I shared this in my other blog a couple of months ago, and Rick gave me the idea (not on purpose) of sharing it here too. Also, when I presented with him a few weeks ago, I talked publicly about mental illness for the first time. I think it can be really helpful for others to hear about it so they know there is help, and they are not alone. So here goes…
My favorite platter lay on the floor in shattered pieces near rolls of paper towels and a cookie sheet. I still have a feeling that the culprit was a cat or two, and I had 12 minutes to clean up the mess before my piano student came to my apartment.
I swept up the crumbs, and after the student left I shredded some paper with my hands and pieced together my platter. Ironically, it’s the one that says Life is Beautiful.
It won’t serve food anymore, but it will be art. It will be my philosophy on the wall. It will be my life’s experience on the wall. It will represent my pain, desperation, and hope, right there for everyone to see on my wall.
Because I wasn’t supposed to be like this. I was supposed to have some huge, passionate purpose that changed the world.
I’m not sure that I know what passion is, but I used to think it was the feeling, the drive that I had to achieve, to learn, to care about other people more than myself, to have deep relationships, to be the hero that would save people who confided in me and to inspire the people who watched me.
And then, sometimes imperceptibly, and sometimes in a nanosecond with the rug of my life snatched out from under me, I lost what was most valuable to me in every area of my life, and I didn’t have that joy that people still think marks my identity. Yes, I am happy to see you. And no, I am not sad all of the time. I don’t broadcast on my heart to everyone because I’ve been burned so many times in so many ways that I’m not sure I can ever recover from. I am good at saying that I’m doing good and how are you doing today?
I don’t know what someone is supposed to say or not supposed to say on a blog. I know people who have shared their testimonies behind a podium, about how they met Jesus, and they go into the very dark depths of their past, and then I know I can talk to them about my past because maybe they would understand. I had a professor who shares in class that he has major depression so that students will feel like they have someone to confide in, and they do. My favorite psychology professor shares really deep things to all of her students, and it made me realize that it’s okay to go to therapy nobody is perfect and that I don’t want to judge people.
So I think I’m deciding that if it could help someone, it’s okay if I share it. It’s not to dump. It’s not to share too much. It’s just what I learned.
Not only did my circumstances shatter, but they, and whatever differences I have in my brain, and however my relationship with God affected it, put too much pressure on me, and I shattered. Mental illness slowly took over more and more of my emotions until I thought nothing would ever help and that I would never, ever feel happiness. One night I was looking forward to the next day, and it felt really good, because I hadn’t felt that feeling for months. Diagnoses drained my energy and made any small task almost too overwhelming to start.
Out of that raw nothingness, everything I did was done by me forcing myself to do it because there was no desire. I did homework because I had to. I tried, pretty unsuccessfully, to read my Bible because I need a relationship with God even when I don’t want one. I asked my friends how they were doing, not thinking I would change their lives at all like I used to think, but because that’s what I do. I gave up aspirations of becoming this or that, but I stayed on my course because it is what I do. It wasn’t the passion I thought I had felt. But was it real passion, or at least dedication?
With this ugly shattering of my life, different things happened. I didn’t play in that last piano recital, but I still play for the Sunday school class for adults with developmental disabilities.
I don’t try to be popular anymore, but I am more content with who I am with. I don’t think that my friends will look back and say that Rachel made some huge impact in their lives, but I know that I judge them less, that I feel what they feel more, and that I am way more sensitive in what I say then I would have been if I hadn’t experienced all the hellish things I went through. If I hadn’t grieved so much, I wouldn’t understand their grief. If I hadn’t been so messed up with heartbreaking coping skills I am learning to break, with numbness that made me lay around for hours and days, and with physical disabilities that made me hop from Doctor to doctor and get contrasting advice wherever I went, I wouldn’t have been as good of a music therapist as I will be. Sometimes my communication style makes it hard for me to understand what someone is saying, or I need repetition before I get it, I wouldn’t be as patient with my piano students or know how to explain things for them.
Because there weren’t any shortcuts for me. I could never take the easy way. It was never an option, no matter if it was my relationship with Jesus, my relationships with friends and mentors and counselors, learning in school because of learning style and physical difficulties, or doing everyday activities like playing outside. I learned to (not always successfully, as you know if you know me) meet certain people where they are at.
Because I’ve been there in some, even remotely similar, type of way.
And for you who like happy endings, I think my therapy has finally given some relief, and I can tell others true things to give hope (even if I don’t feel it’s truth for me). I usually don’t expect things to be happy. But I can still be okay–I’ve learned how to be okay when I’m having a really tough experience. I learned that life isn’t what I thought it was before I shattered. But it is something else for a lot of people.
So I think that broken platter is like me. I thought I was meant for something else, but then God created art and a beautiful message out of the ruins.