In the past four years of my life, I’ve achieved several breakthroughs in the understanding of my own anxiety and depression. I’d like to share the most meaningful as my first entry.
Not long ago I came across the story of St. Paul, who suffered from a thorn in the flesh. But before I go any further into this story, I’m not going to pretend like I spend every night reading up on the tales of the ancient Greeks and Jews, so let’s put a fresh perspective on this scripture — the story of St. Stark, who suffered from an arc reactor in the chest.
Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, an arc reactor in the chest was given to me, a messenger of Voldemort to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord of Light three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Gandalf may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Gandalf, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong”.
It is from this story that I came to a major realization in my own life. I’ve spent a majority of the last ten years trying to anchor my anxiety and depression deep below the surface where it wouldn’t be able to bother anyone else. And in that time I’ve done a lot of unnecessary damage to myself and the relationships I’ve had with those around me. In my mind, it was my permanent thorn in the flesh.
On the flip side, I’ve always considered any amount of success I’ve achieved or talent I hold as equal to the value I see in myself. In other words my “strengths”. But in many ways those perceptions create the anxiety and depression in the first place. The irony I’ve discovered through all of this, in the simplest of terms, is that my greatest strengths are my greatest weaknesses (and vice versa).
Now, I try to live my life like the patron Saint Stark — Iron Man to the layman. Instead of trying to shield my anxiety and depression as a weapon that can destroy relationships, I use it as a tool to connect with others through a universally shared vulnerability. I’ve still got a long path ahead, and I don’t know if I’ll ever consider myself “cured” from mental illness, but I’m doing my best and I think Gandalf would be proud.