Friday, September 09, 2016

Layers and Hiking

The annoying and exasperating truth about mental illness is that like any other chronic illness (my asthma is a good example), I have to constantly be taking care of it. Sometimes I have to adjust the care I use, sometimes what worked in the past doesn't work anymore. It's relentless and feels, at times (all-the-times?), like I'm actually going backward when I really know I'm going forward.

In a therapy session, yesterday, my therapist described it using a layers metaphor. Once we get the outer layer taken care of, it opens up to the more difficult layers --usually the causation of the mental illness, or in my case, the depression. My outer layer was apathy; it was stillness and deep self-pity. Once this layer was removed, we moved onto causation layers, and it has been, dear reader, incredibly painful. I'm finding out truths that have remained buried my entire life. I'm discovering how relationships in my life have been some of the root causes to my self-destruction. I'm working through these emotions and revelations, attempting to let go of the past and build a future. And it's so hard. So very, very hard.

For years and years, motivation to just get up and clean the house, to do visiting teaching, to put on a brave face, and take a shower so I could run errands or attend functions was the most difficult part of living. It's no longer like that for me. I can choose to let the house be dirty or choose to clean it and I don't feel despair facing that decision. I don't hide out in my house (as much) and I don't panic over the idea of doing something difficult. In fact, I'm pretty confident in my ability to choose what's the best decision in the moment.

But in some ways, what I'm working through is even harder. I'm re-wiring my brain and attempting to be who I am in the midst of memories and relationships that don't want the real me. Broken Cheryl is so much easier to deal with than Fixed Cheryl. And before you jump to conclusions --yes, it does affect my marriage. A lot more than I thought it would. That doesn't mean my marriage is in trouble, but it does mean we have a lot of work to do. The truth is, my marriage isn't the only relationship being affected. It's affecting ALL of my relationships. Every one.

I didn't think it would be as hard as it is. I figured that once I got to this part, once I got to an emotionally and mentally healthy sphere of living, that I would be better. Fixed. Immune. But I'm not. In some cases, things can be worse.

I hoped yelling at the kids would go away. It hasn't. I hoped I wouldn't cry as much as I used to. I sometimes cry more. I hoped, basically, that I would have been healed. Meds, therapy, changes, Atonement --healed! Done! But it's not nearly that simple.

The simple part is, however, that I'm better. I am much better. I am! Better is good. Better means progression instead of stagnation or decline. Better means I'm trying and I'm doing the right things and headed in the right direction. It also means that although things are painful and the nitty-gritty of my psyche is creating difficult situations, I'm going in the right direction.

It's like this: When I first started on the path to healing, I began hiking along a wide and well used trail. I had a heavy backpack full of random supplies, I was scared, and my new shoes hurt a bit. But after a while I got used to the trail, I used my supplies carefully, and the shoes got comfortable. I began to enjoy the views and my endurance increased. I found that I didn't need the backpack of supplies, anymore, so I was able to set it down and just took the water bottle. Once I got to a very comfortable place, the trail changed. Slowly, before I realized it, the trail was narrowing. It was getting rockier. It was starting to climb in elevation. Tree branches were lower, and I started seeing boulders in the way. Grateful I had shed the backpack, grateful I had brought the water, and grateful I had broken in my shoes, I kept going, even though I slowed down a little --sometimes I slowed down a lot. I had more endurance, but I was slower because this was all new. It was much harder. But if I hadn't started where I had, there's no way I could have kept going or even approached the new part of the trail.

And that's where I am. On the narrower, rockier, harder trail.

It doesn't surprise me that Jesus said:
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Nephi 28:30) 
That truth is found in all we do. You can't play a concerto if you've never played a C major scale. You can't pass AP calculus if you haven't learned basic algebra. You can't compete in a marathon if you've never run more than 100 yards. We all learn line upon line --that's just how life is. [Sidenote: Taking it even further, if you don't practice or study or run for a long time, you lose what you've already learned/accomplished. You can't stop going, or what you had is taken from you. Interesting, eh?] So, why does it surprise me that when I get to the hard parts, it's hard? Why would I expect to be fully cured before I have gone through the whole process? 

I have faith in Jesus Christ. I know that if it was His will, His Atonement could cleanse and cure me in an instant. But I also have faith in Jesus Christ as a teacher and a guide. As a parent, I understand why I can't do everything for my children and why they need to learn to do things for themselves. If I bailed them out of every difficult task or lesson, they would not be prepared for the narrow and rocky trails ahead of them. In fact, it would hurt them even more in the long run. But! I can hold their hands. I can listen to them and help them along. I believe that my Savior and my Heavenly Father know this in a perfect way --They know that I need to be guided towards the solutions, not handed all the solutions. How else could my faith grow? How else could I learn compassion? How else could I be able to understand what it is I need to understand for all that is still ahead of me? 

I may be on a narrow, rocky trail, now, but what is coming? When will it turn into the steep ascent of rock climbing? 

I understand this; I know this. I embrace this. In fact, I want this. But it's still really hard, sometimes. 

I think that's the point.

1 comment:

Tiffany Wacaser said...

Lovely post, Cheryl. Walking those rocky, narrow paths is really hard, but worthwhile. I keep reminding myself that we go through periods of transition and challenge and then things even out for awhile. But sometimes, even that thought isn't as comforting as it should be.

Thanks for sharing your journey.