When you wake up tired in spite of getting the obligatory eight hours, it’s never a good sign. Can stress interrupt rest? Makes sense. Other things surely do it, but for me, it’s mainly my old friend and long suffering companion, depression. It seems the cold I’ve been playing tag with has chosen to weight the odds in its favour by inviting the black dog into the game. Old story. No surprises. All I can do is watch from the side-lines like a bored soccer mom.
There’s a bunch of research coming out of the psychology community these days which suggests rewriting stories is a way to rise above certain mental ‘illnesses’. A new narrative helps reframe how a trauma is viewed. I like the idea because it’s what I’ve done forever. Being Irish, I fit the stereotypical maudlin embellisher of fact. There’s no story that cannot be tweaked for the sake of dramatic impact, but, I don’t think making events worse in the retelling is quite what scientists have in mind. No, I’m pretty sure they want the story refreshed with balms and tinctures meant to heal.
For a writer, that’s a tall order. How do I create readable stories of interest without blood and guts, trickery and betrayal? I cannot, but do not need to. These are my stories so I can revisit my history and use different words to describe it. I can turn myself into the heroine instead of the victim. I can talk of wins rather than defeats. My entire narrative can become one of gratitude for every single thing in my life even if, in this current moment, the mere concept of gratefulness hurts.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am grateful for my heart and lungs, my hands and eyes. I am so very thankful to have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and clothes to cover my bits and pieces (especially those saggy, wrinkly bits). I revere my feeling body that warms to the sun’s kiss, shivers in the cold, and makes gooseflesh when startled. No, do not misunderstand me when I tell you I am distanced from gratitude by thinking I have become ungrateful. It’s simply that depression removes certain abilities, one being the ability to feel.
Now, that might come as a shock to many of you who think depressives wander about feeling too much, all of it lousy and negative, of course. Certainly, that can be true for some, but not for all. I can’t possibly find a big enough brush to paint every single person, and do not want to try, however, in order to survive, some of us become numb. Furthermore, it’s the best we can do, and, guess what? It’s perfectly okay. We will feel again.
So how can telling a new story help? In my case, a disturbed mind prefers the devil it knows. Major, or chronic depressive episodes are cumulative and become deeply entrenched in a body that does not forget them no matter what the mind says, either. Does that make the change-mountain too high to climb?
I think the answer lies in this quote from George Bernard Shaw. “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” I realise his original meaning was not meant to fit with what I’m talking about here, and yet, it does fit beautifully, for if I let my mind and body tell me I cannot change, then indeed, nothing will change. If I tell a story of learning and accomplishments, of a thoughtful and deeply caring mind, at first it will be perceived as pure fiction until, over time, with much repetition, it will become real. My history will not be one of failure and insanity, but rather it will be one of profound experiences and much prevailing.
So, here’s to new stories filled with positive adornments, love given and returned, wounds healed, and lessons learned. It will take time but I believe I can change my mind.
Wishing you all, once again, beautiful words like “I love you.” If you do not hear those words from another, say them to yourself with gusto. Then say them to another with even more gusto. Speak to the trees, speak to the chaos, speak to the homeless person you’re passing by. Tell one and all, “I Love YOU!” Those words might just change someone else’s mind. Better yet, it might help to change yours just where you need it the most. “I love you.”