“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” -Ernest Hemingway.
Upon hearing this quote I was encouraged to share a little of my own story with you. On paper, I’m not really qualified to speak about mental illness. But, I did fight a substantial battle with anxiety and depression, and I managed to overcome it. I am now at a point where it no longer controls my life. Nowhere near in fact.
Lately the news has been full of heartbreaking suicide statistics accompanied by descriptions of our failing mental health systems. And so, although I am in no way qualified to preach at you; it would feel far too selfish not to share the things that have helped me on my mental health journey. In the hope that my journey might just help someone else.
The Japanese have a pottery technique called “Kintsugi” or “Kintsukuroi”. Meaning “golden joinery” or “golden repair”. It is the art of repairing broken pieces of pottery with a lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver or platinum. The philosophy behind the technique is to treat breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. The outcome is a piece far more beautiful and valuable than before. There is an understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. The flaw is seen as a unique part of the objects’ history, which adds to its’ beauty.
Nikita Gill puts its far more eloquently than I can:
On the days when you feel ashamed of your scars,
your mind only registering how ugly they are
rather than the beauty they prove of you having survived,
there is an entire art form dedicated to filling the cracks of broken things with lacquered gold.
An entire art form that proves that even broken and damaged history of ‘an object’ is beautiful and should be treasured.
how much more you are than an object.
your survival, your journey, your scars deserved to be treasured too.
If you are struggling with your mental health right now, realise that this is all it is. A little stumbling block, a little bump in the road and afterwards you will be all the more brave, strong, and beautiful.
An incredible example of being “Strong at the Broken Places” is the late poet/author/civil rights activist (I could go on) Maya Angelou. Angelou’s list of achievements is substantial and there are many facets to her fascinating life story. For the purpose of this post, I am just going to focus on one aspect. When Angelou was just 8 years old, she was sexually abused and raped by her mothers boyfriend, a man called Freeman. Freeman was found guilty but was jailed for just one day. Four days after his release he was murdered, probably by Maya’s uncles. Following this, Maya became mute for almost 5 years. She stated: “I thought my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice could kill anyone.”
While Angelou was silent, she developed an extraordinary memory, a love for books and an ability to listen and observe the world around her. She went on to publish 7 autobiographies, 3 books of essays, several books of poetry and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. Angelou received over 50 honorary degrees and was very active in the civil rights movement, working alongside Martin Luther King Junior and Malcolm X.
In 1993, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. The recording of this poem won a grammy award.
Hopefully you get my point. Maya Angelou’s weakness became her greatest strength.
So friend, don’t be discouraged if mental illness is part of your journey right now. That’s all it is. Part of your journey that will sculpt strength and beauty in the days to come. Like Maya Angelou who went from a mute child to a world renowned public speaker, God will use your journey for good. Your broken places will absolutely become your strengths. That is a promise.
So hang on in there friend. Cheering you on x