Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Positive feedback

It's always nice when others recognize the changes we've made, especially if those changes were positive and intentional. Tonight, I unexpectedly received such recognition. I am very grateful. It was a thoughtful gift in my otherwise desolate recent existence.

Ironically, this feedback occurred quite publicly from a man I know only in passing. We were at a large meeting. He was speaking about his experience during 24 years in our program of sobriety. To the crowd of approximately 150 people, he relayed his joy at watching one member grow over the past "couple years." He stated when this person arrived he/she "never lifted their head and couldn't even look anyone in the eye. Then," he continued, "they came to meetings and got involved in service, and today you wouldn't even recognize 'em as the same person." He was quite careful to remain gender-neutral, but I assumed he was referring to a man. I immediately scanned the room for a pride-filled face.

I also scanned forward to the bright face of a slight woman a few seats from me. I had immediately noticed her when I'd entered the room. Ironically, I'd attended to her for the exact reason J., the speaker, was describing now from the stage. This woman originally came around just a few months ago. She looked sad, timid, battered, weak, and tearful. Now, she was glowing. I thought, "I need to tell her she looks great! I need to let her know she's changed--beautifully!" She was looking up, talking, and meeting the eyes of all around her. She looked like a totally different person, and I wanted to congratulate her. I wanted her to know someone had noticed.

After J. finished, and our meeting wrapped up, I was moving toward this woman to say hello. Before I reached her, J. tapped me on the shoulder. He cheerfully informed me that I was the transformed person to whom he had earlier referred! Me. I was absolutely stunned!

I wasn't quite sure how to respond. Fortunately, before I could over-think it, my face broke out in a huge grin. I sort of felt like I should cry--you know, the I'm-so-touched-cry. But I was really, really happy! I think I said, "REALLY?" in my best junior-high, "Bobby-really-likes-me(?)" voice. And then, a bit startled by my helium-tinged vocalization, I simply thanked him. Over, and over, and over, I thanked him.

I thanked him for noticing the change, but more importantly, for telling me he noticed the change. We so rarely get positive feedback. To get positive feedback about this--the state of my being, my character, and the work I've done to develop this character--WOW!! This was BIG feedback!

Yet, ironically, it is feedback I have not received from my closest friends. My friends can't seem to let me out of the hole in which I used to fit. Rather than see positive change, their response has been to freeze me in the past, and to see me less and less presently. As I grow, we grow apart. That's ironic.

Their loss hurts less today than it did a few years ago, but only because I continue to grow. And as I grow, I get more and more okay with letting go. I don't need to stay in that ill-fitting hole just to cling to old friends. J. would be proud. In the past, that person-who-couldn't-look-anyone-in-the-eye would have desperately contorted to make herself fit the hole. Thankfully, I don't have to do that today. Instead, I can stand tall and step out of that hole. Apparently, I've been doing that, and at least one person has taken notice.

Thanks, J.
Thanks for the positive feedback.
Thanks for the gift. I'll be sure to pass it on.

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