“Why do I still feel like this?” Recovery is a tricky beast.
Experiencing a sink into anxious overwhelm at a number of random experiences seemingly conspiring to pull me down I am, momentarily, back in the same place I fought so hard to escape from. Emotion spills over and I rant at my daughter sitting next to me in the car as I drive her to a class.
In the silence, I am aware of a shift. I look at her and she is crying, silently.
“What’s the matter?” My tone softening immediately, another change of gear internally.
“I know you’re stressed and I don’t like it” she sobs, honestly.
At this moment I am aware of how much has changed. How my own unwillingness to accept my emotion and allow it to pass will always give seed to something much deeper and more damaging. The expectation of perfection so corrosive. My intolerance of me so debilitating.
“Why do I still feel like this?”
It’s an understandable question when you have been struggling emotionally. The impatience to get “well” often in direct proportion to the depth of despair, but recovery rarely works so simply.
It was a shock to me all those years ago, after countless hours of therapy, a lengthy spell in a psychiatric hospital, and often repeated mistakes which left me in the same holes I had worked so hard to identify and avoid, that there were times when I still felt just the same way as I had done before. Then I learned about “Kintsukuroi”.
Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing pottery with lacquer mixed with gold, platinum or silver. In fixing something broken and imperfect this way it is ensured that the fractures are not only seen for all time but celebrated as something beautiful. Aren’t our own imperfections deserving of the same treatment? Moreover, doesn’t this process, rather than highlighting our vulnerability, strengthen and speed our recovery?
Shame is the enemy of recovery. It is impossible to feel better when we believe we are not worthy of it. But shame hangs to us like a frightened child.
The shame of what we have done or who we are makes us want to hide. But its these fractures in us which make us unique. They are not, in and of themselves, bad. It is always our unwillingness to accept ourselves as we are which leads us to a path of destruction, as we fight frantically to outrun the parts of us we cannot accept.
The bold lines on a pot repaired with gold are a reminder that recovery is not an eradication of the problem, but an alternative view of it. Recovery is not the absence of symptoms, it is the embracing of them. It is the understanding that their power is in feeling free enough to show and talk about them, instead of pretending that they never existed in the first place.
Recovery is marked by openness because shame finds it harder to breathe when it is exposed. Coming to terms with yourself and the realisation that anything can be changed when change is no longer a necessity is liberation on a grand scale.
The car journey was like a jolt back to reality. My daughter reminded me that discomfort isn’t something I have to push away or rail against. That focusing on my own insecurities and fallibilities does little good and is of low value.
I hand her a case with her new glasses which I had collected from the optician that afternoon. A surprise wrought from my love for her instead of an obsession with myself and, suddenly, an order was restored.