“……once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Hakuri Murakami, Kafka on the Shore.
I came across this quote in a book I was reading entitled Reasons To Stay Alive, written by Matt Haig. It’s the story of one mans battle with depression. Anyone looking for reading material on the subject of depression I’d highly recommend this book.
The quote stood out to me for a couple of reasons, one because I also suffer from depression and two, I am still recovering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an illness which affects the nervous system and causes temporary paralysis. My experience of both illnesses has most definitely changed who I am and my perspective on things. Sometimes for the better and other times for the worse.
Perhaps one of the first changes I felt was a loss of security. When you’re normally a healthy person and have never suffered from anything too debilitating you can’t help but think that will always be the case, at least for the near future. Sure things can happen, but always to somebody else, so when that someone else is you there’s an immediate end to that false sense of security. I’m now destined to worry about every tiny little thing like catching a cold or being overly tired or feeling stressed. My mind goes into overdrive thinking of the catastrophic consequences that could have.
Sadly, another thing I learned quite quickly is that people who seem to care, actually don’t. Well, not enough to take time out of their day to physically be in the same place as you. Friends will visit maybe once or twice because they feel obligated to do so. Then they’re back to their own lives and if you aren’t up to attending social events then you’re quickly forgotten about. A text here and there is all you’re going to get. Before I got ill I was one of those people that, if you don’t make an effort for me I won’t make an effort for you. Perhaps that’s a bit selfish but there you go. Now I’m even more this way inclined. My time is precious and I won’t waste it on people who don’t value my friendship. It does mean that my circle of friends is small but that doesn’t bother me at all. Its hard for people sometimes to understand why I won’t just keep up appearances and try to have a nice time, but like I say my time is precious. If I’m spending it with you then know that you mean alot to me.
One thing I do like, is that I’m now more willing to take risks to achieve my goals. If I think there’s a chance I can do something I’ll try to do it. Sometimes it will work out and other times it won’t, but at least I’ve tried. I don’t want to regret not trying something when the opportunity was there. When you become ill your sole focus is to get better. Your mobility can be affected and so can your finances. So take opportunities when you can. They won’t always be there.
Another change for the better is that I now notice the little things around me more than I did before. Nature in particular. The birds in the trees, bright coloured flowers, the fresh air outside. When you’ve been stuck in a hospital bed or indoors at home for long periods you appreciate the little things you used to walk by hundreds of times before without even noticing. It helps to lift my mood as well, if I make an effort to go for a short walk, or even something simple like sitting in a different chair at home so I can see out the window, or feeding the birds in the garden.
So if you’re reading this because you’ve had a similar experience with illness or depression, then take some time to think about how it’s changed you as a person and adapt your routine to include a few little things that make you happy. Be a little bit selfish when you need to be and accept that you have a new perspective on things. You aren’t going to be the same person you were before the storm, and that’s ok.