It was my ninth day at the inpatient unit. The doctors noted my progress but a part of me still wanted to feel, as Agatha Christie described, “wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable.” I clung desperately to depression. At the time I didn’t know who I was without it. Any feeling, however awful, was better than no feeling at all. I was desperate to fill the void with something better, something else to keep me afloat. I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to live. But I didn’t know how to make that jump. The chasm was too great and I just couldn’t see that far into the future. I only knew that without any feeling, it was hard to stay alive.
Four months have passed and somehow, through medication and therapy, staying alive I did. Slowly I’ve come to realize that feelings no longer define my self-worth. I remind myself over and over again of this, even with italicized emphasis, because it’s the biggest shift in thinking I’ve ever had: feelings no longer define my self-worth. Before this, feelings colored every choice I made. It was a terrible way to live, always dependent on not only how I felt but whether or not the sun was shining, if some random person bumped into me during rush hour or if I spilled my coffee. The smallest thing would influence whether or not I lived that day — if I was worth it. It was exhausting. The fear of emptiness still lingers, but slowly I’m starting to acknowledge my values instead and use it as a barometer to influence my decisions.
I catch myself now. See, there it is — blips of images pop up. Images of me going back to my old thought patterns: shaming myself, berating myself, and even more worrisome, images of me doing things I don’t like admitting to. They appear right before my very eyes. Tiny blips. Intrusive thoughts. They’re frightening but I remind myself it’s not the real me. Yes, they may appear but they are fleeting. Yes, I’m uncomfortable but that goes away too. What’s constant is your values. What’s constant is your breath. What’s constant is the present moment. I return to them over and over again. I’ve let go of the blips. I’ve let go of the need to feel in order to exist. That alone, well… it’s liberating.
It’s liberating to finally say that I’m okay with the unknown. I’m embracing change. I don’t know what lies in my future. I have a lot of balls up in the air and not sure where they will all land. Am I worthy of these big changes? I’ve stopped asking. Instead I ask, What’s one step I can take in an effort towards my goal? My therapist has taught me to just look at one single step. They accumulate after a while and before you know it, change has become something natural. The uncomfortable feeling of it all — that blank, empty, unknown — it’s not so scary anymore. For the first time you notice seeds finally taking root. Worthiness no longer has much to do with it.
Instead, I’ve decided I’ve got something to give. Suddenly things that used to look so foreign to me, so distant, so out of reach has finally come into focus. I’ve still got a long way to go, but the leap isn’t so great. Now, I walk around with a caption resounding in my head. It reads: WORK IN PROGRESS. I’m liking the sound of it.
“There’s been times I thought I couldn’t last for long,” sings Sam Cooke. “But now I think I’m able to carry on. It’s been a long time coming but I know a change gonna come.”
Change, here I come.