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“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.” – Albert Schweitzer
I wasn’t born an optimist, if optimists can be born, and I certainly wasn’t raised an optimist. I lived in a household of “prepare for the worst and brace yourself.” I wasn’t an overt pessimist or cynic, I just never believed the best case scenario would be the one to befall me. I learned success wouldn’t just lazily float my way; instead, I would have to work my hardest to achieve it.
As the years went on, as life became more challenging and the fog of my mental illness started billowing in, I can honestly say I did not have a single positive bone in my body or optimistic thread in my mind. My eyes saw each obstacle as a mountain I did not believe myself capable of climbing. My failure became a self-fulfilling prophecy, because without a positive attitude, I couldn’t have conquered a single one. I was lucky to have been shepherded to the beginning of recovery, but I was at a complete loss afterwards.
How was I to continue on my own when I didn’t believe myself capable?
And then, while transitioning after inpatient treatment, I met one of the most positive people who will ever walk this planet. Pardon my superlative, but her optimism is beyond comparison. My first thought after hearing her speak her mind was “Is this girl for real?” It was as though she blazed sunshine from every pore of her body. In my eyes, she was my polar opposite, but she befriended me quickly. To this day, I think it was because she recognized how much I needed her. She was generous enough to enlighten me and pull me from my own shadows. She taught me how to believe good things will happen simply because we believe they can happen. It was a completely abstract concept, but I tucked it away in my back pocket for safe keeping – essentially, if I believe in recovery, recovery will come.
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But life on the pathway through recovery from any mental illness is treacherous, fraught with unforeseen obstacles and previously unsought destinations. I was having trouble navigating this new world alone, and found, as I stumbled through sustaining my recovery, I continued to hit major highs and lows (as everyone in recovery does). Looking back, those peaks and valleys were entirely defined by my headspace at the time. If I was able to cultivate an optimistic outlook and positive attitude, I felt like I was on top of the world. When I lost faith, I would struggle greatly and inevitably slip, without a ledge or extended hand to steady myself.
And so I decided to make the terrifying decision to reach out for the help of others. To me, bad days feel like standing in the middle of a room where no speck of light can enter. Suddenly, the darkness takes on crushing weight and looms with impending doom. Alone, it feels impossible to fight my way from the room, the darkness, and the fear. To me, asking for help is equal to having a friend in those shadows alongside me, a friend who knows the layout and where to find the light switch. And so we join together, fight the darkness and find the light – a dauntingly insurmountable task when attempted without a hand to hold.
This means I am reliant on my friends some days. I would not be here without the positivity I borrowed from them during my darkest times. As I have progressed, I have been able to generate positivity on my own. Nowadays, I know where to find those light switches, more often than not. I have formed relationships based on reciprocity and mutual reliance, where whoever is feeling more positive that day will take the lead. These are my favourite kind of relationships, the ones in which trust abounds and I know together we will conquer. When I feel my pessimism beginning to rise, I know who I can call to help me quell the stressor. Often, these same friends will call on me when they are in need of a shot of optimism to the heart and mind.
How do my friends and I generate positivity? By relying on the concept of strength in numbers. Fear may trap us one at a time, but it will never ensnare us all at once. With some, venting is therapeutic; feelings are acknowledged and respun with a new, optimistic outlook. We listen, encourage, do our best to inspire, and wear the smiles borrowed from one another.
Positivity may not be one of my innate assets, but by keeping it as one of my greatest priorities, I will be far more successful in recovery. And by holding close those who will help me when I am lost in the shadows, they become escapable because I will never have to fight alone.
Light is infinite. When lost, we should never stop searching – oftentimes the switch is right beyond our fingertips. Reach out, find the light, and never, ever surrender faith.
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The opinions and information shared in this article may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process.