“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” -Joseph Campbell
For anyone who has known me well, and over a significant period of time, you know that I have never allowed myself to be truly happy. I have been an extraordinary actress, complete with a perky attitude and a bright, wide smile. But underneath it all, there has always been a sense that I am missing something. I have always been convinced that the grass is greener elsewhere and certainly not where I was standing. If I reached the next goal, I would be happy. Contentment was only something that might occur in the future. Interestingly enough, my fantasies of perfection always happened to be those situations that were completely out of my reach. Lamenting for the ideal was my only source of tormented happiness.
In therapy, a recurrent theme kept emerging; no matter where I was in life, I only saw what was wrong, never what was right. It is a type of OCD where you can’t get past the flaws; a form of perfectionism towards oneself and therefore everyone around you. You begin to ruin even the best things in your life, because you are convinced you don’t deserve them. And it all stems from a dark place inside, an abyss, where you were never told that you actually matter. No opinions of your own held any value. Perfection, dictated by cultural extremes, was what you were after; nothing less was acceptable.
Therapy teaches you to dig in to the places where you have the most emotional resonance; when do you feel the most anger or the most sadness? Go there, delve down and resurrect those most painful memories. It is in those moments that you find your demons. As Stephen King said,
“We stopped checking for monsters under the bed when we realized they were inside of us.”
It is in that place that you realize why you get so angry when a similar situation pops up, or your eyes well up when something today resembles your greatest loss. It is there that you discover what you have been hiding so gracefully behind your elaborate mask of normalcy.
While this journey that I describe is heart-breaking, it is necessary. It is upon rising out of that pilgrimage that you can truly start to rebuild your life on a stronger, more solid and sustainable foundation. And it is upon that bedrock that you can become your most true and best self. And ultimately, there is where you discover something called HOPE.