Having a positive self image is an important part of the healing process.
It’s a story I’ve heard over and over again as I’m interviewing new patients:
“Dr. Marcantel, I am a wreck. I’m probably the worst patient you’ve ever seen. I’m depressed, I’ve put on so much weight that I hate my body, and I’m so miserable that I’m just about ready to give up. I’m disgusted with myself; I’m tired of being the person I’ve become.”
But as she speaks I look into this woman’s eyes and see a very different person than the one she’s describing. I see a person with a brave heart who has shown the courage to take steps to explore health care options for herself so she can try to feel better. I see a tired, discouraged individual who still has enough hope in reserve to continue to pursue help because, deep down, she believes she can have a better life. I also often see a soul who has cared for so many others that she has lost herself in the giving and has become ill.
In one of my favorite movies, Hook, Robin Williams is a grown-up Peter Pan who has allowed the crushing responsibilities of the adult world to erase all memory of his childhood. When he finds himself back in Neverland among the Lost Boys, neither he nor the children can believe that he was once their leader. At one point one of the boys takes the middle-aged man’s face in his hands to examine him. As he wipes away time by smoothing out the wrinkles with his fingers, the boy suddenly exclaims, “Oh, there you are, Peter!” It’s a pivotal moment as the character begins the journey of recapturing his true identity. Later when he sees his reflection in a pool, it is the Peter Pan of his youth that is looking back at him.
We may not be able to stop time by refusing to grow up like the original Peter Pan. We don’t, however, have to identify ourselves with the negative physical and emotional circumstances in our lives. When I see the true soul of courage, hope, and generosity in the discouraged person sitting in my office I want to somehow reflect that image back to her.