by Art Berg, CSP
A few years ago, the hospital where I did my rehab in California contacted me to let me know they were going to be purging their records of any data that was more than ten years old. Because that included my medical records, they gave me the option of paying the postage to have them simply mail the medical data from my four-month stay in their hospital to me. I jumped at the chance.
A few weeks later a package arrived that was thick and bulging from the reams of paperwork. For several hours I read through the reports. It was fascinating to me. First, it refreshed some old memories for me. Second, it gave me the perspective of the hospital staff, doctors and nurses regarding my rehabilitation and recovery from my spinal cord injury. It included medications, doctor's notes, complications, and my case manager's recommendations.
For years I had been curious about some things. During much of my hospital stay, my doctor kept sending psychiatrists to see me. At one time, my doctor had me separated from a room I shared with several other SCI patients to my own room-I certainly wasn't complaining, but it did seem odd at the time. Right there, in the middle of this massive medical journal, I found the reason: Excessive Happiness.
Yeap, that's what it said. My medical condition was excessive happiness. The doctor felt I laughed too much and was in too good of a mood much of the time. Excessive happiness. I never knew there was such a disorder. He noted in my record that he felt my state of "excessive happiness" was keeping me in a state of denial about my condition. He felt that the problem was exacerbated by (in his words) "a loving family." His solution was to do several things:
- Keep me in psychiatric counseling;
- Isolate me from other patients;
- And, limit my exposure to my family and friends.
Excessive happiness? I didn't know you could be too happy? Because of my "unique medical condition" (one I am gratefully still suffering with today), I think I am qualified to share my own perspective on what causes such a grave (sic) malady.
- Happiness is a choice; a choice we make every day.
- Happiness is not a condition of our circumstances or external influences; it is a state of mind and heart.
- Happiness comes most often when we focus on solving other people's pain and problems as opposed to thinking only of our own.
- Happiness isn't what we have or who we are. It's feeling valuable and worthy regardless of our station in life.
- Happiness is within everyone's reach.