Sometimes I look back but only to see how far I have come.
The Happy Walk was not just a walk to raise awareness about suicide prevention, health, happiness, hope and raising funds for Lifeline’s 24/7 crisis hotline.
The Happy Walk started as the primary therapy in my recovery from suicide attempts, 3 decades coping and not coping with undiagnosed depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I unconsciously set out to find my happiness when I started walking alone around Australia.
Did I find it? Yes.
I think, because i did not set out seeking happiness, it was not so much found as it was recognised and enjoyed.
When I began walking around Australia I felt happier than I had in years. It was 2 years into therapy and had been more than 18 months since i had last tried taking my life. I’d had a few relapses but nothing that needed hospitalisation. I felt strong, alive, well.
Walking a lap around Tasmania was the first leg of the big walk and it felt great to be out there carrying backpack walking through the most beautiful state of Australia. I did some radio, TV, newspaper and community gazette interviews, feeling confident and still hyped throughout the first month.
Then “reality hit”. Actually, reality was just melancholy I didn’t shake after a depression relapse brought on by physical and emotional fatigue. It shadowing me for the next 2 months but at the time I had no idea. My interpretation back then of those feelings was of coming back down to Earth after the first weeks of excitement.
In Hobart the other major Tasmanian newspaper did a story which never made it to print. The absurdity of the interview is still raw in my memory. The reporter wanted depth but the photographer wanted fake happiness. I was instructed to stand in the middle of a swirling Salamanca market crowd. I get anxiety in crowds, my feet were covered in blisters and I was carrying an 18kg pack.
“Stand on your toes so you’re head is above the crowd and smile at the camera”
“Bigger smile, make it believable”.
Back then I don’t think there were any photoshop tools or filters for erasing clouds of melancholia or poorly hidden pain. The photographer probably saw through his lens more depth in my eyes than I shared with the reporter. I can laugh at the irony now.
That first 1,250km Tasmania section of The Happy Walk has been very helpful in measuring the growth and fruits of my happiness and general wellbeing since.
Another moment I love looking back at is one early morning walking through the fragrant and vibrant forests of SW Western Australia. The air was cool, damp and still. Dawn light was starting to replace the indigo night. I could smell everything, the dirt, bark, I could identify the direction of different species of plants by their scents.
As my lungs filled with the sweet heady perfume of the forest it felt like I was no longer walking but levitating. The birds began to wake and sing. I laughed and cried and felt like my heart would burst. At that moment I knew pure happiness for the first time.
Happiness can be reignited, found, learned in all of our lives. No matter what circumstances snuffed it out or hid it from our hearts and minds it is always present.
Happiness has no limitations. How much we experience, its intensity entirely depends on us and our willingness.
Happiness is interpreted differently in each of us. Your happiness is your personal experience and can never be compared to another’s.
Happiness when shared is multiplied and we show each other new ways to feel joy, gratitude and love.
What does happiness mean to you?