I had been out of work for five years and then four months ago, I began working part time. The job completely drained me and so I quit Thursday a week ago. I couldn’t believe how relieved I was afterwards. Then Friday came; I began second-guessing myself and worrying about what was going to happen. I became afraid.
Because of the job, a couple months ago, I began listening regularly to the song “Be Not Afraid”. Its words reminded me of struggles and fear I have faced and overcome. I will share just a few with you.
In 1975, my husband, daughters and I were living in Vietnam just before Saigon fell. My husband Manh and I made the decision to leave if possible but we feared we would be unable to escape. It was not an easy thing to escape nor was it easy to resettle here. It was frightening and we had a lot to grieve. It took some time, but eventually, new life began to grow. We bought a house and I went back to college.
Several years later, my husband became critically ill and needed a liver transplant which was then experimental. We were afraid, but we decided to have the surgery. He was in the hospital for 6 months and had five other surgeries. Then the hepatitis that destroyed the first liver destroyed the second liver and he died during a second transplant, and I was alone with my children, grief and fear. I had never been alone before. Gradually, new life began to grow. I decided I needed to get on with my life so I tried to decide what to do with the rest of my life. It was scary.
I did what I thought God wanted me to do. I moved to California to attend seminary. After four years of study, I was ordained and served two churches. The last church where I was a pastor closed and I couldn’t find another church to serve. New life didn’t begin right to grow away. I was not only fearful; I became severely depressed and lost my temporary job, my housing, and my dreams. But new life did grow yet again, and I became employed in the mental health field and brought hope to many people.
During this time of the year, new life is everywhere. Last week, I saw two butterflies fluttering about. Butterflies represent new life because they seem entombed in their cocoon and then they come forth beautifully alive and flying. I doubt if caterpillars are fearful about what is going to happen in the cocoon. I don’t know how a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly, but I do know that the struggle the butterfly goes through to get out of its cocoon is important to its quality of life. To get out and find new life requires its wings to struggle to open the cocoon. That is why butterflies can fly – they have strong wings from their struggle. Sometimes I think that, with all I have struggled with, I should be able to soar like an eagle, and in some ways, I do because over and over I have made the decision not to give up but to struggle onwards.
One thing I have learned about recovery is that life does not return to the way it was before. With psychiatric disorders, many things can be lost. I was blessed in that my family stuck with me as did many friends, but I have had to find new work, new housing, new friends, new hopes and new dreams. Like the butterfly, it takes hard work to find new life, and yet, every time, it has been worth it.
I encourage you, with whatever is going on in your life, do not be afraid and do not give up. You are not alone. The struggle may be difficult and it may be almost impossible to believe in new life, but there is every reason to be hopeful and expectant … even excited.