Actually, at the moment, I have two big heroes - they are two of my friends
who are facing cancer with such equanimity, courage and a positive attitude,
it completely blows my mind! I know that there are scads of others who show
these same qualities when faced with a life threatening challenge - but
these two are the ones I know intimately and can see every day
where their strength comes from:
- Staying in the moment
- Realizing that there are gifts to having an illness - as in everything else in
our lives, a difficult and painful situation can be a great learning tool
- Knowing that God and their angels are guiding their every step of the way --
and that goes for the actions of the healers around them as well
- Having confidence that "all is good"
I believe that everyone you meet, and particularly those with whom you have
had a long-term relationship, has come into your life for a reason.
Each person is a teacher to us as we are to them. Another concept
I embrace totally: I believe that each challenge we face,
including a health issue, is a learning tool if
we choose to see it as that.
Cancer is my friends' learning device; depression is mine. I have finally
come to believe that my depressive episodes have been a
very painful but effective teacher for me.
Let's start from the top. I'm going to describe the contrasting set of feelings
that have defined my depressions. I'm not beating up on myself here, because
the illness of depression gains its power from encouraging us to get stuck in
the exact opposite of these four things that are helping my two friends get
through their cancer.
Staying in the moment:
The Depressive Me: I am in a constant state of feeling guilty and regretful
about the past and totally in fear about the future. What a totally fruitless
way to spend an afternoon, not to mention days on end! As someone said:
No amount of guilt can solve the past and no amount
of anxiety can change the future.
Even better yet:
Today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday.
My Two Friends: While they both could be regretful about not having seen a
doctor sooner that would have led to an earlier diagnosis, they don't get
stuck in that knowledge. They stay in the moment of dealing with their
illnesses as they appear today...nothing more and nothing less.
They live firmly by the adage:
Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.
Realizing that there are gifts to having an illness:
The Depressive Me: While I'm in the midst of an episode, my illness feels like
such extreme torture, I cannot possibly imagine any good being gleaned from
it. There is such gloom, doom and hopelessness surrounding depression,
that a positive spin on it is about as likely as smiling while having
bamboo shoots pushed under your fingernails!
The saying goes: "If God brings me to it, He'll bring me through it". That I
could buy. Expecting something good to come out of a mental illness?
Except in retrospect, the gifts are galore...in my case, I know that the
Universe is tapping me on the shoulder (how about hitting me with
a two by four?!) and saying - get more balance, Kath; stop with
the high pressured life; enough of this catastrophizing; and
for God's sake, please let go of that Irish Catholic guilt business!
I think I'm finally getting the lesson.
My Two Friends: While neither one can totally identify what their underlying
lesson is yet, they are both confident there is one. And they are both doing
the inner work required to get to the answer to this often baffling question.
Let me quote from Gina Lake who says in her book A Heroic Life:
"The belief that every experience is designed especially for you, for
your growth, is a powerful reframing of the way the ego generally
sees reality. And it is the truth. Seeing this about life allows you
to make the most of every situation and to maintain a positive
attitude throughout. With this perspective, there can be little
suffering even if under quite difficult circumstances."
Knowing the guidance of God and the angels are there for
you and for your healers:
The Depressive Me: Even in the depths of despair, I have always held on to
the belief in God and angels surrounding us. But it would often feel like they
had stopped talking and singing to me. I haven't felt bereft of God or his
helpers for a long time but I remember so well the complete desperation and
aloneness that results from feeling separated from the Source.
My Two Friends: I pray with both of these two people daily. One of them
starts out his prayers with the same opening every time: "Divine Loving
Presence In my life". The other friend never wavers from her absolute
knowing that God is guiding her to make the right choices in her treatment.
While both are undergoing traditional methods of cancer treatment, they also
are willing to explore other healing modalities if "the Spirit" moves them.
They both go to the same Chinese doctor who takes a holistic approach to
supplemental treatments. They do so because they feel the hands of God in
her healing methods and in the herbs she provides.
They are sure footed in their physicians, oncologists, surgeons, and nurses
because they are convinced that each one of them has been sent by
God for the express purpose of providing a healing.
The guidance goes both ways.
Having confidence that all is good:
The Depressive Me: A friend of mine told me years ago that, if I was in my
mind, I was behind enemy lines. No truer words were spoken.
She also taught me the saying:
Don't listen to the itty-bitty-shitty committee
in your head.
In my particular head, the mantra of negativity can be relentless when I'm
feeling fearful and depressed. While, I know I'm not being singled out for
torture, believing everything is "fine and dandy" is just a bit more than I can
handle or manage. As my depression spins tales of terrifying outcomes, my
mind is the enemy and cannot be trusted to know the truth.
My Two Friends: One of my friends favorite parting remarks in the morning
are twofold, no matter what's going on in her world or yours. Regardless of
her diagnosis, she still reaffirms two things daily: "It's all good" and "Today
will be the best day of my life."
My other friend manifests his trust after receiving his diagnosis by going
about like nothing is unusual or worthy of worry. He recently traveled to four
countries and lived abroad for three months in between
his treatments here in DC.
I don't want to romanticize my two pals as being bigger than life. I'm sure
both have had their private moments of terror and discouragement, but I can
see that they don't stay there for long. They firmly believe that
the best path is "to live in the solution, not the problem."
So what have been my conclusions as I experience my journey with these two
wonderful and courageous beings:
Happiness and serenity are an inside job.
And oh, by the way,
IT'S ALL GOOD!
Share this with a friend. See below.
Who is Kathleen Pasley?
Kathleen has a life that encompasses numerous
areas of endeavor: writing, fundraising, marketing
Two things help define her: she has been on
a serious spiritual path for 35 years and has
known serious depressive episodes.
She is committed to speaking from the heart
on spiritual issues and sharing honestly
and openly about mental illness.