In the final days of 2011, I read my horoscope for the year ahead, never suspecting it would bring me to my knees…
Just to be clear, I’m not a big believer in horoscopes. Like many people, when they’re positive I look forward to the good times, if not, well – it’s all a load of rubbish, isn’t it?
But this one struck me…
“A draining, confusing influence that has plagued you for fourteen years will leave early this year, never to return in your lifetime. This influence sapped your strength and made you emotionally, intellectually and physically weary.”
It was as though someone had read my innermost secrets, the braille of my brain or the graffiti on the walls of my heart, and told me the struggle was finally coming to an end.
Instantly I was fourteen years and three and a half thousand miles away, back in the basement flat I rented at university – alone on the evening of my twenty-second birthday, gazing at the ceiling and wondering if this was the year when it would all finally make sense, the year I would stop struggling with the aftermath of a decade of abuse and live something closer to a normal life. Good thing I didn’t know then how much worse things would get before they got better. Fourteen years is a long time.
Reading those words, I was filled with a sense of relief. Caught off guard, I cried soundlessly at the just-deserted breakfast table, a mime of someone coming undone. I reached for my notebook and wrote the words down; as though they were some spell I might need to repeat for it to work. I was deeply moved but felt foolish & self-conscious at my groundless reaction. No stranger to disappointment, I knew I couldn’t let myself believe the message, but my mind betrayed me with illicit questions anyway.
“How early this year?”
“February? March? April? May? May isn’t early in the year…”
I closed my notebook, dashed the tears from my face and rose to clear the breakfast things.
❇ ❇ ❇
In March this year, I travelled into Toronto to the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH). I wanted to volunteer. It was years since I’d escaped the infinite darkness, the consuming maw of depression; though the culture shock of moving to Canada had brought me to the edge of the abyss again for a while. I wanted to help others who fought similar demons from my hard-won position of better health. Although no longer depressed, I was still dogged by a kind of weariness, a fog that blurred my focus, and a fragile self-esteem that was easily shaken. Like a jack-in-the-box, I had my bursts of joyous exuberance, but it didn’t take much – a snide remark, a disdainful glance – and I folded back into the protective darkness of my personal world.
It turned out I was unable to participate in the study I‘d volunteered for, but in the weeks that followed I was contacted about another – the one I’m documenting here on Expatlogue: The Use of Mindfulness in Depression Relapse Prevention. As I covered the weekly sessions and completed the practices, I realized the benefits of what I was learning. I wasn’t just documenting the research anymore, I’d begun to nurture a secret hope – that I’d actually further my own recovery and find my way out of the fog, like sunlight piercing cloud.
Every session I’d “press play” or “click to interact,” optimism glowing like an ember within me, only to find that the words I heard told me nothing new. Nothing that served as tinder for a conflagration of enlightenment anyway! I learnt small truths. No… learnt is the wrong word, they’d always been inside me. I was reminded of them and reassured that it wasn’t selfish or indulgent or arrogant to believe in them. Small things like taking time to listen to yourself, to contemplate how you feel. I allowed them their importance and incrementally, amazingly, they came together to show me that I AM within reach of the key to my well-being. The realization has happened slowly, I guess that’s what people mean when they say “it dawned on me;” that slow sunrise of understanding climbing steadily up the wall of doubt. The tools were there all along – my body always told me so, but I chose to ignore it. And now I feel sorry, not the draining self-pity of before, but a genuine sorrow for how I betrayed and ignored my SELF.
Can you imagine the impact this is having on me? I feel like someone who’s been catatonic for years suddenly coming back to life with a new self-knowledge wrought from their own insides, not some textbook guff or trite social media post to apply like an overlay. Words I’ve heard over the years hold new meaning, as though I can finally see what was there all along, what others tried to convey – that the ears heard but the brain was unable to understand.
Well now I understand, and I’m so thankful. Thankful for that message of hope in the horoscope and thankful for the opportunity given to me by CAMH when all I was looking for was the chance to help somebody else.