I consider life a diverse and ever-shifting rainbow of colours, not just black and white extremes. The acceptance of this thought transformed my life, a transformation that was born from some of the toughest battles I’ve ever faced.
For many, this idea may seem straightforward. Yet, for me, it was a hard realization.
Throughout my life, I found comfort in compartmentalizing situations, constantly trying to fit them into one of two distinct boxes. I can’t exactly pinpoint what these categories represented, but in my younger years, this rigid categorization gave me a semblance of control. I felt at ease when situations fit neatly into one box or the other; anything outside these parameters left me feeling utterly unmoored.
Yet, while I took comfort in this pattern of thinking well into my 30’s, life was about to deliver a challenge so profound that it would shake the very foundation of my categorical approach. A challenge that wouldn’t neatly fit into any box, pushing me to confront the limitations of my binary perspective.
In 2013, just before my 33rd birthday and on my 1-year wedding anniversary I found myself grappling with the advanced stages of colon cancer. Medical professionals diagnosed my cancer through a pregnancy so to say that my world changed on a dime is an understatement.
I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO HANDLE IT.
I had spent years fortifying myself within my binary fortress of ones and zeros, using it as a shield against life’s unpredictable shifts. But cancer, with its unyielding presence and the associated complexities, refused to be boxed. It was neither dark nor light but EVERYTHING in between And I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO HANDLE IT.
It was not just the illness; the ripple effects it created in my life, from my relationship dynamics to my self-worth had a profound impact on my mental state. Every single morning as I looked at my reflection, the physical scars of my ordeal were evident. Yet, it wasn’t the visible marks that haunted me the most; it was the internal fractures, the emotional wounds that weren’t readily seen but were deeply felt and I had no way to express them.
The struggle was not just physical; an emotional storm brewed within me, bringing up all the feelings I had suppressed for years. My usual coping strategy, dividing issues into two extreme categories, left me feeling lost and overwhelmed in this emotional whirlwind. The constant reminder of my mortality, the fragility of life, and unpredictability of it all, made me feel even more broken on the inside.
Black and White to Life’s Full Spectrum
A perfect example of my black and white struggle and how extreme it had become, came to life one day when my husband, on his way home from work, promised to stop by the grocery store and fill up the car. Life, with its knack for unpredictability, changed the course, and he could only manage the grocery run. This small change provoked a massive surge of anger within me. I’m talking full blown rage. I felt betrayed as if his actions announced his unreliability and lack of love for me. Sounds unreasonable, right?
This is the chaos a binary viewpoint can bring into life. When you view life only in black and white, each action becomes magnified, leading to emotional distress. My rigid mindset became a source of suffering for both my husband and me.
Then came therapy, a lighthouse in my stormy sea. My weekly appointments over five years became the place where I could introspect and redefine my thoughts.
Therapy, for me, felt like a sanctuary.
Here was this one individual, my therapist, someone who knew my secrets, my fears, and my cherished memories, and yet was remarkably detached from the web of relationships that made up the rest of my world. No connection to my parents, my spouse, or my friends. This detachment lent a unique freedom, a realm where I could recount my version of events with raw authenticity.
Therapy became more than just an avenue to air my grievances; it became a place for understanding and validation. It allowed me to shift my perspective and integrate my past experiences into my present life without them being burdensome. Therapy became the stepping stones that pushed me towards growth.
Often, we find ourselves juggling the pieces of our life puzzle, trying to form a meaningful picture.
This journey of self-discovery and healing was no quick fix; it was a long, patient process. But considering the inner peace it brought me, I wouldn’t think twice about walking this path again. A combination of talk therapy and somatic therapy helped me discover the harmony that lies in between the extremes, the often overlooked middle ground.
My tendency to categorize life in a binary way, as either black or white, was a survival strategy that provided a sense of control in an unpredictable world. But as life advanced, this strict mindset turned more into a stumbling block than a safety net. It strained my relationships and complicated my work life as it left no space for understanding, compromise, or the beautiful shades of grey that life frequently presents.
The rainbow of my life is rich with hues of joy, sorrow, pain, elation, despair, and hope.
As I reflect on my journey so far, I recognize the immense wealth of experiences, both pleasant and painful that have shaped me. Cancer, trauma, body dysmorphia, and the battles with addiction have each played their roles, shaping my narrative in ways I could never have anticipated. They’ve taught me about resilience, about the intricacies of the human spirit, and the profound capacity we possess for transformation and rebirth. But they’ve also shed light on the shadows we all harbour within, the darker facets that challenge our ability to cope well with difficulties or to face a demanding situation in a spirited and resilient way.
In upcoming posts, I aim to delve deeper into these subjects, sharing more about my personal experiences with therapy, particularly somatic therapy, which addresses the connection between the mind and body. The world of body dysmorphia is an intricate one, interwoven with societal pressures, personal traumas, and the complex relationship we have with our reflections. Addiction, too, will be a subject I touch upon, a topic close to my heart and one I believe needs open dialogue.
The rainbow of my life is rich with hues of joy, sorrow, pain, elation, despair, and hope. It’s a spectrum that’s ever-evolving and I invite you to join me on this exploration. Together, we’ll traverse the complex terrains of life’s experiences, celebrating the myriad shades and tones that make our stories truly unique.