderful treat! To take a journey with characters. A road less traveled. Like watching a good movie but without the visuals and technology, and relying solely on your own imagination to make the characters and storyline come to life inside your own head. You can almost envision what these characters look like, what their surroundings entail. Through your imagination, you can see, feel, smell and taste, you can feel the emotions behind every written word. And despite that the story is fictional, you learn lessons from the telling of it.

In addition, I found myself being silly a little more, loosening up my grip on the seriousness that had become a stronghold on my personality. I’m not sure I would have been able to do any of this and to come to this realization, had it not been for going through all of that pain. As difficult as it was, it was a blessing in disguise.

I’m dancing again and my dancing is more free and a true expression of what’s inside, and more real and genuine. Better than it ever was. I am more expressive, more uninhibited in being myself. My writing comes from my soul and the words were birthed through pain and life experience. I laugh, I revel in the beauty around me, I slow down and take my time, realizing that no matter what we do, more will be there to have to do and take care of, tomorrow.

I’ve always said that if we want to know who we truly are, deep down inside, and what our passion and purpose is, look to who we were as a child.

As a child, I loved to write…stories, poetry, songs. I loved to paint and draw. I loved to read fiction books. I loved to dance, ride my bike, dream and create.

Sometimes we leave that child behind not realizing that we are still yet, that very child inside, but we just inadvertently became entrapped by the worldly notion that we must give up the child in order to become the man, or woman. But, one of the keys to happiness is realizing that instead, those who are happiest, are those who keep alive that child’s spirit, within them.~

For more information and help with panic and anxiety, you can visit one of the sources I used to help me recover:


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