It Never Lasts Forever: Why Happiness Is A Temporary High Like Drugs

by Zara Barrie

Happiness is a temporary high. Like drugs. To think it’s a state we can exist in forever is to think it’s realistic to be high forever, with no comedown.

Which isn’t the case. After all, what goes up must always come down, right?

I used to strive to feel endless heaps of glorious happiness. I was raised to believe that steady, relentless happiness is something that is wildly attainable. Most of us are.

Which is why we feel so secretly seeped in shame for not being capable of achieving it.

We’re made to believe that one day we will wake up deliriously happy, and BAM, that will be it. The golden day will have finally arrived, and we will be alleviated from our uneasiness.

And from that moment forward, we will be enveloped in the cashmere, cozy embrace of happiness for the rest of our existence.

We dream of the mesmerizing moment in which we can confidently proclaim to our loved ones, with lips curled into smug smiles, that we’re finally happy now.

But if you think about it, it’s such a f*cking fairy tale, isn’t it?

To think it’s realistic to live in the perpetual throes of endless happiness is a dangerous expectation bestowed upon us by society.

It’s a myth. It's no worse than the surplus of Disney movies we watched with innocent doe eyes as untainted, impressionable, hopeful little kids.

Those sensationalized animated films we viewed over and over inadvertently brainwashed us into believing that one day, a glimmering romantic lead would magically appear and wrap us up in massive, teeming arms of steel, rescuing us from the winter of our discontent.

It’s no coincidence that the fairy tale, the romantic comedy, the love story always ends at the same point in time.

That final scene is always the wedding, right? We are never privy to what happens after the gold-gilded, virgin-white wedding, are we?

Our eyes never bear witness to Snow White having postpartum depression after birthing first her child. We never see f*cking Cinderella in the fetal position racked with acute anxiety the morning after she drank too much behind Prince Charming's back.

We never see anything beyond the passionate locking of lips between the two outrageously attractive romantic entities earnestly making their flowery vows beneath the petal-adorned alter.

The credits roll right as the two romantic leads are basking in their happiest moment. And the image of their momentary bliss lingers in our brains.

But we forget a happy moment is just a happy moment. And moments are fleeting.

Kittens, I know this can sound all so depressing, but if you think about it, it's actually really liberating.

I'm not here today to push a fatalist agenda on you. I’m not a direly depressed girl creature attempting to pull you down with me into a murky well of dire darkness.

In fact, I think putting an end to striving for this unreachable, elusive thing called “happiness” will only make us feel more at peace.

Let's take the f*cking happiness pressure off and learn to appreciate the entire spectrum of feelings. Not just the easy, good ones.

I've had my fair share of happy moments.

I've had stolen bouts of freewheeling bliss when I'm present in the moment, when my brain refuses to worry about what's going to happen next.

I’ve felt it during a madly passionate first kiss with a girl who made my heart feel like it was exploding into a million shards of irrepressible lust.

I’ve felt it while immersed deeply in nature, marveling at the wonder of animals and wildflowers and 100-year-old trees.

I’ve felt it at a concert whilst dreamily lying in the seemingly softest grass in the world, feeling just the right amount of stoned -- a carefree 17-year-old me listening to the euphoric sounds of my favorite band permeating through the slender California air.

These firework moments of sheer and utter bliss are nothing short of amazing. They're the moments I hold on to during my darkest hours.

They're the memories that are burned into my mind and keep me going when life goes haywire and sh*t hits the f*cking fan.

But they’re always fleeting. They come and go. And that's okay.

And I've had my fair share of bad moments.

There are days when life feels like too much, and I want to crawl beneath the sheets and permanently hide from the cruel, cold world. When the heavy sadness of a cracked heart wears at my fragile limbs.

When the piercing sting of rejection makes me wonder if I'm worthy of love.

When the hollow tethers of loneliness make me feel sorely disconnected from everyone in my surroundings.

Those bad feelings hurt. They're not fun.

But like happiness, they won't last forever. They too shall pass. They're simply a moment in the big scheme of time.

After all, everything is temporary. Especially feelings.

I was one of those girls drugged by the empty promise of consistent happiness.

I religiously watched all the stereotypical girl movies. The chick flicks in which the girl struggles through a harrowing adolescence (Who the f*ck doesn’t?).

Her early 20s are a drunken mess, until one day, life magically clicks, the puzzle pieces come together, she finds a life partner and lives in nirvana.

So, like most girls chasing the high felt off the temporary feel-goods, I set an intention. Happiness was to be the ultimate goal.

And when I felt the happy feels, I soared into the sky. “This is it. This is it. This is it,” I would tell myself. Expecting to stay there forever.

And then, life would happen. The happiness would dissipate, and a plethora of other feels would creep in: anxiety, boredom, sadness, restlessness.

I acquainted happiness with success. When I wasn't feeling happy, I would feel like I failed. I would go into happiness withdrawals.

I would be hell-bent with soul-penetrating cravings to achieve those amazing sensations of joy again.

In fact, I grew to fear bad feelings. Our culture breeds a razor-sharp fear into us at an early age of any feeling that is slightly uncomfortable.

We're taught something is WRONG, and we need to BE TREATED if we have the slightest amount of trouble focusing on our boring math homework.

It's as if the world is divided into two parts: those who are happy and those who are unhappy.

There is no middle ground.

What kind of stupid over-simplification is that? Human beings are hyper-complex, multi-faceted creatures. There is such a colorful, vast array of emotions in between the ecstasy of happiness and the empty holes of sadness.

Telling ourselves success equals persistent happiness is a surefire recipe for failure. And feeling like you're a f*cking failure is stifling, and painful and awful. It cultivates nothing but shame and sadness.

So what is the goal? If it's not happiness, what the f*ck is it? I don't know.

But I DO know I want to make as many proactive decisions to set myself up for as many happy moments as possible, however, I want to confidently hold the hard feelings, too.

I want to stop being scared of the bad feelings. I want to learn to appreciate the beauty, the lessons and sensations that are ever-present and rich within the entire emotional spectrum. Allow them to wash over me, fearlessly ride them out and know they can't destroy me.

I want to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Because feelings won't kill me. They really won't. It's the dangerous methods of running away from my feelings that can kill me -- numbing with drugs and alcohol. Putting myself in risky situations to escape my reality. Playing roulette with my life.

I think if we stop being so afraid to feel, we might even learn that unpleasant feelings aren't so terrible anyway. We can acknowledge them and remember they won't last forever.

After all, if we want to appreciate real life and not just a perfectly curated, fairy-tale, fake life, don't we need to experience the good and the bad? The dark and the light?

Aren't real relationships cultivated through the tough times you experience together? How can you appreciate all you have without facing adversity?

Isn't it all worth it anyway?

The epic highs, the pressing lows, the creative blocks, the heartbreak, the success and the failures? Isn't it the diversity of our feelings, our wild emotional arch precisely what makes life so much more stimulating, and fascinating and complex than a drugged-up, overly simplistic fairy tale?

If true beauty exists in truth, then truth is meant to be multi-faceted and loaded with emotions. The truth is both happy and sad.

Like the great Augusten Burroughs says, “So we can be filled with holes, and loss and wide expanses of unhealed geography -- and we can also be excited by life, and in love and content at the exact same moment.”