Dear Charlene: “I Just Wanna Be Happy”
Every month, comic and writer Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.
Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!
I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.
Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it. And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.
I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will remain anonymous.
How do I know if I’m a love addict? My ex-girlfriend dumped me over a year ago, and I’m still trippin’ over it, but isn’t that kinda normal? I tried to move on and date—but OK, yeah, they’re really just drunk hook-ups. Honestly, I haven’t found anyone I like…. Am I still holding on to my ex? Maybe. I don’t know. How do I just get over her already? I’m pathetic. I just wanna be happy.
Wow. I’m really feeling with you right now. I truly know what it feels like to hold onto an ex—or any unavailable guy, for that matter. You’re absolutely right—it is pretty normal. Breakups are hard, and there’s no easy way to get through them. And dating is hard, too.
I want to focus on the most important declaration you made in your e-mail: I just wanna be happy.
I invite you to gently put your ex to the side for now. We don’t have to figure that out right this minute. In fact, if you can, put all dating and hook-ups aside. Just for now.
“All of us are worthy of happiness. The tricky part here is that only you can give this to yourself.”
You want to be happy. And I promise you, you are worthy of this. You are worthy of this simply because you were born. All of us are worthy of happiness. The tricky part here is that only you can give this to yourself. Happiness won’t come because of an ex, or a new girlfriend, or a career, or that selfie you posted. (Even if your ex saw it.) As exciting as external things may feel, they’re only temporary. And at some point they just stop working. (You can trust me with this one.)
Finding happiness is a process, but you can start whenever you want. Here are some things to explore:
• Do things that you like to do! When I withdrew from romance and sex, I was shocked to find that I had no idea who I was. I was always trying to be what I thought other people wanted me to be. I didn’t even know what I liked or what made me happy. Make some lists! Make a list of things that you like, healthy things that make you feel good. Do you like taking walks? Museums? Comic books? Interstellar space travel? Just making the list itself is beneficial. If you have no idea what you like, make a list of things you’ve always wanted to try. I ended up going to Puppet School. (Ugh, of course I liked it.)
• Talk about things! Tell people that you trust what you’re going through. Even better, find a therapist and start really digging in. When we stuff our feelings and don’t talk about things, we carry all of that heavy energy around with us. I realized I had been carrying things for years: negative ideas about myself, resentments toward people, things that had happened to me. Your life will change just by vocalizing these things.
• There are other ways to date! Find a balance of self-dates, friend dates, and family dates. I know, I know, does the sound of this make you want to barf? The truth is, the only way to heal that gaping hole in our souls is to fill it with human connection. Take a self-date by crossing something off that list you made of things you’ve always wanted to do. Maybe you can make a friend-date with someone you’ve lost touch with. And I know family dates aren’t for everyone, but you can replace those with chosen family dates—you know who’s family to you.
• Feel all of your feelings. It’s OK to feel shitty! It’s OK to do a bunch of these things I’m telling you to do and feel even shittier after doing them. Don’t try to feel or be a certain way that you just aren’t. You’re getting to practice loving and taking care of yourself, no matter how you feel. The only way to get where you want to be is to practice. And the only way to practice is through real life. You’ve already started by writing to me. That’s a huge step! You’re doing it!
Keep focusing on your happiness, and your life will align to this new energy. The ex, the dating, the career, the everything—I promise.
And in regards to love addiction, here is my theory: all of us, as human beings, have weird love stuff. Thoughts, fears, obsessions, pain, longing, dependency. We’ve all got some of it. However, it’s something to take a look at if it destroys your life. Pain after a breakup is normal, but is your life unmanageable because of it? Do you see patterns of destructive behavior, or are you returning to destructive relationships and unavailable people? Do you find yourself mistaking things for “love”? If you think you might have a problem, I would check out the book Facing Love Addiction by Pia Mellody, look for a therapist who specializes in these issues, and consider checking out a twelve-step meeting. You’re not alone, and there is help. You got this. FL
Read our Breaking feature on Charlene deGuzman.