the correct question to fill in on application forms

January 7, 2015

hey guys, guess what? I just discovered a wrong question and a right question to ask when I’m faced with choices.

‘am I capable of doing this?’ is the wrong question.

‘will this encourage and assist in my mental and emotional recovery, or will it halt or derail it?’ is the right one.

I’ve been thinking about my baseline for what I consider to be okay, and I’ve realised that said baseline may possibly be a tad warped by trauma and depression and all the minor mental adjustments both those situations tend to lead to. when I am okay, I am not howling in agony, trying to empty my lungs of sound and pressure and feelings of death. when I am okay, I am not so terrified I cannot think straight. when I am okay, I do not feel like my life is going to end in a catastrophe of armageddonic proportions. everything else from those emotions on up is okay. generalized, constant anxiety is fine. grey endless weariness is normal. exhaustion is standard. I’m capable of handling minor panicking and ubiquitious feelings of awful and months and months of shitty days and the inability to think and all my coping mechanisms dancing about playing merry havoc in my head. all these things are not Fucking Awful Feelings of Death, or the howling, or the blinding terror, and so all these things are okay.

there’s more. I’ve been thinking too that my baseline for what I believe I am capable of is possibly skewed. When someone asks me whether I think I’m capable of doing something, or I ask myself this, my automatic response is highly likely to be yes. I’m a trauma survivor. I can survive and endure anything until I can’t. After more than a decade of learning how, my whole skillset is geared towards surviving and enduring and constantly pushing my breaking point further out regardless of the long-term cost.

Imagine a war veteran who’s been repeatedly shot in both feet. Their shins and knees are constantly fractured by stumbling into things, but they’ve had to keep going, because this is a perpetual war zone and it’s move or die. so they’ve used crutches, and splints, and occasionally enough painkillers and morphine until they didn’t remember their own name, but because they’ve never gotten to sit down and rest and heal properly, those feet are constantly setting wrong and breaking again and leaking with gangrene as the vet staggers through the mud, shaking with infection and fever.

in this scenario, your imaginary vet has kept on walking and crawling and fighting through the mud and muck for ten years with these broken feet. if you then proceed to pluck him or her out of that warzone and ask if they can keep walking on their two smashed legs, if you ask them after these ten years whether they’re capable of walking even if they’re drugged high as a kite, bleeding with every step and oozing gently, they will tell you yes. because they’ve had to. and so they know they can.

this is why ‘are you capable of doing this?’ is a stupid question. if your only options have been walk or die for ten years, then yes you are capable of walking, regardless of pain and long term injury, until you are a completely incapacitated torso wriggling about on the ground, and even then you can probably chin your way onwards. that’s it. that’s all.

‘is this going to jeopardise or derail your recovery, or is this going to assist and enable it?’ is a much better question, because clearly asking someone to keep dragging themselves forward on raw and pulverised bags of bone-splinters is a fucking terrible idea with regards to their long term health.

so there’s a thought. maybe the thing that’s more important here is my health, and not my ability to function capably. maybe this entails evaluating myself based less on whether I think I can do something (because of course I fucking can until I’m dead), and more on the basis of whether I think it’ll jeopardise my recovery or assist it. Because the point of recovery and looking after my mental health isn’t so I can achieve adequate functioning capacity again. Adequate functioning isn’t the point of my existence, isn’t the yardstick by which I measure whether I’ve achieved my human potential. The point of recovery and looking after my mental health is wellness for the sake of my wellness and wholeness and flourishing, is joy and completion, is no sin and sickness and death. life, life to the full.

… aaaaand it appears I’ve just connected the mental health recovery arc to the new heavens and new earth, to what we were made for as humans and will come to know, the shalom, the eudaimonia, the true wholeness and flourishing of creation restored and healed and drawn into the overflowing love of a threefold God. but shouldn’t that be where it always goes? isn’t that, after all, the point of everything?


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