Growth is a funny thing. One day you’re this, a version of you; the next, you’re still you, but changed. Growth operates on us in very strange ways. You grow, most of the times, without realizing it, as if you’re not the master of your own self, the sole inhabitant of your mind, the only one sharing its thoughts. Indeed, you’re the only one who can know your deepest traits, dreams, and hopes. And yet, realizing that you’ve changed is hard, and usually happens by mistake. You look in the mirror and realize your face is a little fuller, perhaps because you’ve put on weight. You suddenly notice the strands of white hair sprouting from your scalp, the creasing of your skin. And you think to yourself, “When did I get so [insert change]?”. One day you come home and realize your house is full of junk, or completely disorganized, and it feels like just yesterday it was pristine. The same happens when you change mentally or psychologically. Often, we’re so absorbed by our schedules, worries, responsibilities, that we fail to acknowledge the deep changes undergoing inside ourselves. This is especially true for mental illness, as it’s most of the times difficult to associate changes in our surroundings with our growth. We believe ourselves to be rocks constantly hit by ever-changing tides, but this false sense of permanence hides a very troubling reality: our own part. Undeniably, the changes that occur around us aren’t solely a result of others’ growth, but of our own as well, and recognizing it goes a long way in fighting it, when it’s going in an unwanted direction. Because yes, there is such a thing as negative growth. It’s the kind that forces you to dig your own grave and bury yourself while completely unconscious that you are doing it, until one day you realize you can’t breathe. You are your mind, so, when it changes, you don’t automatically realize it, as it takes a specific situation where you act differently than you normally would to make you start pulling the thread to the intricate, tangled ball of wool that is your mind. That’s when you start understanding the changes you see around you, and how you may have affected how many things played out. Your growth is the platform that elevates you and allows you to comprehend and accept change. It makes you insightful, and teaches you to simultaneously look in and outside of yourself for the answers to the many questions you inevitably have.
That moment, where you realize that something in you has outgrown its old metaphorical shell, is, the way I see it, an opportunity. It’s the time to make amends with an inescapable reality – like that time you realized you were suddenly 50, when just the day before you were 25 -; or it’s the time to take command of your growth. If there’s something wrong in your life, you can do something to change it – as cliché as that sounds. You’re a canvas. Granted, not a blank one: you might have a few strokes of color here and there, hidden in a faded black and white landscape, or you might be an unintelligible, perfect, abstract mess of sepia tones, metallic golds and deep purples. Whatever you are, you can grab that moment of self-awareness and reflection and turn it into something useful, into a teaching moment. You don’t have to stay in that hole you dug out for yourself, nor do you have to accept the status quo. Use your natural plasticity to mold yourself into the human you want to be.