“Honor your own pace. “Walk, don’t run.” Recovery doesn’t care about your ambition, only on your current ability. Mental illness is trauma and trauma takes time to heal.” Sam Dylan Finch
The problem with knowing the basics of something, is forming assumptions about how long it should take to master it. My college diploma in Social Work is a solid baby step, but a baby step nonetheless towards my practical ability to work through mental health issues. As competent and introspective as I may think I am, I have blind spots. In working through trauma, it’s putting new glasses of a new prescription on, and re-learning how to view my past, present, and future.
Shortly after I trialed my first pair of glasses at 12 years old, I was prescribed bi-focals. Can you imagine? From 12 – 14, I had a lovely pair of bi-focal glasses with a pale pink hue on the top of the lenses. That was the rage in the 80’s – to have colour tinted glasses in a graduating paleness so that the part that you most looked through was clear, while the top was dark enough to look like eyeshadow.
(I can’t quite believe that one can find internet images of these still being sold!) Mine were a bit lighter, but this is the jist of what they were like.
Adjusting to those bi-focals took a bit of time. Curbs were intially a bit of trouble. Junior High badminton intramurals were frustrating and I used to just take them off to try to play. Being both near and far sighted was quite the challenge with those bi-focals and entering my teen years. My opthamologist had given me eye exercises to do to strengthen my eyes and at 14, I finally got my first pair of contacts. I was able to start high school feeling beautiful.
I wore distance only lenses up until a few years ago. Reading and being on the computer were becoming difficult. My optometrist looked at my chart, noted my age, and said that this was just something that most people in their forties faced. I now have “readers” to use with my contacts; and I just ordered in my first pair of “progressive” lenses. I’ll soon find out if they are as difficult of an adjustment as my bifocals of over 30 years ago were.
Changing perspectives on how we view the world, our problems, our successes… it all takes a time period of adjustment. Grieving, healing, growing…. they each have their seasons; some quicker than others, but each takes the time it takes. There is no cut-off point and often, the process is life-long rather than condensed. To honor your pace will mean accepting each moment, each day, as it comes – trusting that it will become easier in time, and doing whatever work is required of you — one day at a time.
Elisabeth Elliot, in mourning the loss of her missionary-husband, Jim Elliot, spoke of the need to “Do the next thing”. It is good advice. Sometimes that may mean taking the time to cry. Other times, it may mean mopping the floors. We need to be as gracious with ourselves as we would be with others in their pain and sorrow.
I wish our culture still practiced some of the old traditions that our funeral homes take care of now. There is nothing home-like about a building that temporarily houses our loved ones who have passed. They are peaceful places with their thick carpets that hush footsteps and soft, soothing music. I cannot say enough good things about the funeral home that took care of our little one. They were wonderful. But it would have been so much more meaningful to have had all of our friends and family come to surround us, to meet her, and to mourn with us, right then, in our own home. For years I longed for building a big bonfire out in a deserted field, and inviting my female friends to come and wail with me. To cry in a circle together, sharing the grief and pain…. I still have a twinge of longing for it.
These longings can be part of our ‘doing the next thing’. We can grieve the disappointment and unfulfilled longings of our hearts. We can find hope amongst the ashes. We might cry less tomorrow. We might find a good therapist. We might take a nap this afternoon…. there are things, little things to be sure, but things that spark hope.
I used to feel the pressure of ‘doing the next thing’. I felt the critical ‘busyness’ of having to keep going for the sake of everyone else around me and of masking my pain to make others comfortable. I still feel it. But the beauty of this current falling apart is that my recovery can’t be forced. I am finally choosing to say that I will be brave enough to feel my way through the pain in a different way than I have done before. I will use antidepressants and pills for anxiety that help me manage my emotions and get through each day. I will be brave enough to say, “This isn’t working”. I will use my anger to fuel necessary change. I will seek out life-giving relationships over life-taking ones. I will learn to walk away from social media before it overwhelms me. I will focus on the things closest to me: people, places, and things to do; and branch out from there, or not, as my time and energy and health permit. I will not allow others to dictate my priorities. I will seek health in ways that suit me. I will change what I can each day, or sit with the new thought for a while until I am comfortable moving in that direction. Creating new patterns takes time. Even for INFJ’s, who love to think in patterns and who think they have thought through every possibility… to be faced with a new perspective, hitherto unknown, takes time to consider. I have to compare it with my past experiences and future aspirations. I will make the best changes though. This will end well. I am determined to hang onto hope. I am determined to see life through my rose-coloured glasses. 😉