08 Mar When a storm stops you in your tracks.
Two weeks ago storm Doris battered the UK. Liverpool was hit hard. On our street, opposite our house, a two hundred year old beech tree came down falling across the road, pulling with it our neighbour’s fence and landing in our driveway. The road was made impassable. It was a miracle no one was hurt and nothing seriously damaged.
It would seem we were not the only ones who had experienced a tree blocking the road, stopping the traffic. In Liverpool over one hundred and fifty trees were felled and even now, over a week later, driving around you can see the carnage wrecked by the storm.
Storms cause chaos and bring destruction. They make the way ahead uncertain and forward motion difficult.
When I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety I was brought to a standstill. It wasn’t a choice, it was the only option available to me. My terror of doing anything, especially anything new, prevented me from moving forward and made it impossible for me to make decisions about which direction to take.
In terms of my goals, my career and many of my relationships, I was static for a long time.
I disappeared, for a while.
I remember running around the local park a year or so after diagnosis and coming across a large hole in the pavement. Some work on the drains was being undertaken and the area had been coned off with red and white stripy tape, and a sign warning of ‘danger’.
I remember thinking I had fallen into such a hole. I was in the dark.
I had to stop, re-group and gather the energy to move forward.
Of course the strange thing about overcoming something like depression is that it is not trying harder than makes the difference. It is not pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and climbing over the fallen tree. This would have set me back and caused me more pain.
The only way to move forward was to stop.
Which I know is a contradiction in terms.
But stopping enabled me to figure out the passing place.
It was only by stopping that I began to learn how to really live.
In this period of stasis (which, if I am honest, lasted a good few years) I realised the things I had been prioritising were not the important stuff of life. I had been keeping going, keeping going, keeping going, chasing what I thought mattered: approval, achievement, career, the accumulation of the right kind of stuff. All the while the truth of who I was and what I really wanted was weakening.
The essence of me, the ousia, was shrinking. Like a muscle not exercised, my sense of self: who I am and what I care about, was losing its strength. For years and years I had looked to other people to tell me who I really was. It was only by stopping I had the time and space to figure out who I was, and to begin writing that story with my life.
To grow I had to be willing to allow the storm to stop me, then to wait and see what it had to teach me.
Hi, I’m Elli and for the past decade I have been on a journey of discovery, re-learning how to live. Finding my way through depression and anxiety, questioning my purpose, my faith and my priorities. It has been the best and hardest work of my life.
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