I bought two new journals. I have dozens of blank journals with monsters, flowers, and quotes on the covers, for me to fill the pages of, but these two new journals are not blank. One is, Start Where You Are: a Journal for Self-Exploration and the other is, 52 Lists for Happiness.
I don’t know why I am such a sucker for happiness related books, journals, exercises, etc. I don’t think I am unhappy. In fact, I feel happy most of the time. If there were something I would like to improve in my life, it is two symptoms of schizophrenia and the lower back pain I feel. The two symptoms of schizophrenia I would like to lessen are anxiety (because this impacts every area of life) and a lack of motivation. The lower back pain needs no further explanation.
There are all kinds of happiness books. Why is happiness such a big industry in the United States? Is it because most people are not happy? I think that happiness books are like coloring books or self-help books (of any variety). According to Quartz, Goodreads data suggests it is mostly women who read them. (In 2017 self-help was an eleven billion dollar industry.) Maybe we think there must be a way to be happier than we are. Is it the comparisons we make on our social media accounts? Sally and Jessica always seem so much happier than I feel, maybe there is a secret to it, so we consume yet another thing trying to make our way to an ever elusive place of happiness.
The fact that I buy these happiness (self-help) books proves that I am unremarkable. I am an average, college educated, middle-aged, married, middle income, woman, living in an urban environment, and I do average, middle-aged, married, middle income, college educated, urban dweller, woman like-things. The only thing that stands out about me is that I have schizophrenia (of course, this is overly simplistic, there are a million little things about me that make me unique). But the point is, all the stereotypes about schizophrenia don’t leave room, or space, for the truth about the people who live with it. And there are many truths.
Stereotypes are tricky because there is often a small bit of reality to them that make them stick. For instance, has any mass shooter ever had schizophrenia? Yes. Has anyone with schizophrenia ever worn a tin foil hat? Yes. Has a person with schizophrenia ever been violent? Yes. But, are we referring to the majority of people with schizophrenia? No. In fact, those stereotypes refer to a very small number of people with the disease/disorder. Saying these things are true of everyone with schizophrenia is the same as saying all people with schizophrenia are middle-aged women – obviously not even close to true.
There is so much to learn about marginalized people. I never tire of reading articles about people with disabilities, the nuances of racism, the language and struggles of the LGBTQ community and all the articles/work coming out about feminism. This is one of the most frightening (bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, racist) times I can remember living in, but at the same time, there is so much progress by some groups to further our understanding, our acceptance, and the very civil rights of various groups. I hope that schizophrenia doesn’t get left in the dust. I hope that those of us with schizophrenia will keep in step with other marginalized groups and find our feet further along the path; the path that leads to better lives for all of us. Somewhere in that statement, there is happiness.