The Liberating Unknown

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January 8, 2017
open road, liberating, unknown, freedom

As many of you read, I wasn’t doing too well a few weeks ago. A visit from my family soothed the burning wounds for a short period of time, but still they were raw. This slight reprieve encouraged me to head back to Pittsburgh with my mom and spend a few days at home with her, my dad, and my sister. Something which I hoped to be liberating.

The only thing that troubled my mind was that my dad and I bought the wrong sized dowels at Home Depot and we had to make a return trip. Other than that, the change in scenery was exactly what I needed.

A much needed getaway

After a pleasant and refreshing weekend, I flew home. It was a cool fall day, and while waiting at the airport, I had a chance to sit and reflect. I reflected upon how lucky I was (and am) to have such a loving and supportive family, spouse, and friends. I reflected upon the fact that this illness is more serious than I want to admit. I reflected upon the truth that this illness is bigger than me - and that I cannot beat it alone.

Lift me up when I’m on my knees.
Nourish my soul with the fruits of your goodness.
Teach me to walk on these once fettered legs.

Show me the path -
Lend me a torch -
And with a kiss on the cheek,
I boldly step
Into the liberating unknown.

~A. Hanna

There are a number of places someone can turn for help. Some turn to drugs and alcohol, others to adrenaline-pumping activities, and others like myself turn to therapy. I firmly believe that everyone should go to therapy from time-to-time. Therapy has a reputation, often perceived as what is projected in the movies. In truth, there are all kinds of therapy, and anyone who has stresses, conflicts, relationship problems, whatever, can benefit from an extra set of ears and a new perspective. And I don’t know anybody who walks through life without any stress. Point being, it isn’t as taboo as people may think. I’ve been going to therapy regularly for about a year, and I can tell you that being able to talk with someone who isn’t involved in your life day-to-day can be very refreshing.

A “new” therapy

Just prior to this little getaway, I started with a different therapist. I’m just starting out, but I can say that I am optimistic. We are focusing on regulating the intensity which some feel around certain situations. For example, driving behind a truck on the highway is rarely a life-or-death situation. But when you’re body refuses to accept that fact, it fires off a ton of adrenaline and cortisol to help you deal with the perceived crisis - much like when our ancestors were attacked by a saber-toothed tiger. That’s what my body is attempting to do: protect me by heightening my sense of stress, leading to higher awareness, energy, all the things I need to avoid being eaten by that tiger.

But when you’re not really in that kind of life-or-death situation (say, driving behind a truck on the highway or seeing dirty dishes in the sink), and your body decides to fire these same hormones, you get the same elevated levels of stress. This therapy attempts to deconstruct those emotions in a healthy way, teaching the skills to help better regulate these kinds of elevations. Sounds pretty useful, right? Sounds like something we could all benefit from, to be totally honest. Yep, I think so.

Ok so back to the point…

Accepting uncertainty

I tell you all of this to say that this mental illness is bigger than I am. And I’m learning to accept that fact. All the people in my life, all the tools I learn, all give me the power to succeed. One person may show me the way, my own personal strength may lend me a torch, and what I learn in therapy may grace me with a kiss on the cheek. I find the last phrase very apropos: I boldly step into the liberating unknown. I have no clue what is out there. I have no notion of what I may encounter. I can envision all the struggles, attempt to prepare, but ultimately, I need to rely on all of the tools, the support, and my personal strength to carry me through. The unknown is terrifying. But stepping out into that unknown carries with it a sense of liberation: a certain pride and confidence.

I’m most definitely not out of the woods, yet. I’m still climbing the hill. I’m still preparing to take that step into the liberating unknown. But every day, every minute, I’m one step closer. And sometimes, you need to remind yourself that this progress, in and of itself, is a victory.

Alex Hanna

By day, Alex works as a technologist. By night, he runs Challenge the Storm. Suffering from depression and anxiety, himself, he dedicates every day to help one single person. Something as small as putting a smile on someone else's face may have a bigger impact than you think.

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