I believe, based on my first-hand experience, that difficulty can lead to a better life. Like so many people, I grew up with a lot of outside influences telling me what I should do and who I should be. After struggling with depression, getting sober 25 years ago, and then navigating the trauma of my sister’s sudden death from a neighbor’s gun accident, I had questions about life.

Things fall apart, as the saying goes. And while dealing with those difficult situations is hard, the harder part, at times, is coming to terms with the fact that it’s not possible to put things back the way they were. For me, what was “normal” was gone. The grief I felt about that was real.

But then I found that the way things had been was not really how I wanted them anyway. It was comfortable and familiar, but that was about all. I had made a collage of what family and teachers suggested I do and tried to make it work. In the aftermath of things falling apart I discovered an opportunity to put the pieces together in a new, more intentional way.

I began asking myself what I really wanted. So I used my degree in Literature to craft a career in the IT world. I got a Master’s degree in writing. When I found IT was, after 10 years, no longer fulfilling, I realized that the best part of it for me was helping people. So I became a therapist to help people more directly. I got a job co-creating a program for young adults with serious mental illness. I moved on to run two residential programs and then became the Lead Clinician at a program for people with serious mental illness who are also on probation.

Over time I realized that I needed to work for myself. My experience in IT and in mental health come together in my private practice. I also blend in some other important aspects of my life. My personal journey includes experience in mindfulness and a spiritual path of self-realization. While this started in my teens, it didn’t really take off until after I got sober. It has been a lifeline and a touchstone for me ever since. Finding Self through meditation and spiritual practice provides me with a base from which to work and forms the basis of my work with others.

For me, the only way through the hard times in my life was a greater knowledge of myself. Not unlike sports where form is everything, I found that how I hold myself in the world makes all the difference. I get to know myself a bit better every day. Each experience is a teacher. How well I attend to the lessons is how well I attend to my life.