One of my favorite posts of Jane Chin’s is her essay, “I’m Here to Remind You that You Aren’t Your Illness,” about breaking free of her “pot,” or her past and all the negativity associated with her struggle with depression, about her way of trying to experiment with a new vision of self tied less to her illness.
It reminded me of what the psychiatric nurses told me over and over again during my six-week outpatient treatment: “You are not your disease. Don’t suffocate yourself in your illness.”
I wanted to give them the bird, because it wasn’t so easy breaking free from something that had me shankled to my hospital chair, my mouth gagged and my ears stuffed with cotton, so that I was deaf to any noise besides the howling of the inner demon.
Dr. Chin writes about this process so eloquently, of letting go of the past in order to open oneself to the possibilities in the present.
Here are the first paragraphs on that essay. To read the rest, click here.
Medically speaking, I’m “in remission” from clinical depression. When I get the blues now, the blue mood does not expand and darken into the sinister depression that left me functionally crippled (albeit still highly functioning) for many years. For a while, I struggled with keeping up this website. I used to see this website as a constant reminder of the pain I experienced from depression and emotional abuse. Who would want a constant reminder of these? Moreover, I wondered if keeping this website would be akin to “holding onto my past” instead of “letting go of my past so I can get on with my life.”
I have gone through relationship “crises” with this website, and it’s sort of like parent-child relationship, although I can’t be sure whether I was the parent or the child. At times I hold it in gratitude, for this held a record of the shadows in which I lived for a long time, and a record of my emergence from those shadows. At times I rebelled against it, for I did not like the reminder of the shadows when life seems to be going so well and when I was supposed to be “out there setting big hairy audacious goals for myself.”
I took a few more years to understand why this website is still here, and why I still have work to do through this website. A major part of my understanding comes from Joseph Campbell’s book, Power of Myth, and what Campbell wrote about the Hero’s Journey. The hero can go out in search of adventure, or as many myths go, the hero gets thrown into an adventure that he didn’t sign up for. The hero would slay the figurative dragon or discover the figurative life-sustaining flame. However, the hero’s quest is not complete until he returns to the village and brings back the what he has earned to share with his people.
Dr. Hal writes about root-bound people who have lived so long in their pots that their growth have been restricted. Dr. Hal related his experience of trying to transplant trees whose roots have become so attached that the trees could not survive a change, and the trees ultimately had to be discarded.
I see myself as an ex-root-bound person who had a very colorful and very large pot within which I had spent decades of my life. This pot had both organic and synthetic substrates that my emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual grew from. At some point, my roots were becoming poisoned with what was in this pot, which incidentally had very poor drainage and was kept in too much shade (and I was not a shady plant).