Like many people, there came a moment in my life when I was not sure I really wanted to keep on living. I felt unloved despite numerous people bending over backwards to help me. I felt unwanted despite numerous people seeking me out. I felt unworthy despite numerous people trying to convince me that I was doing great. I could not see, hear, or feel these things. I was untouchable in my fortress of despair. The words of kindness I was receiving were tricks. They were efforts just to get me to shut up already. People didn’t really mean that stuff. How could they?
I have walked in the darkness and I know how it twists the world. I have gotten to the point now, thank goodness, where I can usually sense pretty easily what is true and what lies a wave of depression is telling me. It is like walking through a fun house when you are depressed. Everything becomes distorted and twisted until your life and your world become unrecognizable.
Ultimately, it is up to us to seek help when we are in those pits and ruts, but I know for a fact that my life was saved by people who against all odds stuck around. I figured if they stuck around for me when I was feeling that gross, they must really be worth keeping. And maybe if people I admired so much thought I was great, maybe I should see what they were seeing. As I have continued down the very long and winding road of healing, I have learned that much of that journey is about opening. Opening your eyes, your heart, and your hands is how you move from the darkness, ever so slowly, into the light. Let me explain what I mean.
Open Your Eyes
When you are depressed and when you are feeling alone, that darkness will tell you that you really are alone. It will tell you that you have nothing and that you are nothing. At these times, you must open your eyes. By this I mean you must force yourself to see with your real eyes, not the eyes that your dark thoughts give you. If you reach out to someone, you have them. If you go for a walk in the sun, you have that ability and that capacity to create joy for yourself. If you listen to the sound of the ocean, you have that in your life to soothe you. Seeing these things is not easy. Sometimes I would sit down and make myself list 3 things I was grateful for on any given day. Then I would try to stretch it to 5. Even if to some extent you are going through the motions, embrace what you see when you truly open your eyes.
Open Your Heart
One of the most frightening things about depression and suicidal thoughts is that love, one of the things you need most, is one of the things you cannot absorb. You do not feel worthy of it. You feel certain that the people who say they love you are just being charitable. You need to try your hardest to open your heart and let people love you. Try to push aside the train of thoughts that tells you they are lying or that they don’t mean it. Let their love move into your heart. Also open your heart to loving other people back. Do not let fear of rejection or fear of unworthiness prevent you from opening your heart to loving hands. It is hard. Very hard. But opening your heart to love will allow you to open your heart to other things, like the joy you find in a certain song or the enjoyment you gain from a certain movie.
Open Your Hands
This may be the hardest step of all. The final step to healing is to open your hands and let go of what you don’t need. That can be hurt. That can be people who are toxic for you. That can be ways of thinking about yourself and the world. Opening your hands also means reaching out. While you sift through what you don’t need, also take inventory of what you do need. You do not need a person who will abuse you, but that person who made you go out for ice cream? Keep them. Open your hands so that you can grasp new ways of thinking, new experiences, and the hands of new people.
These things seem so easy when you see them on a piece of paper or on a screen. Change your way of thinking. Sure. No problem. The fact is that none of these things are easy. I have been on my journey for about 20 years now, and still there are days that I chalk up as days the bear ate me instead of the other way around. On those days I start my process all over again, from scratch. Open my eyes to what I have. Open my heart to all I love. Open my hands to let go of what is poisoning my mind. It is hard work. Never-ending work. But it is the only way I know to remind myself, or to teach myself, that I am not alone.
Neither are you.
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