Friday, December 7, 2012

The Garden of Human Attachments

By Annie Elizabeth Martin
How human relationships change in the light of mental illness and recovery
Oftentimes, we find ourselves wondering why particular relationships we had nurtured and maintained for so long could suddenly become so dried out and desolate. It’s like discovering the carefully grown garden that you had patiently sowed had one had day become an empty, dry desert.
Growth and evolution between two people is inevitable. It is sad inevitably when best friends don’t stay best friends; when lovers don’t stay lovers, or even when a family doesn’t always stay close. I believe that all people are different and that everyone evolves.
But what if the changes in your relationships are not fully under your control? What if the differences between individual persons developed out of shame or misconstrued assumptions? And, what if it were a mental illness that produced such isolation?
Mental illness is not easily understood. Even with 1 in 4 people affected by a mental illness at some point in their lives, it’s something that many people still deeply suppress. With shame comes silence, and with silence comes distance between people. We fear what others might think of our emotional difficulties. We fear that no one could ever possibly grasp the complexity of mental illness. We fear being seen as abnormal in the eyes of others. We fear being rejected outright by the ones we love. Many other times our worst fears are realized by inconsiderate and careless people. So we remain hidden and isolated, fearing others’ judgment.
It’s easy to feel abandonment when mental illness comes into play. Not only do we feel alienated from ourselves, but we feel the love from others we had slowly built, dwindling as well.
However, by continuing to isolate, we notice that our garden which had once been filled with the blooms of fellowship with others become starkly alien. We ask ourselves: If supportive people are not here now, were they ever really there in the first place? We may make excuses for our friends due to the drought and weathering these relationships have endured. We may wish to repair the garden, but we realize that it takes more than one person to grow a friendship.
There may be times when we believe that others are looking down at our empty gardens. But it’s crucially important to remember that a barren garden isn’t our fault. Hard work often falters due to the caprice of Nature, and sometimes no matter how much patience you have, some relationships will never be the same. Sometimes all it takes is finding the courage to go back outside to the broken pots and plant oneself anew in the midst of the desolation. Once there, we must recognize that everything begins with ourselves. Only then can we begin to notice just how much room there is for growth.
If the gossiping of others returns at any time, recognize that these murmurings do not belong within your field of personal growth. Realize that these people see what they want to see. But if you allow yourself to be the gardener, you will have the skills and tools to plant a new garden and evolve a vision of what you want to be.
Water this new growth. Remember that it is okay to allow old seeds that wish to bloom once again. Some people may have moved on to be replaced by new relationships. Once in a while it is be okay to look back on how it all used to be.  But just remember not to stare too long, because you now have a whole new budding garden under your feet.
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