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I don’t have a lot of hope for tomorrow, but I’m hoping that I can keep writing to you, and that we’ll start to see some progress. If you’re like me, you’ve been at this a long time. You’re a mental health veteran who’s got all of the strategies. You know all the things you’re supposed to do. Yet these strategies just become something else on that to-do list. One more thing that you know you should do, but it’s one more thing that you’re sure you’re going to fail at. Same thing with therapy. It’s just something that will probably go wrong. Your counsellor is just another person that you’ll probably let down, because you can’t do the things on your list. Even if it’s just one. Every single thing has got you feeling defeated, and the small sparks of hope or progress get blown out by that breeze.
They tell us how self-critical we are, without realizing that these statements are just another foot kicking us in the stomach. We can’t get through an explanation of our perceived existence without being told that we are catastrophizing, or criticizing, or mind-reading. Everything we are saying is wrong, wrong, wrong, and we need to have more self passion. Come on, dummy, stop beating yourself up all the time. It’s not going to help. Why won’t you do the strategy? Don’t you want to get well? Why won’t you at least apply for this service? Don’t you want help? Why won’t you go to therapy? Don’t you know that if you’re feeling this way, you should reach out for help?
I get it. Right now, anyway. It’s an uphill climb with a summit completely unknown and potentially improbable. And when we look down, instead of all the progress we’ve made, we see the places where we could have done better, and maybe we would be a lot further along by now.
Never mind the inner critic. If you have an outer critic telling you those things, there’s nothing I can say to tell you how sorry I am. Because honestly, we don’t come up with these thoughts on our own. We don’t dig these pits on our own.
We may never be the model survivors. We may never leave the streets or our abusive house hold or our addictions, and we may never rise above and become shining beacons of hope for those who still suffer. If you’re like me, model survivors just make me feel even more deficient and low. If they went through everything I’m going through and somehow found a happily ever after, there must be something extra-special wrong with me. If they can do it, why can’t I? Where’s my survivor award?
Sometimes, I’m the model survivor in my own life. I’m the one who’s having a pretty good day, achieving tasks and taking names, and looking down at my unproductive self wondering why she can’t just get over it and do what needs to be done. When she takes the driver’s seat again, she goes nowhere, wondering where I went and where she went wrong. We stall, and cars pile up behind us, and then Model Me rolls her eyes, cleaning up the wreckage until the spotlight shifts again.
I have big plans for myself, as you know. And I know that it makes the cliff face even taller, and makes the landing even more painful when I fall, and makes the climb back to the cliff ledge even longer and more treacherous. But I can’t help it. As painful as it is, I can’t seem to stop dreaming, not for long. And I can’t seem to stop reaching for those dreams at least some of the times, even if I know that I might not be able to keep holding on if I do. The only thing I can do is keep trying. Keep trying one activity at a time. Trying to stay out of the house and at least attend the things that might help give me an energy boost. This time of year, I often end up leaving early or as soon as possible, but I’m giving myself the grace to do that. As long as I showed up and fulfilled whatever I was there to do, I give myself a pass if the bees get too hot and my presence becomes a dark cloud around everyone else. But I’ll still try and go back next time.
And more than that, as God holds onto me and I learn to hold onto Him back, I’m learning that my own strength would be insufficient even if I was healthy. I’m learning empathy for God in all of the unfair betrayals and senseless relationship carnage I’ve been the recipient of. And that empathy brings me closer to Him, and I can say that it’s a sweet feeling. If I’m going to have a meltdown, I may as well do it in the arms of Jesus. Chances are, He’ll help bring me back up out of that canyon a lot faster than I could have on my own. Who knows, maybe He’ll do the same for you.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13