by Kim Cavanaugh
Like most profound insights this article has been born out of struggle and pain. Out of necessity and a conscious choice not to give up when life seemed threatening and hopeless. When all of my doors seemed like they were slamming shut I resisted. Some people call this resilience. It is more my stubborn aim not to become a statistic that saves my life again and again.
Because of my mental health disorder, I am prone to depression and suicidal tendencies so when I lost nearly everything, I had a good excuse to give in to their dark seduction, but I chose to fight instead. I picked up my pen and left a trail of my own inspiration. Instead of being labeled with “suicidal ideation” which is a clinical term used for people who are behaving in ways that are a threat to themselves and could lead to suicide, I was going to invent an opposite approach and frame for my life: A looking forward to life.
Every day on the blank page I thought of what I could do, read, wonder, express to make my life happen again. Some days I found a quote in a book. Others I posed a question. I discovered throughout my life that there was one thing that could always save it. I could and would choose to live if I could find at least one thing to look forward to. When I was in the psychiatric hospital for the ninth time this was also my constant variable in making the choice to become well all of those times. If I had one hope, I could do the hard work of becoming well. If not, I believe I would have stayed sick. When I say I nearly lost everything. I mean I lost two marriages, my children, my job, and my dad who is still alive, but has terminable cancer at the age of 59…. I lost my ability to pay my bills with no job and an ever-increasing debt which has my current everyday a barrage of phone calls, nasty letters, and threats….
Sometimes it seems like no matter what I do I can’t get ahead or at least even. It is very tempting to give up. But I don’t. And here is why. I believe that there is meaning to life, even if I have to create the meaning in it. I have survived many times through abuse. I have survived my childhood which was incestuous. I have been raped. I have had to find ways of surviving my depression which is coupled with PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome).
I believe that my experiences open up a pathway to healing with other survivors. There is a great network of people out there who have suffered, lived through it, and thrive! Every day that I don’t give up my path is illuminated by such a person. I had the privilege of talking with an articulate gentleman that was such a good person. His life was wrought with obstacles too, but he had this inner spirit about him that said, “No matter what they do to me I am not going to give up.” Even in his jeopardy he even said “I am not going to be a statistic! “What is your inspiration ideation? What is your passion statement?
It’s important that we talk to each other about what works as well as what doesn’t. Sometimes it’s important in our healing that we talk about the past, but we ultimately live in our presents. If there is no hope for our future, we suffer in it, becoming complacent. Our lives become provisional. What are some things you look forward to? Is there something you wish for? What is one little thing you can do for yourself to make your day better?Our resolution, our constitution to despair needs to be life-affirming. Depression’s relief need not be a wish for deadly peace, but a commitment toward, a calling, a plea, for inspiration!
The way out of depression is an act of connection. Who are your living authors? Who do you look up to? Realize that you are valuable and have important things to say. Someone needs you. Inspiration ideation is about recording what you enjoy, what comforts you, and what has saved your life already. My biggest life saver has been my writing and the hope that someone may benefit from what I have to share. It is my light in the darkness. Some things I take comfort in are:
- Warm apple pie candles
- Ginger peach and mint tea
- Reading the comics
- Learning something new
- Allowing myself to be uninspired for short periods of time
- Edy’s vanilla bean ice cream
- The Sun
- A warped sense of humor
What will you do when you’re riding the waves of despair? If you pay attention there are a million reasons to live. One day I thought I was actually going to do it for once and for all. I wanted out of this life. I wanted to die. I took off driving in my car in the winter and I couldn’t help noticing how the sun was shining on the icicles in the trees. Its beauty awakened me from my misery. The ice on the trees looked like tinsel. In that desperate moment I saw beauty.
There was no way I could take my life. I returned home to write about it and here I am telling you how that one moment of attention saved my life. I am inspired by a woman named Julia Cameron that says, “attention is an act of connection”. I have found this to be true. Love is the biggest reason of all to live. Whether it be someone close or an encounter with a complete stranger. The love of humanity contains the longest thread of our existence. Hold onto it. Embrace it. Your life is meaningful. How will you interpret it? Please do share it! Just think, you may just be someone’s reason for living.
Kimberly A. Cavanagh
Mental Health Advocate
Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD, developed Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) with a group of people with lived experience who were attending a mental health recovery workshop in 1997. She is the original author of the WRAP Red Book, as well as dozens of other WRAP books and materials. She has dedicated the last 30 years of her life to learning from people who have mental health issues; discovering the simple, safe, non-invasive ways they get well, stay well, and move forward in their lives; and then sharing what she has learned with others through keynote addresses, trainings, and the development of books, curriculums, and other resources. Now that she is retired, and that, as she intended, others are continuing to share what she has learned, she continues to learn from those who have mental health issues and those who support them. She is a frequent contributor to this site.