What we see is a reflection of what we’re searching for. To put this in the simplest of examples, before I had a Mini Cooper, I barely noticed them on the road. Now that I’m looking for them, I see them all the time. During Trump’s presidency, I was made aware of a lot more hate and evil than I ever knew existed, I lingered on that and saw it everywhere I turned. I was miserable focusing on misery. During my first year as new Lindsay I saw the world in new light. I spent that entire year blissfully happy. Focusing on all the joy I missed and the opportunities that were now mine. If I’m actively looking for reasons to be upset, guess what I’ll find! If I’m actively looking for opportunities to be positive, life will appear more beautiful.
After 15 years on drugs that made me suicidal and obese, every single day feels like a blessing. I have a simple way to finding positives and I truly believe that is what it takes to be happy. Just as I can find perspective from the before and after of my own life, there is always a worse situation to shine light on all there is to be grateful for. I can draw on the strength and progress of my own transformation just as I can appreciate where I no longer stand.
I know there are a lot of people who believe comparing personal pain or trauma to a worse situation invalidates those struggles. I beg to differ. Mental health is not a competition. It is not invalidating your feelings by seeing the bigger picture. Stepping outside of your own pain or trauma gives perspective on opportunities for growth. Validating our pain is only the first step. Fostering that pain into strength and persistence in the battle towards a better life is what truly matters. If it takes comparison to appreciate what you have, then use that. It is appreciation that unlocks a positive outlook.
Personally, I’ve been through enough pain and trauma for a lifetime. However, I choose to pull from my grievances all the good that exists. My brother died unexpectedly, but I had 24 years with him first. But he died peacefully. But we were able to have a beautiful funeral to memorialize his life. But my family stayed strong. I can’t change death, but I can change what I focus on when I think of it.
When fighting chronic pain or illness, our minds can only distract us so much from the uncontrollable discomfort. I suffer from chronic TMJ disorder, neck pain & vertigo and while no doctor has been able to help me yet, I am incredibly fortunate to be able to seek help. When I’m in a lot of pain and my mind jumps to “how can I live like this?” I switch my perspective instead to, “I could instead be a woman in Afghanistan suffering from chronic pain with no help”. A very specific jerk back to reality. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, and without taking away or invalidating my own burdens, I am able to rework my negative thoughts. Wake up from the pity party I gain nothing from attending. With the simple and very specific reminder of how much worse my situation could be, I am inspired to look for those Mini Coopers. Keep my eyes open to the opportunities I do have. The hope and the change I can partake in. Sometimes in order to stay with the light, we need to take a glimpse of the darkness.
So whatever you’re struggling from, whether it be chronic pain, incurable illness, poverty, violence, grief, heartbreak, all of the above and more, take a moment to connect with what you’re not struggling with. Your pain is valid but it does not define you. The only person who can instigate your healing is yourself. Remember all you have. Humble yourself with how much worse things could be. Our thoughts become our reality. You will find what your mind is set on. Whether it be a Mini Cooper or a healthy, fulfilling life, do what it takes to stay in touch with the opportunities in your reach.