During this long recovery, my thoughts have wandered, taking me back to various moments in my life like a time capsule. It has been a period of reflection, growth and self-awareness. There has been a major disconnect in my mind, body and soul. While I have gone back to specific moments and reflected on them to positively contribute to personal growth, I have also found myself deeply yearning for the past at times and wishing I could rewind and do things differently.
This yearning for the past was prolonging the inevitable – facing and processing what had happened in its entirety. I couldn’t possibly become at peace and connect my mind, body and soul again if I weren’t present and always looking back, wishing I could live in the past. It took me a long time to realize this recovery isn’t just about physical healing but also emotional and spiritual healing. I couldn’t possibly be at peace by bottling up the trauma and storing it in my body. It has taken a lot to process everything I had bottled up for so long, and something I am still working on. I am still learning how to be completely present, to be transparent, to fully acknowledge what I am currently feeling, and to truly accept that my feelings are valid and I shouldn’t be ashamed of them.
It’s uncomfortable in our society to talk about mental health issues. I feel it’s really important and shouldn’t be downplayed or shunned. Throughout this time period, I have slipped into depression and have struggled a lot with anxiety. I think back to setbacks during my recovery, to such big setbacks I wanted to die. There were times where I thought, this is the end. I can’t keep going, I can’t keep fighting. The prospect of feeling no pain anymore seemed so much better than reality.
Looking back, it’s hard to understand fully how I got through those times because in those moments it really did seem impossible. It amazes me actually to the point where I picture myself in those moments and it’s like I don’t know that person, similar to how I picture myself lying on the ice after that big hit and it’s like I am looking at a completely different person. Who is that person? How did I get to this point? I’ve detailed my experience with identity crisis. I felt shame and embarrassment that I was experiencing that, constantly trying to diminish or belittle my thoughts and feelings. I was resisting change which in turn was resisting healing.
Through the help of loved ones and a lot of work with my therapist, I have gotten to a point where I am okay with the fact that maybe I’m not that same person. While some parts of us are constant, there are always parts that are changing. Change is always going to be uncomfortable and a lot of times, scary. I think it would be even scarier if we never changed or evolved, living like robots and suppressing how we are truly feeling. I have thought about this quote a lot lately by Joan Didion: “I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.”
I’ve written about impermanence a lot. In just a split second, everything can change. One second I was having fun and doing something I loved with energy, focus and love, to losing my job, passion, energy, focus and well-being. Just like that…everything can change. Time is such an interesting thing, isn’t it? Sometimes you wish it would stand still, sometimes you wish for it to rewind, and other times you wish it would move faster.
I’ve looked back at things I have journaled over the course of this recovery. One day, I wrote over and over again, “This is temporary. This is temporary. This is temporary.” This was an attempt to keep me going, to remind myself that every bad day comes to an end. This rough stretch of bad health can’t last forever. This won’t last forever because no moment does. Thinking back to moments I didn’t think I’d make it through…they passed. Sometimes while you’re in the thick of it, you can’t think or see clearly and the darkness can overtake you and cause any bit of hope to evaporate.
Something that has recurred over and over in my mind during this recovery is a piece of art I came across as I was wandering the streets of Boston several years ago. I had arrived a few days early before anyone else for my brother’s wedding. I was going through a rough patch at the time – I had experienced a devastating heartbreak and it felt as though time stood still and I was marinating in the pain.
As I was wandering in an attempt to get lost and not be so consumed by sadness and what had occurred, I came across an amazing piece of art. It stopped me in my tracks and I felt like I was supposed to come across it at that very moment. I stared at it and started weeping. I stood there for what seemed like hours, like I was an inanimate object in a time lapse as hundreds of people walked around me. It was a 319-foot long message along a chain link fence that read, “nothing’s for keeps except that we must keep going.”
This message resonated through my being and still remains true. It reminded me that time is precious, that neither the good or bad times are permanent. It reminded me that we need to hold on dearly to the good moments but also know that the bad times aren’t for keeps.
As I have mentioned recently, the new treatment program in Pittsburgh has brought me hope for the first time in a very long time. Over the past couple months, I have felt a shift in healing, not just physically but emotionally. While I still experience bad days, I am hopeful and know that a bad day will always come to an end. The sun will rise tomorrow and give me an opportunity to start fresh. I admit, I still have days where just making it through the day is my biggest accomplishment but that’s okay.
This recovery has been draining, heartbreaking, and a lot of my thoughts for so long were hung up on everything I had lost, everything I was missing out on. The past several months, my thoughts have shifted to everything I have gained. And most of what I have gained is a deeper understanding of myself, my place in the vastness of the world and seeing things from a different perspective. I am still not at a place where I can say I am grateful that this happened to me and maybe I never will, but I can say I am grateful for the growth and everything I have learned and am still learning.
With the new treatment, good days have become more prevalent. I hold on to those days so much, and hope that as time passes the bad days will become less and less until there will be all or mostly good. That’s inertia.
On the bad days I remind myself that I must keep going because this will pass and there are lighter days ahead. Bad days aren’t for keeps. At any given moment, we are all experiencing something that we may not talk about, things that are heavy to carry. Here’s to whoever needs to hear this:
“Nothing’s for keeps except that we must keep going.”