If you have ever been on a roller coaster, you’ve experienced the highs and lows before. One minute you’re in total fear. The next, you’re exhilarated. Every corner of your being is ignited. Your body is forced into the extremes. There is no middle ground. What we are experiencing, my friends, is one of the craziest rides we’ve ever been on.
This isn’t my first pause. There is a good chance this won’t be my last either. As a parent of a child who lives with chronic, severe epilepsy the paradigm of shifting your life at a moment’s notice is one that is all too familiar. When your life pushes you into a battle of life and death, everything elevates. The highs are higher. The lows are lower. I’ve been on this ride before and experienced the peaks and depths that come from living within an unexpected health crisis. It’s at times terrifying, and other times the ultimate release as you drop the pressures of the world around you and heighten your own priorities. Life as we know it has become volatile and unfamiliar. “Normal” has been replaced with unpredictability and it’s understandable that with this comes feelings of being insecure, overwhelmed and like you’re a living contradiction of emotions.
Your life has now become a crazy ride of extremes.
One minute you live with a herculean strength. The world is in order as you sanitize your house, scrub your groceries, research articles with the scrutiny of a PhD., economize your finances, create memorable moments, meet your work deadlines, ace that homeschool teacher gig all the while preparing a meal that Good Housekeeping could spotlight on the cover of their magazine. The next minute, you realize you have been in the same pajamas for three days and eating cake batter out of the bowl because, let’s face it, you are never actually going to get around to baking it.
There are business as usual days and days of just binging.
Some days you accomplish your to do list by 10am. Other days you realize it took you 10 days to cross off “take a shower”.
For days on end, you choose clothes that are comforting and convenient. The next, you are scavenging your house for nail polish, body scrub, your favorite outfit and a salon level blow out not for the vanity of it all, but for the catharsis.
You eat bread at midnight. You drink green smoothies at noon. 3 mile walks are followed by 3 pounds of cheese. You seek happiness over health. Health over happiness. And the ride goes up and down.
Like the clarity that comes from the view at the top, you have a heightened sense of perspective and awareness. All of the sudden, what is truly important in life comes into a laser- like focus. The big things in life are replaced with the simple things. You let go of societal pressures and embrace your own reality to define you. It’s just you against the world in this moment and, with your hands raised in the air of surrender, you are buckled in tight for the ride of your life.
You live on high alert, knowing within seconds when a family member looks even a shade off. Every sniffle, every cough, every symptom on your radar from rooms away. Yet you can’t remember why you entered that room in the first place.
You struggle to find words to complete sentences, but you can recite all the articles you have read with conviction and authority. The physical exhaustion of your former life is now replaced by mental exhaustion.
One minute you’re counting your blessings, the next you’re counting to 10.
The constant of time disappears and defies us; like a coaster where the climb seems endless, but yet the ride is over too fast. Days become endless, but how is it May already? Morning is now midday. 3 am is your prime researching hour. We didn’t even realize we skipped lunch because no one had an appetite, but today dinner is at 4pm because everyone is insatiably hungry.
Some days time inexplicably slows down and you get 8 hours of tasks done within 2 hours of time. Some days you have no idea how it’s 6 o’clock already and looking back have nothing to show for the day except waking up and keeping everyone fed.
The highs and lows are contradicting, and often challenge your sanity. It feels like pure madness. How am I confident one moment, yet crying the next? Hopeful, yet hopeless. Focused, yet fumbling for words. A warrior yet weary. Herculean, yet humbled into complacency. Persistent, and impatient.
You are not alone in these emotions. In times like these, it’s important to remember that YOU are not defined by these contradictions. It is your environment that is ebbing and flowing, not you. You are living in a time of extremes and the ugly truth is that instability rarely ever feels safe. It is neither routine and nor familiar. While everything you are feeling may not feel normal, I can tell you that what you are experiencing is. It is understandable to be good one minute and down the next. By learning to expect and embrace the highs and the lows, you can ride this out with less guilt and confusion. Not defining yourself by your lows is just as important as not comparing yourself to highs of others. Like riding a coaster, you are holding on for dear life and putting everything you have out on the line. Grab on to the person next to you for support when you need to. For the first time in human history, we are all on the same ride together.
From someone who has experienced this coaster before, I can promise you that it WILL end. The extremes will settle. Time returns slowly to help heal us. It is not an immediate recovery because, just like the wobbly legs and aching heads you feel after a great thrill ride, you will feel weary. Your emotions remain high like the exhilarated laughter that follows after an incomprehensible ride. It will take time to feel grounded again. It may take days, weeks or even months but one day you will reflect on the time that you held tight and remember the courage you had to face it head on. You will value the times you opened your eyes and embraced the fear defying the times you closed them to shut it all out. And you will take the memories of the strength, perseverance and perspective to weather these kinds of highs and lows with greater confidence if you ever find yourself on this crazy ride again.