Since I came back from my lovely weekend stay with my friend L and her family a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been thinking back to it thankfully and often. In that weekend I felt genuinely positive emotions that have been absent for me for a long time (we’re talking years). Things like happiness at my goddaughters’ interest and excitement at our little activities and projects. Their unboundedly curious questions showing perspectives so different from mine, especially different from my exhausted autopilot. Time with L. and real thankfulness for the strength and comfort her non-judgmental empathy gave me and really wanting to be there for her too, glad to be able to talk and share in her life, worries, joys, and so on.
Yes, the hard things were still there too. Voices, doubts, exhaustion, anxiety, it doesn’t magically go away. But the good experiences were so unusual for me that they particularly give me pause and I am all the more grateful for them.
Their good is lasting beyond the days I spent with L (nearly 2 weeks so now) in a way that’s more than just a happy memory. Perhaps it’s because it isn’t just a memory in my factual thought; it’s an emotional memory too. That’s stronger and more active and has a more continously creative effect on how I feel. I’m enjoying it and trying to nurture it, in thought and in prayer and in trying to build up some more creative, good experiences, especially where I can give or share something to someone else in even a small way. One thing I’ve been doing in recent days is making greetings cards, which I used to love but had completely lost all motivation or creativity to do. And I’m actually enjoying it, even looking forward to it. I can’t think when I last genuinely looked forward to an activity like this.
Maybe I’m starting to understand what a doctor told me when I was an inpatient in 2014 – that the more good experiences and memories you create, they can slowly begin to replace the terrible re-experiencing of traumatic past events and the automatic nature of obsessional thoughts and the power of the voices. I could not understand how this could work at the time though I really wanted to believe it. Later, in the most desperate times I was furious if anyone began to suggest anything like it. The suggestion seemed to trivialise the terror I was locked into. Yet now, I think I might be beginning to understand it.