If you have ever had any type of mental health issue, you will know well the thought of what life will be like when you are “cured”. Much like the person on a diet who imagines how much better things will be after losing 50 pounds, we can easily fall into the habit of deciding to start living life when certain conditions are met. In fact, sometimes we get so caught up in this kind of magical thinking that we neglect to do the actual footwork needed in the moment. Looking forward to a better day can be healthy and give us hope. It can also lead to denial and paralysis. With the first hint of a set-back (like the dieter who eats the piece of chocolate cake) we may be tempted to mentally scrap the day, opting to start again tomorrow.
Recovery from any health issue requires patience and slowing down, as we experience first hand that there are certain things we cannot control. Premature weight bearing on a broken leg can lead to further injury and delayed recovery. When we are in tune with our bodies, they will let us know what is needed. When a person is a struggling with a mental illness, the signals become distorted and it is difficult to trust one’s feelings. This can result in a frenzy of activities that are subconsciously intended to numb us to the current moment such as excessive intake of alcohol, food, drugs, work, and other risky behaviors. We become so proficient at running away from the pain that we create a vacuum in our souls. This vacuum is rooted in the belief that we are not worthy of anything better.
Our most promising chance for recovery is in making the most of the present moment. We will never reach perfection, and sometimes we will make a mess of things. Regardless of how far away we feel we are from that “cure” and how much pain we may be in, being able to focus on the moment at hand without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future can bring a tiny glimmer of peace and hope. We may not be able to control our thoughts, but allowing ourselves to become present in the moment, even for a brief second, will lead us to a greater level of truth.
Slowing down when we are tempted to go faster can provide us with a glimpse into the answers we are seeking. When driving along in a speeding car, how likely are you to notice the buds on a tree in the spring or the wing span of a hawk amidst the white puffy clouds of a summer day? Even if it means facing feelings of despair, there is great value in slowing down enough to acknowledge what is happening in the moment. Sometimes the voice of desperation deep within our soul needs to be heard. Acknowledging that voice can be a scary experience but can also be the catalyst for real growth.