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My first few years in college at SUNY Binghamton were some of the happiest and most carefree times I’ve ever experienced to date. This was my mindset and beliefs ten years ago. Sure, I had already experienced my share of setbacks for the ‘normal’ developing young adult.
But generally, I thought I had or would have everything I’ve ever dreamed, and more. While I still feel similarly today in the belief I can achieve my dreams in life, the reasons are radically different and the my life circumstances completely different than I ever imagined.
Ever find yourself in the most perfect or seemingly perfect moment? You just want things to stay that way, right? This was my thinking ten years ago. I thought to myself, if I could only hold this moment. This was all before first episode psychosis and my ‘break’ during the last semester of college.
Prior to my break, I was flippant, sarcastic, and at times, very mean spirited if I believe it served my purposes.
I was your typical English major and privileged person from Westchester in New York, from an affluent town, where nobody really has to worry about the serious things in life, like housing or how they would obtain or pay for their next meal. Like I said, I was happy.
Most of you have probably already discovered that very few things are static or unchanging. While I didn’t want things to change for me ten years ago, I didn’t have a choice about the matter. My illness was gong to strike, and I would have to begin the long trek to recovery. Most of us, especially the most successful, have learned how to adapt to our new circumstances. I’ve discovered that this is for the best. Sure, a perfect moment is wonderful, and we want to stay there as long as possible, but is this really the best thing?
I am not suggesting we discount theories or the benefits of staying in the moment, but is it really in our best interest to never change? Most certainly not. As a species, on a biological level, we evolve, and our bodies adapt to our necessities of life. If it is in our biology, our very DNA as a species the capacity to transform the physiology of our bodies to the needs of our specifies, why wouldn’t the same be true on a more micro level?
The answer is, of course, it is in our best interest. I was asked to write a piece on my transformation as person regarding my struggle with a major mental health disorder. When conceptualising this, I couldn’t help but think of that perfect moment I talked about earlier.
So, why do things have to change? OK, before my mental health condition I wasn’t always happy, but for the most part, but there were moments where I certainly experienced intense moments of joy. Sure, I wasn’t a very good person, certainly not a humanitarian or advocate of people having less than myself, but I was happy, very much so in fact.
When my illness first came into being. I was angry. I would ask: why did this have to happen to me? Then, I persisted against my new barriers. To be more specific, I learned how to adapt to my disorder.
I relearned how to interact with people given my new circumstances and also learned altogether new ways of interacting. I was successful in doing so. In fact, I grew, my interests shifted, and I went through a period of growth and transformation. I became a stronger person.
Now when I look back and place myself in the memory of that wonderful moment I understand it to be not so perfect, and nowhere near as special as the moments I have come to experience in my life. These are just some of the psychological benefits of being adaptive and why we transform as people. Imagine all the other reasons there are for transformation. This is why I will never understand people who refuse to accept new ideas, and the genesis or cross pollination of concepts: inventive thinking.
Being ultra conservative or a radical liberal is great, in some senses of the word. Keeping what’s good in our lives and protecting positive aspects of our selves, our culture and our world from being polluted or harmed. This is a good thing. But when being conservative or too liberal interferes with listening, taking in new information and reforming our way of doing things, I truly worry about our future.
Above all, I worry about all the people that want the status quo to persist forever on micro or macro levels. These are certainly not the people I want around me. I want transformative and adaptive people in my circles, either social, political or any group with a vested interest in my well-being.
Like I said before, the most successful of us understand the importance of change and incorporating movement into the very fabric of their lives.
The free movement of ideas and people that embody them are critical to our abilities to adapt and inherent in our very biology. Without a doubt, shedding light on the upper limits of our potential to persist into the future and beyond. So, are you ready for change, yet? To transform and grow beyond yourself. Perhaps even take more on?
Think of that new job waiting for you that you believed was too much or you couldn’t handle. That illness that got the best of you. Well, I am suggesting that the creative and successful mind can achieve and will do so if you remain open to what’s possible by understanding your limits as barriers and those barriers as the next obstacle you eliminated on the road to success and happiness.
Maxwell Guttman teaches social work at Fordham University. He is also a mental health correspondent for Psychreg where he shares his insights on recovery and healing.
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