I work at a cancer support center that is part of a national organization which hosts an annual conference. Last year, it was in Philadelphia and this year it was virtual. The keynote speaker talked about resilience.
This speaker shared that fifteen years ago, he was working in a toxic environment which led to a deep depression. One day, when he could not take it any longer, he tried to kill himself by driving off an overpass on the expressway; he thought he could make his death look like an accident. Fortunately, the guardrail held, and he lived. Now he spends his life sharing messages of hope, positivity and resiliency.
The incident he shared reminded me of a time in my late thirties when I was living in a toxic situation that had drawn me into a deep depression.
One day, I was stopped at an intersection, waiting for a Mack truck to drive by. I remember thinking that if I pulled out at exactly the right moment, the truck would hit me with enough force to kill me. My second thought, though—and the one that saved my life—was that I had a passenger in the car, and it seemed completely unfair to risk her life to take my own.
Before that moment, I knew I had been struggling with feelings of hopelessness and a deep sadness, but I could not see a way out. The vortex of negativity had a strong grip on me, and I felt like I was being sucked under.
The incident with the truck frightened me so much that I called a therapist the next day. I also moved out of the toxic living situation that was fueling my depression.
The conference speaker talked about depression and getting professional help; he also talked about the keys to developing resiliency skills.
Resiliency is important for people facing cancer, and, like depression, can be the catalyst for developing new skills.
Not long after that Mack-truck incident, I remember telling my spiritual director that I felt like I was falling apart, and she said it seemed like I was falling together. I got her point—sometimes we have to be completely shattered before we can begin to rebuild.
I believe that every curse has a blessing, and my task is to seek the blessing.
The isolation brought on by COVID19 seems like an invitation to reflect on the people and experiences in my life that have helped me grow, and this conference talk was a catalyst for remembering a difficult time that ultimately led to deeper healing.
I feel blessed to have not only survived the difficult and sometimes devasting events in my life, but also to have grown because of them. Wonderful therapists and spiritual directors have guided me, and faithful friends have supported me. The grace of God nudges me toward forgiveness—of myself and those who have hurt me—and letting go.
Where do you find hope in the midst of life’s challenges?