Then you thrive

The other day I talked to the CIT officers at their training. It’s a program where police officers learn how to approach someone who is in a mental health crisis. I have talked with them before but I realized as I was sitting in front of them listening to the other speakers talk and waiting for my turn that this year I have something different to say. The other speakers were mothers of people who had been dealing with mental illness for over forty years. Their whole lives from when they were first diagnosed as teenagers have been affected by their illness. I know lots of wonderful, courageous people with stories like that. But my story is different. Because although my life changed permanently too and for a while it got small somehow it was able to get big again. I told the officers I was lucky because I was in my thirties when I had my experiences that put me in the world of mental illness. I had already gone to college and been married and had children. It’s true what I said to them, I am lucky. I remember it every day. Because I have lived though something really, really hard but now I am in a good place where I can truly say I love my life. It hasn’t always been true. But in the past few years it has steadily gotten more and more true and now I recognize that I have arrived in this place inside myself that is full of light. So, I told the officer’s that. I have found my way home. And now I write about it. Which is a beautiful gift to myself. My friend who lost everything to alcoholism said he realized the same thing recently. He was sitting in his apartment and he realized that he had everything he had prayed for when he was lost and homeless. It took a lot of work to get it back after losing it all. But he was focused and he steadily did every single thing he needed to do step by step. For years he did this. And now the nightmare is over. I did the same thing. I got focused on what I needed to do to have my life back and walked one step at a time towards my goals. My friend said it’s important to acknowledge it. To recognize that you have accomplished what you set out to do. And that’s what I realized with the CIT officers. I have arrived at a new place in my life. It isn’t painful to tell my story anymore. It’s freeing because the painful parts aren’t what drive me anymore. I decided one day three years ago that I wasn’t going to let my life be about the worst thing that ever happened to me anymore. That instead I was going to live from the place inside me that is my most clear and beautiful self like I had always wanted before I ever got sick. When I was getting ready to tell my story to the officers I suddenly realized that not only do I have a place of hope in my heart that I feel inside but that what I want to say to others is full of hope as well. Once I heard a woman named Amy Long speak about being in recovery from mental illness. She said, “First you survive, then you thrive, then you educate.” I will never forget that. I can truly say that now in my life my heart thrives. And for that, I am thankful.    

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