I met with a man in a position of authority recently. “Kurt,” he told me, “I truly believes everything happens for a reason.” I nodded and smiled. He told me how he immigrated to America and achieved success.
I didn’t want to belittle his story, but while I put on a smiling face at his comment, inside I cringed. That’s because I used to believe that things happened for a reason. I thought that god had a plan for everyone and there was purpose and meaning for all my tragedies and successes.
Yet I always chafed under that idea because it didn’t line-up with my experiences with mental illness. Regardless of my belief in god--which is a different subject—as I got older it became harder for me to believe there was a reason for much of anything. Instead, I realized that experiences just are.
For a long time I wanted to believe that my depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts were going to make me into a greater or better person than I am today. But mental illness doesn’t go away. There’s not a lesson to learn from it. It's not like I wasn’t paying attention while I was driving and got in a car accident and now I should pay more attention on the road. No, my mental health issues are on-going. They always will be a part of me.
Some might argue that there are lessons to learn from this on-going struggle, though. I can use my experiences to help others, as I’m doing right now, they may say.
While that may seem like an easy answer, I hope I could help others with mental health issues without having to go through what I have. The idea of having to deal with suicide and feeling a constant state of mental weight on my brain is something I’d love to avoid. I don’t think I’d still need to be going through what I’m going through to share my experiences about mental health.
I find that when people say, “Everything happens for a reason,” it minimizes what I have gone through. It makes it seem as though my experiences are a pawn in some sort of larger game of life that can get me someplace whereby I will have “won.”
Based on my experiences I find it far more likely that things in life just are. They happen and there’s no reason. And that’s okay. I don’t need my trials and tribulations to have some grand meaning to know it’s worthwhile for me to be alive and to continue to live.
Years ago I learned to be okay with ambiguity (as much as it’s possible, at least) and the weirdness of life. It makes things fun and gives life a sense of adventure.
I’ve learned to become okay with life having no universal purpose. It’s up to each of us to come up with it on our own. I’ve chosen to do my best to live a life of service to others, but what you find makes you happy may differ. I continue to experience life with its ups and downs, but what I choose to make of them is my own decision. Anything else deprives us of our autonomy as human beings and limits what we can do and what our struggles mean to us.
Battling depression and clawing your way up from the deepest points doesn't always come with one breakthrough moment. One might think after my suicide attempt when I was 21 I would've had a clarifying thought. But I didn't. I was still stuck in the doldrums for over a decade after that.
While there wasn't one thing that happened after my second suicide attempt in 2011, the change came sometime after that. And it wasn't a skull-crushing one. Instead it was a number of things occurring over the course of years. The change in my life included a healthy dating relationship and financial stability. Also, a comfortable living situation, and direction on what I wanted to do with my life were helpful. And, in a basic way, general maturity and understanding of who I was. That said, I don't know everything but I do know enough to get me by.
If there's anything that has been a breakthrough, it's the thought that for the most part, I want to live. I can see the point in living and more days than not, life is pretty good and it's worth being here. This thought didn't occur overnight but instead took a few years. And then the thought came to mind: “Hey, this isn't so bad. I have some good things going on here. Perhaps it's worth sticking around.”
Speaking out about mental health has been influential in regards to finding clarity of thought and what my goals are. It took me a long time but recognizing what I enjoy, how I want to make a difference in this world, and what to do to keep me alive have been so helpful.
In the end, it doesn't matter when or how a breakthrough came, what's important is that it happened. If you're looking for a breakthrough with regards to your mental health, the best advice I can give is to find the tools that best help you to survive and then give life time until that breakthrough comes.
This blog is an exploration of the subjects of belonging and loneliness. I also look at mental health issues. I seek to provide content to my readers that is informative and helpful. If you don't want to miss anything, sign up for my email list.