Have you ever heard anyone say that one of the best things to do when you’re down is to serve or do something nice for someone else? It’s something that gets brought up a lot at my church. When you have depression it can be really hard to motivate yourself to do anything for anyone–including for yourself. But as I’ve gotten help, progressed in my healing and grown more into the person I hope to be I’ve found it easier to get push past the walls of depression.
Yesterday I was feeling pretty depressed so I decided to do something nice for someone. It wasn’t anything big. It was something pretty small, actually, but it was still something. And I felt happy while I was doing it. It will be a good reminder that it really can help to think of others when I’m down or depressed. Things like this may be a lot harder for those of us with mental illness, but even something small can make a difference–even if the difference it makes is in our own life.
A few months ago my therapist gave me a new perspective that really helped me deal with trauma that was triggered by yet another toxic person in my life. I’ve been in so many toxic or abusive relationships (family, friend, romantic) and had so many people treat me so horribly that it was hard, yet again, not to wonder if it was my fault or if I deserved it.
My therapist told me to imagine each of those people and their history, their upbringing and possible trauma they may have been through. She told me that it didn’t excuse them from the way they treated me—there is NO excuse for that, she said. But thinking of those other things could help explain why they treated me the way they did. It helped me see that it had nothing to do with me and nothing to do with me deserving to be treated that way. Shifting my perspective, being able to see it from a different angle, truly helped me move past the previous and current trauma I was going through. This is the power of perspective and the power of a great therapist.
Life doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes bad things happen even when you’re doing the right things. A perfect example happened a couple of days ago. I was on my way to Southern Utah for a few days. My kids are with their dad for Spring break this week, so I was going to spend some time birding and just relaxing by myself in warm, beautiful red-rock country. A few hours into my trip and three-fourths of the way there my car broke down. The engine seized up and wouldn’t start. Now my car is sitting at a dealership where it will take around 2 months just to find out if the cost to repair or replace the engine is covered by the warranty. What happened isn’t because I didn’t take care of the car. I had it serviced when it needed to be. I always kept up on oil changes. I did everything right, and yet . . . the car broke down and now we’re down to just one vehicle. And I didn’t get to take my solo vacation.
Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned, and sometimes bad things happen even when you’re doing things right. That’s just life. There are two important things I learned from this experience, though. One, even when things are bad and sucky and deviating far from what you wanted or had planned, there is still good, and there are still things to be grateful for. Shortly after pulling my car off the side of the freeway and turning my hazard lights on a tow truck pulled off. The driver got out and asked if I needed help. He said a local who knows him called him up and told him he had passed a car off the side of the freeway with hazards on. I’m grateful for the person who called the tow truck driver and grateful for the tow truck driver himself. He’s the one who towed me to the dealership, quite a ways away. And he was so nice! I was worried about my anxiety kicking in, not knowing how to talk to this stranger, but we talked easily and had a great conversation the whole time. Even in the midst of adversity and total crap happening there is still light and goodness.
The other thing I learned is how important it is to have the right people in your life. To have the right support team. It can be hard to have any sort of relationship with someone who has mental illness, but my husband has been absolutely amazing in his relationship with me. I don’t deal well with stress, but I have found that I deal with it better since my husband came into my life. Five or ten years ago I would have been an absolute basket case in this same situation. I wouldn’t have known what to do, I would have been terrified, I would have been extremely angry that things didn’t go as planned and that I didn’t get to go on my vacation and probably would have thought the world was ending just because my car broke down. Seriously. But I stayed a lot calmer than that. After I pulled off of the freeway I called my husband. I was a little frantic, but not basket-case, I’m-freaking-out-and-can’t-stop-crying frantic. Knowing he was going to try to get ahold of the insurance company and that he’d pick me up from the dealership helped keep me calm. I did get a bit emotional thinking about the possibility of having to buy a new car when I feel we can’t afford it right now, but he stayed calm and reassured me it would be okay. Having someone who can support you in the right way during those difficult times is so important. And I’m so grateful I have my husband for that. He truly has helped me grow, and that is so helpful and so wonderful.
So when life doesn’t go as planned and crap just happens, remember to look for the light. It’s there. And finding a good support person or team will also do wonders!
Walking through that door makes the blue a little lighter. She holds space as I gently spill. We sit, we talk - we water, dig and bury. Nurturing a shoot. Aiding it in light - to find its path through thorns - Malan Wilkinson