Usually when we talk about survival we talk on a grand scale. We think big. Our mind’s eye conjures up disasters and world changing events, daring adventures and the impossible quest, things on an epic scale worthy of eighty point type on the front page or a close-up on the television.
Survival is the story of the hard choices, endurance and the will to live. The struggle. True stories like Aron Ralston’s choice inspire us. Fictional stories like Sophie’s Choice move us. We thirst for those big moments.
The drama calls to us.
But not all survival comes with sirens, ticker tape parades, spot lights and the crowd of the paparazzi. The tales that make the world gasp and hold their breath are the exception, not the rule. Most of the stories of survival I know are very quiet with almost no one aware that they transpire, day in and day out.
While the treatment of mental ill health has progressed beyond the Hell-like Bedlams of the past, there is still a social stigma attached to it. The struggle faced by the mentally ill is largely unseen by the populace because, in general, we work very hard to appear normal. Our external calm can be the result of tremendous effort to suppress the internal chaos that an individual is feeling.
Most people don’t think about actively choosing life. For those who struggle with severe depression it is a question that can become a daily exercise. In the grip of my deepest depression survival was often facing the day and simply saying, “I can. I will.” The decision to face another day is itself a tiny miracle. It is the victory of hope over what seem to be insurmountable obstacles. And, that is what survival is all about.