Last night, I heard a woman share how she sees herself through recovery, and how she maintains her commitment despite life's challenges and adversity. She spoke for about 20minutes. I think she spoke of spiritual awakenings and creativity, and abstinence from harmful behavior. I say, "I think" because I don't remember much of what she said – she kept jumping from topic to topic and rambled a little. What stuck with me was how she was continuously amazed - even surprised - by the beautiful things that her recovery had opened her up to. The ability to taste food, the ability to get through a stressful moment without feeling anxious, the stamina to work in her garden, love, strength, health -not having as much fear. Every time she named one, her eyes would open up wide with light and she would clap her hands with glee, letting out a small,high-pitched, "OH!" .
I've never really thought of my complexity - my struggle - as beautiful.I've always just thought of it as hard, terrible, unfair, and why can't I just be normal? Depression is a constant state of despair. The existence of a depressed person is perpetual smog where life is muffled by your own inner voice's reminders of how un-beautiful you are, of how un-worthy you are, of how much you deserve your pain. Regardless of how much light is in the person's life: their talents, achievements, and virtues; or how much support exists for them, all of it gets filtered out by a stubborn and morose gatekeeper. When I am depressed, when I find myself again with the"not good enough" voice's volume set to MAXIMUM, I can't see beauty.It may be all around me, in me, through me - but I am blind to it. It's too good to be true, too big for me, it doesn't make sense. Recovery -healing - is learning to see the beauty through this haze, to truly recognize moments of pain and dysfunction as essential to discovering your own beauty. The battle is to shove through the gatekeeper and allow the self to see these moments as beautiful.
I say that beauty, and not "happiness" is the opposite of depression because it is the only light that is as ubiquitous as struggle. Happiness is subjective - and a fleeting state. It passes, just as despair. Beauty, however,is eternal. There is struggle everywhere. There is also beauty everywhere. To truly see beauty outside of us, we have to be able to allow it to exist within us. To do this, we become vulnerable. When we let the world hear our “I need help”, we open ourselves up – our desires, our fears, our shames – so that light, and beauty can seep in. There cannot be change or healing without vulnerability. To heal a wound, we must first see that there is one there.