The Road Ahead

mountain-road_f1UeVwYOSo last month marked two years since my suicide attempt. Two years of avoiding alcohol, of taking medication, going to therapy and trying to remind myself that I’m good enough to keep sticking around. Some days are certainly easier than others and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t troubled or tempted or tested over the last two years- hell, in the last two weeks. But so far I’ve fought off every single attempt to knock me off of the path of recovery and self-improvement.

But to be honest with you, the hard days are still really hard and I think it’s possible that I’m only one bad day away from failing. The road ahead of me stretches out, winding through deep valleys and shadows, with who knows what waiting for me, lurking around each bend. There are days when I worry how much progress I’ve made and I fear that it’s laughable how I’ve struggled for inches rather than miles. And all those miles still to go…

But this is a trick of perception. When you live with depression you can pick up on these tricks- after all, that’s what depression does- trick your brain into pain and anger and sadness. In my most recent therapy session we spent some time going back over the progress I’ve made. How when I came to therapy two years ago I would struggle with things that I do today without a second thought.

I’ve managed to reign in some of my worse impulses (the quick and cheap relief of getting drunk) and to tackle problems head on rather than turn my head away, hoping they will disappear. I can throw the brakes on my train of thought when it begins to speed up and threaten to careen off of the tracks. Mindfulness practice has taught me to recognize negative and judgmental thoughts, and to process them in a healthy way. When I take a longer view I can see just how much progress I’ve made and how different I am two years later from the man I was then.

I worry less about the years to come and try to think in the moment, to take each day as it comes. And if I pause once in a while by pulling back and looking down the road ahead with fresh eyes I can still see the valleys and I can still see the dark corners, but they are broken up by gentle rises and bright straight stretches. And then I can refocus on this day.

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