Yesterday, I wrote a post that said this …
(Ed note: If you haven’t read it yet, please click HERE so that the rest of this will make sense)
Yes, this life is a roller coaster.
A big, scary, exhilarating, exhausting, beautiful roller coaster.
And it looks something like this …
After reading the post, a reader had a question.
Jess, you are so open and caring, I feel like I can ask you this question and you might, just perhaps, feel like you can answer me… How do you handle living on an edge each moment? I read your blog, and get inspiration and comfort knowing ‘others’ do get through their days too; often still smiling. But today while reading your post, the question burned in my head… how does she handle this constant, on-alert, atmosphere in her life? (Does this question make sense?) My oldest son has Down syndrome, but is not my source of waiting for the time-bomb of emotion to overload… that’s my second son. He has many anxiety issues, and sensory processing issues, and it makes daily life often tenuous – at best. How do you process the mental energy that constantly flows through your brain, trying to be ‘ready’ for whatever might spring up? Trying to avoid even tick-tick-ticking up the ‘up’ side of the roller coaster, trying to be preemptive before you hit the dreaded over-the-top decline, is beyond exhaustive most days. If you feel you can, could you share any insights on that??
Thanks for the kind words, Michele. I do care, and heaven knows I’m open. More on that in a bit. But first, to the question at hand …
How does she handle this constant, on-alert, atmosphere in her life?
Well, like everything else in this sticky, messy, complicated world in which we live, there is no clean, simple, uncomplicated answer. But there are answerS – a few of them, which, when put together kinda, sorta work. So here goes. In no particular order, these are (some of) my answers …
I share our story. In so doing, I am reminded daily that I am not alone. That WE are not alone. That when we are sitting in a middle school auditorium struggling to make it through Big Sister’s concert, feeling like the Only Ones, there are countless other Only Ones in countless other auditoriums in countless other places who Get It.
I laugh. A lot. And I laugh big. It’s fuel.
I never, ever, ever “avoid” the tick-tick-ticking up of the roller coaster. For the love of God, that’s the part I live for. It’s the balance. It’s such a shame to lose the good times because we’ve spent them fearing the disaster that we think will inevitably follow. When I find myself there, I start over. I reframe it. I remember to look at it not as the rise before the fall, but simply as The Rise. The part where we get to enjoy the view. To breathe in the rarefied air. To revel in the Happy.
I pull tiny moments of joy from each day and I do my damndest to CELEBRATE them. I make them larger than life. I make blog posts out of thirty-second interactions. The ticking up of the roller coaster — it’s everything.
When it’s too big, I get help. Real help. Professional help.
The help that I have wasn’t easy to find. It was a process. And the process kinda sucked. But one phone call led to another which led to another, which brought me to a safe space to talk when I need it and advice that I can trust using a school of thought that I can accept. For me, it’s CBT. It’s strategies like grounding – taking myself out of anxiety by slowly, methodically, putting myself back into the moment. When there’s no time for all that, I simply slow my breathing. I do that A LOT.
And sometimes, just sometimes, I just plain lose it.
And when I do, I try to remember my advice to others — treat YOURSELF as you would a trusted friend. What would you say to HER if she were falling apart? I doubt that berating her for having a tough time would be the first thing to come to mind. I TRY.
Oh, one other thing.
As over 247,000 of my closest friends now know, I also happen to, for when all else fails, carry a bottle of Xanax in my purse.
But really, that’s just for shopping.
Michele, I hope this at least scratches the surface of the question. It’s a big one, and there’s an awful lot of different ways to answer it. To everyone else, please feel free to share YOUR strategies for keeping it together in the comments. I’d love to hear them!