A very close friend of mine, Catherine Womack, writes a Sunday column for a popular blog “Fit is a Feminist Issue.” This week she wrote on “Easter – a meditation on rebirth, renewal, and change.” (http://fitisafeministissue.com/2015/04/05/easter-a-meditation-on-rebirth-renewal-and-change/) Last night we were talking about the post and about how change happens in our lives. In her post she writes: “This is the [Easter] story, and all religions have miraculous and transformative event myths that fix our attention and inspire us. But in our own down-to-earthly lives, transformation is not miraculous. It is slow, with setbacks and obstacles to overcome, and takes lots of twists and turns.”
She makes a very good point about how transformation is gradual. I think this is especially true in the psychological realm.
I have many examples of this in my life; most generally, I have been on a healing journey for many years in order to live with the fact that I have chronic major depression and PTSD. This journey has been far from linear, but it hasn’t been circular either. It has been more spiral, in that I have come back to some of the same issues and problems at different times, but addressed them anew with the knowledge of what I had learned along the way. Change in this realm has also been gradual and at times felt glacially slow. But even glaciers move and change, and I have as well.
I think the thing is, it is hard to discern change when you are in the middle of it – especially if you are spiraling around to what feels like the same place but is really not. Each time I hit a hard patch and fall into the black hole of depression I worry that it will be like it was ten years ago, when I would end up dysfunctional for weeks and sometimes in the psychiatric hospital. So far, knock on wood, I have been able to deal with my downs more successfully. I have more coping tools, more community, and more support which all allow me to stay above water and not drown in the sea of depression and PTSD.
This all was really clear to me recently at a video shoot for an anti-stigma campaign on which I have been working. I am on a ad hoc committee that is developing a website addressing Asian American mental health issues to provide information and fight the stigma that mental health issues have in Asian American communities. I was one of four people whose stories were being videotaped at a local public broadcasting station. During the shoot, I told parts of my “recovery story” about living with depression. At one point, I thought, I have really changed in the last ten years. I am living with this illness so much more successfully. It was an “ah-ha” moment, when I could look back and really see how much has changed in my life. And although, I remain on my healing journey and will for the rest of my life, I can from this vantage point see the transformation that has occurred. (I can hear my therapist cheering.)
Although the process of change itself is not miraculous, I believe that my awareness of my transformation is miraculous. It is a powerful moment where I could see that glaciers had moved and my life and my healing were not static. I am grateful for these miracles of awareness, as they give me hope that other things too will change. It’s like the coming of spring; crocuses peeking out from the ground make me aware that spring will actually come despite this winter’s harshness.