Permanence, Possibility, and the Power of Our Stories

In my work with people navigating the journey off of prescribed psychiatric drugs, the concept of permanence often comes up.

I hear sentiments like “is this withdrawal or is it permanent drug damage?” And “it’s been X number of months or years and I still don’t feel better, it must be permanent.” And “I can’t believe I will have to suffer like this forever.”

I get it, I have been there too. I know that every time I was really struggling on my own journey, I couldn’t remember ever having felt any different and I couldn’t imagine ever feeling any better. The struggle and the suffering eclipsed everything else.

In the thick of struggle, it’s so understandable to fear that everything we are contending with today is permanent. It’s so easy to believe we are doomed. I think this is especially true when we are dealing with something about which we (collectively) know relatively little–like long term psych drug and withdrawal effects. We have certain difficulties, or certain “symptoms,” or even a certain label that comes along with a story told to us by an authority figure, and we fear we will be saddled and burdened forever. The fear of permanence annihilates any space for possibility.

But this idea of permanence is a trap.

Yes, the internalized stories of permanence can be so very loud, but they are just that–stories. The reality is that we are different in this moment than we were in the last one, even if it seems imperceptible. You will be just a little different when you finish reading this sentence than you were when you began.

Change is the only constant in life. So how then, can we assume the permanence of anything? 

The answer is, we can’t. Even if the deck appears to be stacked against us for whatever reasons; even if there are seemingly endless stories of doom that remind us a lot of where we presently are; if we really dig deep enough we will find someone who healed from what we now fear we cannot. This is what’s real (and guess what: it applies to a lot more than just psych drugs and withdrawal). And if it’s possible for them, why not for you and for me, too?

To play devil’s advocate for a moment: let’s say that there truly isn’t anybody in the history of everybody, that’s ever healed from what you fear you cannot. What actually, honestly, is stopping you from being the very first person?

The stories we choose to align ourselves with shape our lives. This is story medicine, a concept I will return to over and over again. And we get to choose. We can tell ourselves stories of permanence, or we can tell ourselves stories of possibility.

And so… what if you got curious about your idea of permanence? What if you played with your perspective about possibility?

What if as long as we are alive, healing is possible? What if it’s actually already happening even when we don’t believe it? What if our worst “symptoms” are actually evidence of how hard our bodies are working to find balance again… what if they’re evidence not of things going wrong, but of things going right? Through the lens of these questions, even the very worst dis-ease might actually be a visceral, bodily expression of hope.

Look at how the story just changed.

Remember too, that we can never know when tomorrow will be the day things start to turn around in a way that is tangible. We can never know when tomorrow will be the day we feel something change.

Keep going.

I understand first hand how overwhelmingly real and big that fear of permanence can be, and I understand how hard it is to play with any sense of perspective from this place. To begin, perhaps consider just leaving the internal door ajar–for a little curiosity, and for the possibility that something better than you have ever dreamed is possible.

See what begins to shift. 

Disclaimer: The thoughts and perspectives provided here are not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical assessment, diagnosis, treatment, or advice.