The Road of Life: The Good, the Bad, and the Muddy
In a recent interview I was asked, regarding my journey to where I am today, “Has it been a smooth road?” My initial thought was, “Is there such a thing?”
Although it may look different from the outside, the road of my personal journey has not been smooth. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had countless rich and rewarding experiences and opportunities, and I have many blessings in my life. I have loving and supportive parents, many friends, an able and healthy body and mind, purpose, meaning, and so many things for which I am grateful. But – I have also suffered from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, derealization, body-image issues, and plenty of other fears and insecurities – sometimes manageable, other times debilitating. In fact there were times when the road ahead looked too daunting and overwhelming to take even one more step.
The path I’ve taken to get here has certainly not been straight, nor have I always stayed on it. I often questioned if I was even going in the right direction. I’ve fallen down on the path, fallen apart, and even fallen off and been lost. But every time I fell down, I eventually got back up. Every time I fell apart, I found a way to put myself back together. And every time I have been lost, I found a way back. Because there is always a way back, even if the road back is a different path entirely. Even if you have no idea what’s around the next bend.
Perhaps I’m making it sound like the way back is easy. I promise it is not. There was a period of time in my life when I suffered from severe depression. It was a time I was experiencing a huge distance between the world and me, as if I were completely alone. In my perceived isolation, I could see no light at the end of any tunnel. I felt hopeless, that I had lost at life, and I carried with me a feeling of deep sorrow. It took enormous effort to do anything, including getting out of bed, getting out of my sweats, and leaving the house. In fact some days that didn’t even happen. I believed I was broken, and that my life was broken.
Then I had a day that I refer to as “Rock Bottom.” (Even recalling it is painful.) I called each of my parents simply to say, “I need help.” It was extremely difficult to do even that, but I knew I could no longer live with this feeling. Through their unconditional love and support, through hard work in therapy, and learning many coping tools and skills that I still practice regularly (recovery is always fluid and ongoing), I found my way through it. I found hope, meaning, inspiration, purpose, and light at the end of my tunnel. And I once again learned how to experience joy.
Adversity can feel like a disaster when it presents itself. But what if I told you that adversity and even our most challenging times offer us an opportunity for enormous growth? In fact these times, steeped in pain and difficulty, hold the potential to transform our lives for the better. Yes it’s hard. I know it’s hard. And we will get lost again and again. But each time we find our way back, it helps us believe that we can, and the skills we use to find our way back are therefore strengthened. We will be much more resilient each time adversity shows up.
I genuinely feel I was lucky to experience, survive, and grow from episodes of anxiety, panic, and depression. Because all of these things inform my work, life, and journey on the road ahead. Overcoming challenges has offered me the opportunity and resolve to reach out and help others thrive, despite their own debilitating obstacles.
Life is indeed a journey, and one that is never a smooth road from point A to point B. It’s full of bumps, potholes, roadblocks, and often, torrential downpours. Sometimes there are no signposts to let us know we are even going in the right direction. Yet the road is also full of waterfalls, swimming holes, mountaintops, flowers in bloom, and interesting people to meet along the way. But the road does not have to determine the journey. Rather, it’s our intention, our commitment to weather the storm, to stay on course, and to get to the other side, while staying open to possibilities along the way. Because the other side may not look like what you thought it would – it might look better! During times of uncertainty, when your footing becomes unsure, and the twists and turns have led you into darkness, you are allowed to stop, to rest, and to turn inward. It helps to stay mindful, to remind yourself of your purpose, and to absolutely rely on the love and support of family, friends, and community. There will be ebbs and flows. You will feel stuck in the mud. And maybe it will rain for a long time. But as with any journey, eventually the sun comes out, and the road becomes smooth once again.
My best wishes for the journey you have started, the journey you have yet to start, or the journey you have completed. Here’s to not turning back when the rain starts.