God grant me the serenity…
Boy it’s been a long time since I sat down to write one of these blogs, but it feels good to try to get back on track with them again. I am sure many of you are familiar with the Serenity Prayer which goes something like this, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This prayer, written by American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and made well-known by Alcoholics Anonymous, has guided me through many a challenging time in my own life. A mere 27 words in length, yet so full of meaning to me (and countless others!) that I think if I was ever to get a tattoo this prayer just might be it.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…” From the get go this prayer allows me the space I need to ask the God I believe in to give me a bit of relief from my humanness…you know that large part of us that makes choices, decisions, and statements that aren’t so helpful to us or others?! I spent the better part of many years beating the hell out of myself and perceiving that unless I was perfect, then I must be a miserable human being undeserving of love, kindness, and decency. Not much serenity in that attitude, but a whole lot of self-loathing and thoughts that I should end my life to escape what a terrible creature I knew I was.
“the courage to change the things I can…” This was the hard part. Courage…the ability to face my fears, my beliefs, my actions, and my desire to stay in misery. This is the one where I had to push myself to be honest, to take a deep inventory of who I was and who I wanted to be, and to put aside all the negative thinking about myself, the future, and the world we all live in. Courage required me to step outside of my core beliefs and begin to listen to others, to find some kindness to give myself, and to finally embrace that I hadn’t been nor ever would be without my flaws and to learn to love myself despite it all.
“the wisdom to know the difference.” This one is a work in progress. I still find myself at times in a war with myself over my value and whether I deserve that peace of mind and soul so many of us are after. I still hold myself to ridiculously elevated levels of expectations that in fact at times just serve to paralyze me because my brain wants to tell me “why bother you’ll just do it poorly anyway?!” And I still take responsibility for things that simply aren’t my problem.
What does this have to do with depression and anxiety you might ask. Well in my experience, just about everything. Regardless of what you think is the cause of your depression; whether that is trauma, a broken brain, an angry boss, inattentive parents, the schoolyard bully, and on and on, you need to realize that what is done is done. I don’t say this to minimize anyone’s trauma or horrific life experiences nor am I suggesting you “just get over it”, but I know the longer we hold onto, cradle, foster, and grow our resentments and unhealthy behaviors, the longer we prolong our chance at feeling better. There are things in our world and lives we can’t change….ever…no matter how much we wish we could.
Eventually we must find the courage to move forward and make the changes necessary to live a healthier life. Maybe for you it means therapy, a new go at medication, an honest conversation with a loved one, a letting go of old anger, or finding others who like you desire the road of recovery. Whatever your path, my hope for you is some Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom.
Take care and be good to yourself and others!