Some mornings, I wake up, and it feels like my mind has already guzzled half a gallon of coffee, been to the gym, stamped out a full day’s work, and is tapping its foot impatiently waiting for my lazy body to come around. Consciousness, for me, can feel like turning the TV on in the middle of a broadcast special on Amazonian ants. Things are moving and I need to catch up to the phenomenon that is the neurological fireworks show in my head.
This morning it was 6:15am, and I suddenly became overwhelmingly aware that I’m not brushing my three-year-old’s teeth enough. If you know my three-year-old, you can imagine that getting her to let me brush her teeth is like wrestling a crocodile in a shallow swamp bed – equally as frustrating and messy.
But now, here at 6am, the weight of my parenting fail is making my heart race and the breath come short in my lungs, and I realize that I have completely failed all of my children in basic hygiene, and they’re all going to need dentures by the time they’re thirty, and don’t get me started on showers, and we probably need a schedule, so I should revamp our summer chore chart, but then they’ll expect to get paid, and who’s going to pay their kids for brushing their teeth, and why can’t they just take care of themselves voluntarily, and oh yeah… It’s because I’ve completely failed them as a parent.
Yep. Good morning, brain! No gradual rise into consciousness where I check the time and then my favorite morning devotional app. I’ve been out of dream-state for 15 seconds and my stomach is in knots, because my sleep-deprived brain can’t come up with a rational game plan to improve my family’s oral hygiene routine.
These are the types of anxiety symptoms I deal with on the regular. Not every morning, thank God, but in certain seasons when I’m extra busy or the PTSD symptoms flare up for one reason or another, I find myself reigning in more of these runaway trains of thought than I’d like. My husband recognizes my leaps from the “normal” to the catastrophic and helps me reach reality, but typically it’s up to me to sort out rational from irrational as these “anxiety flare ups” appear throughout the day.
Some days are easier than others. Some days require more energy than others, and some days are just hard. And that’s ok. Sometimes there are things I can do to mitigate the anxiety, and sometimes there’s not much that seems to help.
It’s not that I’m resigned to living under the thumb of the symptoms I deal with. I take medicine, try to eat well and sleep enough, go to therapy and tend my spiritual life… All of the things that manage symptoms while dealing with the heart of the issue. In the meantime, though, I know that suffering and struggle are just the side effects of living.
See, there was a time when I was absolutely determined to die. The reasons for that determination were super complex, but needless to say, I felt at the time it was in everyone’s best interest to vacate the scene. Thankfully, many amazing people spoke the truth into my life – that there is hope, that today is not forever, that God is who He says He is and I am who He says I am. And I came to the place where I needed to make the choice – not just the choice to stop trying to die, but the choice to live.
And as I made that choice, I knew… I knew that surrendering my life to God didn’t mean everything would be smooth sailing. I knew loving meant losing and hurting. I knew living meant pain and suffering. But I also knew that opening myself to the possibility of heartbreak also meant that I was opening myself up to the possibility of incredible, meaningful, fulfilling life. It meant joy and peace that transcends circumstances and biology.
The side effects of living can be painful and messy. But the side effects of living can also be breathtakingly beautiful. We just have to stick around long enough to experience both.
That’s just what I’m choosing to focus on today. 💕
If you or someone you love needs help choosing to live, please call 1-800-448-3000 (Nebraska) or 1-800-448-1833 (National). It’s worth it to reach out.