I take a lot of pictures, mostly of my children. I do it partly because I am afraid that my ECT will erase precious memories of my three babies that I won’t ever get back. And I do it partly because I think my kids are so darned cute…..
And because I take so many photographs, I spend a lot of time looking at them on my computer. Again, I find that they help me see parts of my past that I wouldn’t otherwise recall. Typically, there are few pictures of me amongst the thousands of my children and the rest of my family. But while on vacation, I asked the waiter at the restaurant where my children and I were celebrating with Easter dinner if he would please snap a quick picture of the four of us. It would be the first photographic “documentation” of my new family dynamic since separating from my husband nearly a year ago. When I downloaded the pictures today, I was pleased to see that the picture of my foursome came out really well. So well, in fact, I made it my Facebook profile picture. And within a short amount of time, the feedback on that picture was so positive. I received compliments I hadn’t heard in months – maybe even years. The one compliment that really hit me was, “Pure happiness on all your faces!” And as I looked again at the photograph, I realized my friend was right – all four of us had huge, happy smiles. “Pure Happiness”.
After hearing such surprising input regarding one small Easter family photo, I started scrolling through the rest of my digital pictures on the computer. I realized that I could plot my (un)happiness during the last five years just from whether or not I was smiling in a picture. And, sadly, there are not a lot of smiles on my face. In fact, there is not one smiling “me” in any pictures taken on any holiday for the last three years. Sure, there are forced pleasantries and more smirks than I could count, but I’m talking about REAL smiles. You know, the ones your parents begged to document after your $2000 orthodontist work was completed in your teens? The REAL smiles involve teeth. Big, happy, toothy smiles. And I realized that those smiles and my face didn’t coexist in more than about a dozen pictures taken in recent history.
Too quickly I recognized that my manic episodes (which are never the euphoric, ecstatic kind but instead the violent, angry kind) and my deep depressions were all too obvious in my iPhoto compilations. I could actually tell when in my life I had been “normal”, and sadly that wasn’t very often in recent history. The few times I was photographed with a smile of “pure happiness” typically coincided with the births of my children, romantic getaways with my husband, time spent with my dad or with lifelong friends, and visits to my childhood home with my children. There are the pictures taken during last spring break when my husband and I brought our children to Santa Barbara to see where we met, attended college, worked together and got married. “Pure Happiness” smiles on my face in every shot.
I place tremendous value on those pictures – they document a time in my history when I was truly happy, when I had not a care in the world. It is my hope that I will be able to share more and more of those “pure happiness” pictures with my family and friends in the near future. I want to believe that is the “real me”, the smiling woman in the photograph who recognizes that despite her heartbreak, her mental illness, and the other difficulties life has thrown her way, life is good. Life will be good. I just have to be patient and work hard and take each day one at a time. I have decided today that I am going to achieve “pure happiness”.
It just might take a little while, so bear with me.