Let's Get Serious

Empathy and Happiness

Hey y’all. After spending a few days racking my brain on what to blog about and coming up short, I had an epiphany (not entirely true, but I wanted to use that word). I spent a few hours the other day walking around German Village in Columbus with a good friend of mine and we had a genuinely inspiring conversation. I feel like I’ve blogged about happiness here and there and mentioned my own happiness in a few posts, but I’ve never really dedicated an entire post to happiness. I feel like when you can’t stop thinking about a particular conversation with someone, it’s probably important and deserves to be talked about. Or in my case, blogged about.

So as many of you know, I have a plethora of mental illnesses. Awareness is spreading, but more advocates are always needed. Mental illness is hard to understand, I’ll give you that. But it’s truly not that hard when you have empathy. We often get the definitions of empathy and sympathy confused. Sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for someone who is encountering a trying situation. Empathy is putting yourself in that person shoes to better understand their situation. I’ll throw a few examples out there, a person who is suffering from Gender Dysphoria (aka transgender) according to the DSM 5 (Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has to match this criteria:

DSM V Diagnosis in children

  1. A definite difference between experienced/expressed gender and the one assigned at birth of at least 6 months duration. At least six of the following must be present:
    1. Persistent and strong desire to be of the other sex or insistence that they belong to the other sex
    2. In males a strong preference for cross-dressing and in female children a strong preference for wearing typical masculine clothing and dislike or refusal to wear typical feminine clothing
    3. Fantasizing about playing opposite gender roles in make-belief play or activities
    4. Preference for toys, games, or activities typical of the opposite sex.
    5. Rejection of toys, games and activities conforming to one’s own sex. In boys avoidance of rough-and-tumble play and in girls rejection of typically feminine toys and activities
    6. Preference for playmates of the other sex
    7. Dislike for sexual anatomy. Boys may hate their penis and testes and girls dislike urinating sitting.
    8. Desire to acquire the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the opposite sex.
  2. The gender dysphoria leads to clinically significant distress and/or social, occupational and other functioning impairment. There may be an increased risk of suffering distress or disability.The subtypes may be ones with or without defects or defects in sexual development.

DSM Diagnosis in adults and adolescents

  1. A definite mismatch between the assigned gender and experienced/expressed gender for at least 6 months duration as characterized by at least two or more of the following features –
    1. Mismatch between experienced or expressed gender and gender manifested by primary and/or secondary sex characteristics at puberty
    2. Persistent desire to rid oneself of the primary or secondary sexual characteristics of the biological sex at puberty.
    3. Strong desire to possess the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender
    4. Desire to belong to the other gender
    5. Desire to be treated as the other gender
    6. Strong feeling or conviction that he or she is reacting or feeling in accordance with the identified gender.
  2. The gender dysphoria leads to clinically significant distress and/or social, occupational and other functioning impairment. There may be an increased risk of suffering distress or disability.The subtypes may be ones with or without defects or defects in sexual development.

Specifically, this disorder (and really all disorders) requires empathy. You literally have to put yourself in each person’s shoes to try your best to understand what it is these individuals are dealing with. Without empathy, it’s easy to say that these people are “just going through a phase.” But letter B is super important. This “phase” is causing significant distress and is impairing their daily functioning. That’s not what a simple phase is.

Likewise with depression. It’s easier to tell someone suffering from depression to just “be happy” rather than empathizing with them and trying to understand that they literally can’t make that choice. It is out of their control. You’ve got to put yourself in their shoes. Put yourself in everyone’s shoes to better understand. Empathize and listen. Just listen to what they have to say and genuinely hear what they’re saying. Every single person on this Earth is going to live vastly different lives from each other, why close yourself off to their experiences by refusing to put yourself in their shoes?

You don’t even have to necessarily agree or support each individual, but when you express empathy, you’re going to learn something new. This is going to come off a little “ranty” and I’m sorry for that, but Y’ALL. Two women in love and married or two men in love and married has ZERO impact you and your happiness. What gender someone is choosing does not impact you in any way. As a Christian, I feel like this is taboo to say. But damn y’all, the legalization of gay marriage does not impact your faith with God. Your salvation is not at stake. Take a deep breath before you hold up your picket signs and bigoted beliefs and realize that God still loves you and still loves homosexuals just as much. As Christians, we should be spreading love, not hate. And anyways, how many homosexual individuals have you “turned” straight with your facebook status and protesting? I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone. I truly am, but I don’t understand why we look at homosexuality as it’s own worse sin, because it isn’t in God’s eyes.

Wow, okay, let me get back on topic. With empathy comes happiness because you’re going to realize that what other people choose to do with their life, regardless whether or not you believe in it, does not impact your own personal happiness. Y’all we can’t control what happens to us, but we do have the power to control our reactions. So when I think of choosing to be happy, I’m choosing to look on the bright side of things. Always looking for the optimistic route. I used to think that being pessimistic was cool, that people who weren’t happy feet deeper, or were somehow more intellectual than the happy person. But I have never been so far from the truth. Choosing to be happy takes WORK. Hard work. It’s so so easy to be a downer and to think that when something goes wrong, the world is out to get you. It’s not hard to be negative. It’s hard to be positive. It’s hard to look at life, the world, your family, the divorce, the debt, the overwhelming sense of doom, and try to find the positive side. There are so many bad things about this world, but there are so many good things as well. Please don’t let the negative hold power over the positive.

Choosing to be happy is one, if not the hardest thing I’ve had to do. Choosing to stay alive, instead of taking my own life. Choosing to not let my sexual assault define me. I’ve had to make these choices consciously. Happiness isn’t going to come to you one day. It’s got to be fought for with your claws out and gripped so tightly.

We often assume that the happy person is ignorant and naive. How could they be so happy when their life is falling apart and mass murders are happening every day? Instead of admiring their happiness, we spit and look down on them as if they are below us. I used to do this before I realized how hard it is to be happy. But now that I’m happy, I never want to lose it.

Honestly, this is so random but I just finished season four of Orange is the New Black (MY HEART IS BROKEN NOT GONNA LIE) and in the last episode, this quote really stuck out to me, “I believe this world is a damaged place, and if you can find a sliver of happiness, stay in it as long as you can.”

I’m sorry I got off topic and rambled, but I’m passionate and inspired and these are my thoughts. I truly hope y’all gained some insight from this post.


xo- Heidi




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