Of the hundreds of times I sat on the couch across from my therapist in her office, a handful of moments would become life lessons.
It must have been a Saturday morning. The light outside was bright, illuminating the shrubs and trees that grew just outside her office. Instead of walls, two sides of the room stood tall with windows from floor to ceiling, creating the feeling of being in nature as we sorted through my tangled thoughts.
I sat there feeling dreadfully heavy, as though I just received the news that something I loved very much had gone away. And in a way, something had.
My face felt droopy, as though it would take two full-grown men to lift the corners of my mouth in order to fake a smile. I was emotionally spent, disappointed, broken hearted and afraid.
With a damp face from drying tears and a voice hardly louder than a whisper, I shared with Jody what I had just realized. I realized two things actually. But let me start with the first.
I was ruined.
Not my life circumstances or my relationships or my livelihood. Me. I was ruined. Like a pristine white gown sullied with burgundy two-buck-chuck from Trader Joe’s.
Up to that point in treatment, I had already been diagnosed with PTSD and to boot, struggled with depression. I felt ashamed and embarrassed about the condition of my mental health. The troubling thing about living with mental illness is that in order to get better, you need to make good choices. You need to practice good self-care, but the feelings of shame that often accompany mental illness aren’t exactly motivating.
And so I felt stuck. Desolate, even. I felt ruined. I felt like my life was stained by the past that I had no power to change and a present that was doomed on account of my diagnosis.
In the same moment that I put words to the way I was feeling (ruined), another thought waltzed into my mind.
I remembered, Sukhothai (pronounced Soo/kō/tī).
Sukhothai was the first capital of Siam (present day Thailand) and is regarded as the birthplace of Thai history. Although the kingdom of Sukhothai was short lived, its legacy is in its architecture, literature, bronze sculpture and ceramic art. You can still visit this historical province and marvel at the ancient palaces and temples by bicycle or foot. It really is a lovely place.
I visited Sukhothai when I was in college. I remember walking down the meandering paths throughout the park and climbing in and out of partially restored structures. Although no one had lived there for centuries, each year still thousands of visitors wandered its antiquated roads and buildings to explore not only the ruins of this city, but perhaps to explore something inside of themselves, also.
And that’s when it hit me- realization number two.
Sure, maybe I felt ruined, as though something un-take-back-able happened and marred my very existence- but in the end and in the now, what is ruined isn’t necessarily something to hide and become ashamed of.
Something ruined is something that can be restored. Something ruined and restored can become a place that one can visit, to remember what life was like back then or there; it can become something to explore and to learn from, something one might marvel over, like the ruins of an ancient city or the glued-together pieces of a once broken life.
It’s been a few years since that day on the couch in my therapist’s office. I don’t feel ruined anymore. I feel restored in most ways, most of the time.
When I started to write this post, I did some research on Sukhothai to refresh my memory and came across something interesting on Wikipedia:
Sukhothai is from the Sanskrit word sukha (सुख ) meaning happiness and udaya (उदय) meaning rise or emergence, and thus, Sukhothai means, “dawn of happiness”.
So after all, perhaps a place of ruins is also a place where happiness may begin to emerge.
With lots of love,