When Things Fall Apart

Heart Advice for Difficult Times

The year was 2011 and something inside of me was changing. What once was a short spell of feeling off here or there had now consumed me. It was becoming more of a personality trait than a rough patch. I was having panic attacks daily and I carried the motherfucking sad with me wherever I went.

Then one day, on a searing late afternoon in Arizona a voice in my head spoke to me. The voice told me to go into my kitchen and stab myself. The voice wasn’t alone. It was accompanied by a vision of me doing so. Perhaps it was a hallucination or maybe a meltdown in the moment, or maybe I’ll never know. I don’t need to.

With both the voice and the image, I was out numbered. I left my bedroom and headed downstairs. As I approached the kitchen I walk right past and headed outside onto the street of the city. I was now walking on the sidewalk, barefoot in July’s 110 degree temperature.

My feet felt a pain comparable to the pain buried deep inside my heart but I wasn’t turning back. I took out my cellphone, dialed a friend and kept walking farther and farther away from my kitchen as we talked. I didn’t look back.

I walked three blocks until I reached the healing center where another friend worked. My body was worn from the strength of the sun and I needed rest and water. I went inside to see if my friend was working.

The healing center consisted of massage therapy, chiropractic and Reiki care, and of course, a healer.

I met with the healer that day. I told her of my struggles. I then laid on a massage table while she swayed her hands back and forth over my body while humming and chanting. It was weird, awkward and unbelievable as in the, I don’t believe in this.

Before I left she asked that I read When Things Fall Apart, written by Pema Chodron before returning for my next appointment. I canceled the appointment and never went back. I did read the book though.

“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”- Chodron

I’m not much for the Self-Help craze, never had been. I don’t need someone else’s advice on how I can be better when they don’t know me. I’ve never purchased a self-help book before and I most likely never will. I wouldn’t have read this book if someone hadn’t handed it to me, but they did.

Chodron is both an Ordained nun and Buddhist. When Things Fall Apart focuses on how we miss out on life and everything around us while we run from our pain and suffering. Chodron suggests that if we are to accept ourselves and our condition in each moment we will be able to overcome our pain.

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”- Chodron

For a Buddhist, Chodron keeps it real with an ‘everything sucks and is going to suck approach.’ She suggests that we do nothing about it and leave it be, to put the focus on how to deal with ourselves and not the situation.

If anything, I closed the cover with the knowledge that at times my weaknesses are my greatest strengths and instead of running from my pain I am to embrace it. I’ve learned to ask, what can I do for myself? Opposed to, how do I make this stop happening? At the time it’s what I truly needed in order to cope. Depression is merely a part of my genetic makeup. Depression is not who I am.

It would be another five years before I allowed myself the grace and privilege of medication. I had always viewed medication as weakness. Not me, nope, I’ll be fine without it, but over time my thought process, opinions and lifestyle have changed. Even if only small changes I learned while reading this book.

I’ve since passed the book along in hopes someone may find solace in Chodron’s words. As for me, I know it’s out there in the world should I ever need it again.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”- Chodron

Erika Sauter is a writer and artist. She currently lives in the deep freeze of Small Town, Iowa with her one husband, two children and eight cats. She spends her free time suffering from an immense reading addiction. Don’t judge her. There are worse things she could be addicted to.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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