In my therapy session yesterday, we were talking about how well I know myself. Knowing myself, it turns out, is very helpful in rejecting the lies of depression. And it is something I struggle with. To help, my therapist came up with a visual. A tree.
Who you are at your core, she explained, that is the trunk of your tree. And off that trunk are branches. One branch might be your career, on might be your personal life, one might be family, one might be hobbies, etc.
In my mind I picture a dark, knobby, ugly tree. I see a tree without leaves, a tree you would never visit, and there are holes rotted out in the trunk. I see the type of tree that might be at home in a horror flick.
And as for the upper branches, though I know they are leafless, I can’t actually see how far they stretch into the sky, for the upper limits are shrouded in the fog of my depression, the clouds of my anxiety, and the darkness that I live with everyday.
I have no map on how to climb this tree, the tree of my depression. I have no gardening guides on how to get my tree to come back to life, to flower, and be worthy of attention again. But that is what treatment is for.
The medication helps burn off some of that fog, and my therapist is helping me build a map. Hopefully one day I will climb to the top, and be surrounded by a lush canopy as sun shines down upon my face and my mental illness is just a distant memory. And I’ll wonder how I could possibly ever feel so far down, how this tree could ever have been so twisted and treacherous.
Trees grow slowly, and it might be a long time before that day comes. I’d like to believe it will arrive one day, not just for me but for all of us who struggle in the shadows of our twisted trees. Until then it is baby steps. It is snipping away the twigs and diseased branches that prevent the tree from growing. It is taking pleasure in the days that a ray of sunlight breaks through the fog, breaks through the broken branches, and gives me hope and reminds me that I’m not alone. None of us are.
The fog that shrouds the branches of my tree keeps me from seeing everyone else struggling with their own twisted tree, but by speaking out I can hear them out there in the darkness. And hopefully they can hear me.
And I would truly like to believe that one day that fog will be gone, and the trees will be full, and the darkness will be replaced by a beautiful forest.
And that day and that forest is worth being here for.