Just Put on a Happy Face

Seven days ago on Monday, August 15th, something didn’t feel right. I felt overwhelmed. There were just too many work emails. Too many text messages. Too many phone calls. By Wednesday, I had set my cell phone to auto reject all phone calls, sent a brief email to my Dean at the university where I taught, and proceeded to have a nervous breakdown.

I couldn’t dial a phone number without losing my breath and experiencing a full blown panic attack. I cried throughout the day. I felt depressed. Ashamed. Guilty. Afraid. Weak.

Looking out from the inside, I felt as if my life were unraveling. But to everyone else, my life was a success. Is a success. Recently tenured to Associate Professor. Steady, healthy income. Beautiful home and children. Supportive and loving husband. An annual clean bill of health — no colon cancer.


Ray, Sadler’s Into the Dark Abyss, 2007, Flickr, https://goo.gl/OI63W1

Why didn’t I feel happy? When was the last time I felt satisfied or joyful? I couldn’t recall. I can’t.

For too many years, I’d just put on a happy face. I grew up in Northwest Ohio where Midwest Sensibility is king (yes, Ohio is in the Midwest AND a Great Lake state at the same time) , so I learned early to stuff the negative thoughts and feelings.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.

Three days ago on Friday the 19th, I was sitting in a psychologist’s office at the cancer counseling center, confused and crying… ready to quit my job, my life. But desperately seeking help.

It is another step — not the first, but progress just the same — to wellness.

Random [but related] Side Note:

When I was 14, I attended a summer workshop at the high school I would eventually attend the next fall. The workshop focus: Singing Lessons. I don’t know what I was thinking because I had no interest in singing (other than in the shower) or acting.

For 6 weeks, we sang arrangements from the musical Bye, Bye Birdie. Can I just say I equally resent Lee Adams for writing, and Dick Van Dyke for singing one of the main songs — Put on a Happy Face? I can’t get that song out of my head, especially now.

Thanks a lot, fellas. You put on a fucking happy face.