“Go easy on yourself,” the hope-speaking counselor would say when I left his office. For months, I thought it was just his way of wrapping up.
Then I began to hear.
I heard how much I dwell on expectations I didn’t even know I had. I heard my own bitter disappointment in being where I am, struggling desperately to climb my way out of depression and anxiety.
Morning after morning I would wake and want to stay hidden. I would sleep long at night and then sleep my day away too. Tears ran and ran. Previous passions sat untouched. Phone calls went unanswered. I hurt desperately, while at the same time feeling so numb I can hardly breathe.
Why is this happening again? What am I not doing right to have landed me in this place once more?
Why can’t I control it? Why can’t I make it stop?
I despise it. I despise that my body is preparing to flee what no longer endangers me. I’m angry at the darkness washing over me. It holds me captive.
“Get it together,” I plead with myself. “Wake up happy. You’ve had too many days of darkness. Choose light today. Choose joy.”
But I can’t choose, and I hate it.
“Hey, go easy on yourself.”
One day, it is too much. The demons are too loud. I sit in the hope-speaking counselor’s office drowning in condemnation.
“Stop that sh*t,” he says. “This is what is going to happen: From now on, when you start going down that road, you’re going to hear my voice in your head saying, ‘Stop it.’”
He speaks compassion into me, and I hear it. Be kind to myself.
It seems so obvious, but it isn’t. Condemnation comes far more easily than compassion, and sometimes it sneaks in so subtly its presence is there before I know it. Being kind takes practice.
Be kind to myself.
As the memories of trauma sneak up on me, I work hard to practice being kind to myself. My hope-speaking counselor’s voice is turning into my own when condemnation creeps in. I have been practicing. Kindness is beginning to replace rebuke. The work is hard, but the payoff is tangible. The darkness doesn’t always go away, but light is beginning to enter it.
I will continue to practice.
I will be kind to myself.