The THRIVE Center™ For ADHD & Comprehensive Mental Health Care Of Central Maryland

 

Mirrored In The Loving Eyes Of Others

The truth never came easily to him. He wrapped his life in layers of half-truths, deception and out and out lies.

By Rick Silver, MD

He was 18, and he pretty much lied to me about everything from the first appointment. Yeah, I’m keeping up with school work. Yeah, I cleaned my room, just like my parents asked. No, I’m not smoking as much weed. Yeah, I’m being careful with my money.

The truth never came easily to him. He wrapped his life in layers of half-truths, deception and out and out lies. The young man before me was only a façade, an elaborate projection of what he thought the world wanted to hear. Pleasing, cooperative, always making the effort, always moving forward.

Except that he wasn’t really any of those things, not once you poked around a bit, got him comfortable enough so you could see through the cracks in the shell. He’d given up, he told me. Four years of depression in high school, alternating with mania that tore away his emotional foundation. ADHD that kept him from performing well in school. Parents that loved him dearly but criticized him endlessly for his faults. And a possible ice hockey career that he’d left behind.

He’d given up on school, on his parents, on his passion, on ever being happy again. His thin veneer was all that was left, all that he could find to justify playing the game day to day. For better or worse, it was his badge of courage, his sign to the world that he still had what it took, and he clung to this shield like a warrior.

How do you recover from a relentless slide toward your own dark abyss, when the façade falls away and the hungry eyes of your soul stare at you wide, green and glowing, like an animal in the night? If he’d had just a bit more strength -- some secret, untapped reserve of light that could have washed back the darkness like a wave -- perhaps then he could have gathered the broken stones of his life to build a more worthy edifice. But he had nothing, no choice but to watch helplessly as his life shattered, splintered crazily, the pieces spinning into chaos, the center gone.

It’s up to me now,” he said, simple words that acknowledged that he’d found a way to love himself, to have the strength to move ahead with his life.

I saw him shortly after he'd gotten out of the psych hospital. He'd overdosed on Tylenol, came pretty near to dying. Not unlike others who had visited that edge, he'd come back changed. Quiet and sure now, he'd given up the facile response, trading it for words that gave a truer measure of the reach of his soul's wisdom.

What's different, I asked him. He told me how when he was on the psych ward, he'd noticed how the staff liked him, complimented him, pointed out his strengths. Surprised at first, it began to dawn on him that his own soul was mirrored in the loving eyes of others – that behind the veneer, others saw not failure and shame, but a gentle, kind young man, with an inner strength beyond what he’d ever imagined.

It's up to me now, he said, simple words that acknowledged that he’d found a way to love himself, to have the strength to move ahead with his life.

Some may say that trying to kill one’s self is the act of a coward. But how can any of us know how we would act when faced with the deep despair born of repeated failure and grinding shame? In giving up, this young man did the only thing he could do –fell apart, let go of everything, gave himself over to a caring and love he’d been unable to find for himself – and in the process, discovered his own gifts, his own courage.

Today, he works with other young adults who are struggling to find a path with some hope and light. The work is slow, hard and frustrating. But he finds that with patience, he can watch their transformation, watch how his caring invites them to discover a self beyond the lies, an authentic self, rooted in love and filled with a sense of possibility for a better life.