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Own Your Story

own your story 5

Hello Friend.

I wanted to share a quote with you. It’s by Theodore Roosevelt and I really enjoy it:

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month”.

One of the most powerful things I think we can do on our journey to mental wellness is realise the immense power that we have to change the circumstances in our own lives.

For a long time I waited for a magical cure or a magical person to come and save me from the way that I was feeling. I thought that I was genetically pre-programmed to feel the way that I did and that my only hope was to hope and pray hard enough, and one day I might magically feel “good”.

As humans we often naturally look for circumstances or people to blame for the way that we feel. For example: “I feel depressed because somebody treated me badly”, or “I feel anxious because it runs in my family”. While there are many legitimate reasons for us to feel depressed or anxious, having someone or something to blame can often keep us stuck in these negative feelings. Because we effectively hand over control to the people who hurt us, to painful circumstances, or to our genetics. We genuinely believe that these negative feelings are beyond our control and so we wait and hope for something or someone to fix them for us.

We so easily forget that in fact, we are in the driver’s seat of our lives.

Have a think about who or what has control over your feelings. What would it take for you to feel better do you think? Someone from the past to knock on your front door and deliver a heartfelt apology? Somebody to receive a suitable punishment for the way they treated you? God to click his fingers and lift the bad feelings from your life? Some radical rearranging of your DNA?

The thing is, we can’t let our lives pass us by while we wait for these things because they may never happen. I’m not saying you don’t absolutely deserve that apology. I’m not saying that somebody shouldn’t be held accountable for their despicable actions. I’m not saying it isn’t really really hard to have genes that make us susceptible to be sufferers of mental illness. What I am saying is: these people, or those circumstances have already taken enough from you, they don’t get to determine your future.

When we are able to understand that regardless of circumstance we have the power to choose joy, it is life changing. The presence of pain does not have to equal the absence of joy.

I used to honestly believe that people who had beautiful lives were just ‘blessed’ with them. That “wonderful” was their pre-destined lot in life and not mine. That I simply had to live with and accept what was put in front of me. The further along I get in life, the more I realise that these wonderful lives we see around us are a choice, they are created by hard work, serious grit, determination and some wise choices.

Life will always throw you curveballs. The harsh reality is: we cannot control everything that happens to us in this lifetime and painful things will happen. Pain is inevitable. Nevertheless, we are responsible for the way in which we think, act, and feel in response to the curveballs.

If you don’t believe me, maybe these words from Richard Rohr will help:

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If we continue to deny personal responsibility for our lives and the way that we feel about them, we feel overwhelmingly powerless. When we believe that we have no control, we can very easily become depressed. When we can accept personal responsibility, we are more likely to take the necessary steps to recovery and success.

If you have a couple of minutes, have a look at this brilliant (and short) video from Will Smith about personal responsibility. It is such a key concept.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USsqkd-E9ag

If our lives do not look the way we want them to, we have one option: we need to take stock and acknowledge the predicament we are in. We need to acknowledge the part that we have played in getting ourselves there or allowing ourselves to stay there. In order to fix our stories, we need to own our stories.

This excerpt from Crystal Hurst’s book “She’s Still There” puts it beautifully.

“It is your duty to discover, know well, and remain aware of what’s inside you. It is your assignment to steward what you’ve been given. It is your job to get the contents within you deposited safely at their destination. It is your duty to love yourself enough to live with hope, intention, and focus.

Yes, God wants to guide and direct you, but he doesn’t live through you apart from you. He’s given you what you need, but you have a role to play and a job to do. You are a recipient of God’s grace, but He wants you to respond to His call on your life. You have everything you need to do this because you also share His divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). You have to participate consistently and intentionally in your life. That is your job. Never forget that you are behind the wheel. Your choice to live with acute awareness is the key to getting where you’ve been designed to go. I want to make this as clear as I can. It is your job in this life to know and value what makes you you and to treasure the opportunity you have to make a distinct impression with this one life you have. No one else can do this for you. Sure, other people might encourage you, call things out of you, or help you along the way by lighting your path, but the responsibility of carrying your contents carefully is yours.”

As the beautiful Brene Brown says: “If you own this story you get to write the ending.”

So my friend, let’s stop waiting for a “one day” magical cure and get out there and make our best lives happen. I guarantee you you are far more capable and powerful than you give yourself credit for.

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Strong at the Broken Places

“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.

Kintsugi

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:

Kintsugi

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,

remember that

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.

Remember

how much more you are than an object.

Remember

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