coming out of the shadows

The original blog that was born in a meeting; but was side-tracked by Hands…

It doesn’t matter how or why, but when you come to the path of recovery from MH problems including addiction and depression, at some stage it feels like your old life was hazy, dark, and full of secrets. A life lived in the Shadows.

And after a while, you realise the new life you are creating, is lighter – both the lack of heaviness and lack of darkness…  the colours feel brighter; you feel like you’ve moved out of the shadows, where you were living, into the world.

The Shadows are cunning tho. For a while, it’s very easy to slip back into them. They are familiar and there is comfort to be found in the familiar. For a time, we hover on the cusp. The light looks enticing, but it’s scary to leave what is familiar. Even if addiction, depression, lack of self esteem are hurting; at least we know what to expect.. .

But as you do the Mahi, do the work, and throw old resentments, hang-ups, negative thoughts, bad memories away; you lighten the load you’ve been carrying. When you stop hiding things from the people around you – be it signs of self-harm; depression; wine bottles or empty coke bags; it can feel like you’ve swopped that old pair of gumboots that are too hard to walk in for a racy new pair of walking shoes.

You feel lighter

see life clearer

love better…

You start counting the ‘Gifts of Recovery”

I have been lucky. I fell accidentally into an oddball Twitter group. Spread around the world – we are an amorphous group of people trying to get out of the shadows. We all want to leave whatever demons we carried behind, and to live a life that fulfils, that makes us feel like we contribute positively to the world we live in. And that we are present for and supporting the people in our lives. Living a life “Beyond our Wildest Dreams”, which has different meanings for different people.

Initially, as you start to talk to people, you feel like some cave dweller who has moved from darkness to the blaring light; it can seem too bright; too much; and too hard – you think you will never be at as much peace as those you encounter on the journey. But here’s the thing; you start to realise that they need you in their circle just as much as you need them in yours… by helping you along the way, it makes their recovery stronger; their commitment to their new life firmer..

Sharing at meetings, is a powerful tool. For all parties. Speaking your story out loud is incredibly healing.  But listening to other people share is both inspiring and humbling. Nobody’s story is better or worse than anyone else’s, they are merely our stories. And it is not even the details of how bad it got; rock bottom looks different for everyone. Its more about the steps people are taking to live healthier lives, that provide the building blocks for our own recovery..

In some of the meetings I go to; I hear about living lives where we’ve had to wear “masks”. Being someone not true to ourselves to live in society. Be it our sexuality; skin colour; parental expectations; the skin we don to feel accepted by our peers; or just juggling the demands that life tosses us – we all deny our true selves to make it all work. But that very denying who we are is the most damaging. And the very thing we need to come to terms with and heal.

I hear stories of people whose parents couldn’t accept them for who they were. Or parents who were also damaged – their ability to parent compromised.  

When we tell kids that they need to live a certain way to be accepted – they can be damaged for life. They slink into the shadows, hide themselves away to feel safe or loved. They start behaviours they carry through to adulthood. Behaviours that after time, derail the very life they are striving for… And they often cloak their insecurities in Bravado or antisocial behaviour.

I firmly believe one of the foundations of building a better society is to nurture all our young people. Give them the tools of healthy self-esteem; courage; empathy; kindness; and then the evils of the world will start to disappear.

When I started the embryo of this blog, I thought I would add a couple of pictures of hands, to depict the hands that are waiting to help us all out of the shadows… I was Tsunamied in the response. So many, that it inspired a separate blog (touching; and will eventually become some pictorial piece.

Those Hands are the ones that came into the Shadows and helped me out. I had lurked there, on the fringes for a while, before I stepped out. And the welcome and acceptance was/is amazing. And now I live, mostly out of the shadows. But when shit happens – as it inevitably will – I know to reach out. Sometimes all I need is to know someone is there; and sometimes I actually ask for help.

And when it comes, I gladly take my turn holding the cave door open for someone else to leave the shadows of their MH darkness. I learn more about myself from listening to their story. By helping them, I stop focussing on me.

There is a good life beyond the shadows. Living a life “Beyond our Wildest Dreams” does not necessarily mean wealth or riches. For most of us, it is to live in peace with ourselves….

If You are finding yourself in the shadows, reach out. Somewhere, someone is waiting to hand you a pair of sunnies and lead the way..

Ehuri tō aroaro ki te rā,

tukuna tō  ataarangi

ki muri a koe

Turn and face the sun

and let your shadow fall

behind you

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