I remember that line (the "doesn't destroy you, makes you stronger" line) from a 1980’s movie. It is attributed to Nietzsche and I can believe that. Maybe I am in the 1980’s framework—went to see Flashdance, the Musical, this weekend. When I first saw the movie Flashdance, I was in Psychiatric training in NYC. (At least this is my memory—don’t know if the dates actually match up!) I do know that I left the movie feeling depressed—she had achieved her dancing dream. I wanted to write! Where was my dream? My husband, at the time, pointed out that I was a doctor; I was training to be a psychiatrist. I had accomplished a lot in my life. But in that moment, it didn’t seem to be enough.
And maybe that should be the title of this blog. Sometimes, even what we have doesn’t seem to be enough. But I don’t want to focus on lack and loss and emptiness. I want to focus on strength, on survival, on resiliency. It has been way too long since I last blogged. Anyone who cared about what I had to say may have stopped checking back long ago. But here is a secret, while I do think about if my words can help, the topics I pick are for me. I write about where I am. I use writing to help me get unstuck, which is actually the point of this whole blog. Use writing to heal!
I have been gone from my blog….well, I don’t even know completely why. Most probably because I was living. I was teaching and seeing patients and enjoying friends and family. Each week, I thought, I should blog, but, I will admit it, the task got bumped. But I’m here again. Partly because I do believe in writing and I do want to inspire, but mostly because I am struggling in this moment and I need to write. So, trust my words. Writing can help!
In my shifting emotions of today, that title quote came to mind. And it is a good quote. It reminds us that if we are struggling, when we come through the challenges, we will be stronger. We will know that we can achieve and withstand more than we might have believed. But the challenge of the quote is that is suggests that we can be destroyed. So that makes me think of another quote I love (and this might be a paraphrase). “It will all be all right in the end. If it is not all right, it is not the end.” That makes me realize that if we get stuck wallowing in how crappy things are, we need to keep in mind that things can get better.
A year ago, I was struggling because my marriage was ending. I didn’t know how things went so wrong. But they weren’t wrong. My ex and I compared notes the other day—we each helped the other. We both became our authentic selves. So there was the struggle, but now we are both stronger. And through it all, things have gotten better in the end. In the (current) end, I am sitting on my screen porch. I am listening to the birds sing. I am watching the sun set. And I am able to put words to paper (or computer screen) which remind me that through everything that I face, I can become stronger. If I am still struggling, well, I haven’t reached the end. I still have things to learn and experience. I still have blogs and books to write. I have people in my life to inspire and I have much to be inspired by.
• Write these quotes and see what they make you think about. What did you think would destroy you? What actually happened? What did you learn? Why did you think that particular event would be the one to destroy you? We all have our beliefs about ourselves. We all have things that we have been told. But sometimes we can surprise even ourselves!
• Write about what the end would look like if things were all right? Is your all right possible? Sometimes we cling to things. I will be all right if….. Well, what if that if doesn’t happen? Can you be all right anyway? I have heard stories these past weeks of disappointments, elections lost and you know what? Things are all right. Other goals were achieved. The quote needs to remind us that if we are still struggling, then we need to keep working to understand and help ourselves. We still have room to grow!
• Have you grown from disappointments? What did you learn?
• What joys have you known in your life? Recently? In the past? We need to focus on the good things in addition to any challenges. Find small things in life. The bird’s nest on your outside light, which lets you know that new birth will be coming. A student recently shared that during her recovery from an eating disorder, she took a picture a day to celebrate beauty in her life. What a wonderful idea. Notice, write, photograph a single moment of beauty in your day.
So, I’m back. I’m writing and I’m suggesting to you to Write On!
Martha Peaslee Levine, MD