Have you ever been involved in nursing someone back to health after a long illness or an accident? Would you expect them to get back to the pink of health without struggling? Would you shame them if they did struggle? No, right? But, have you been shaming yourself for not getting better, or not trying hard enough to get better?
Applying to ourselves the standards we apply to others should come naturally, but it doesn’t. When suffering from clinical depression, although we get up each time we fall, all we register in our mind is that we fell yet again, not that we picked ourselves up to walk again. Something comes in the way of being patient with our journey, trusting our efforts and giving ourselves some space and time to pick up a certain pace.
Fighting suicidal thoughts one time is hard enough. So, when we circle back to them over and over again, it is natural to feel we are a lost cause. But do we really circle all the way back? Do we really sink all the way to rock bottom each time? Or are we measuring it all wrong? I learnt that what felt like a step forward was actually ‘a leap’, and what felt like two steps backwards, was actually just ‘a pause’. Once I had started my healing journey, I never went backwards…I only paused to catch my breath. It seemed like an eternity, but it wasn’t.
I didn’t repeat my dark patterns in their entirety each time. Rather, there was always some improvement in me, but I had become very good at overlooking this improvement. I always focused on how I felt suicidal yet again. But, that’s normal, because that was the painful part, right? Why would I focus on how this time it lasted only five days, rather than the entire week it did last time? Luckily, there was someone focusing on the improvement. My therapist. I was hardwired to criticize myself but they were there to point out how my feedback to myself was not just unfair, but plain faulty. Over time, I observed my pattern. I had been evaluating my efforts using incorrect parameters. I would set unrealistic targets based on a faulty understanding of my pace, shame myself for setbacks, paint pauses as debacles, define rest as laziness, and label myself a burden. I was so impatient with my pace that I was ashamed of it.
Therapy made me appreciate my efforts at getting better in the context of my unique capacity, rather than comparing myself to everyone else out there. There were times I would compare myself with those living with depression but managing to get a lot more done in a day, than I could even dream of. I made the mistake of thinking they had it easy, which would in turn make me feel like a victim.
It seems very hard to be objective about these things, because the mind automatically creates comparisons. It isn’t easy to tell yourself that thou shall not compare. The good news is that the therapist knows how to take care of that. All you have to do is start therapy and commit to showing up. Of course, you will not be able to show up each time, but remember that you will, eventually.
Disclaimer: Psychotherapy is extremely unique to every individual and CANNOT be generalized. This blogpost is merely intended to convey that if it helped me in some way, I recommend you consider it for yourself if you need to. Do not read into it with a personal checklist and think, oh this is exactly what I needed and this is how it will pan out for me as well. It doesn’t work that way. That is also why you should give it a shot. Discover your unique journey with it; your journey of healing will be so much richer with therapy.
By Nishtha Singhal