I remember a trip to California several years ago with my family. We hadn’t been together in a while and wanted to make a memorable experience for all.
We took some time and went to Disneyland and the California theme park. Ann and I saw the roller coaster and thought it looked like fun. It was quite an experience: the anticipation of waiting while in long lines; watching people disembark the ride and seeing the looks on their faces; getting locked in our seats and feeling the car begin to move.
SWOOSH! It felt like G-force power as we were pinned against the seat back. We rocketed up and over and then back down again, side to side, high rises and dramatic drops.
We loved it! We made sure to ride it several more times that day. It was clearly my favorite ride of the whole park.
I’ve thought a lot about that as our life has taken its own roller coaster ride. Lots of ups and downs.
The understanding that there is “opposition in all things” is very precious to me. As the pendulum swings, it makes the good really, really incredible.
Of course, when the pendulum swings back the other way, it can get pretty rough.
Many of you have shared that you too have experience with mental illness, whether it is through a close family member or through intimate, personal understanding.
It’s quite a roller coaster ride, isn’t it?
The “ups” are pretty wonderful. I love feeling clear and focused and alive and able to do anything I put my mind to. Confident. Excited. Strong.
For me the problem is how to make it through the “lows”, because sometimes they get pretty low.
It’s strange how the littlest thing somehow sets off a raging bull inside my head. I am instantly angry.
No, I am instantly ANGRY!!!
Angry at everything, and yet really at nothing.
I work to just keep my mouth shut and stay away from others. I may not be able to stop the bull from charging inside, but I can stop it before it erupts from my mouth or my hands.
Being angry, though, is exhausting. It takes a lot of work to be furious. So I find that after a few days, I lapse into an apathetic truce.
Because when feeling hurts so much, it is much easier to just not feel at all.
Whoa. Did I really just say that?
Yes, I guess I did.
On what I call “survival” days, days when it is my job to make sure I am still alive when it is time for bed, I have found it easier to just get through and not really care about anything around me. I just kind of exist.
But that’s a pretty dangerous place to retreat into.
Long ago I learned that the opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy.
Love is feeling intensely the will to make things better for either ourselves or others around us, to improve and grow and become.
The opposite of that would be to not feel at all. To feel nothing. To do nothing. To just exist.
Yikes, been there, done that.
So, how to swing that pendulum back the other way to the positive and building emotions that do so much good? How can I choose what I really FEEL?
Every human being has certain needs, certain things that must be included in this experience we call life.
Food. Water. Exercise. Knowledge.
But perhaps most important would be the need to be needed.
Each of us must know that there are other human beings on this planet who rely on us to fulfill some part of their day, no matter how small or insignificant.
We’ve all experienced that deep discouragement and almost hopelessness, only to find that the kind word and smile of someone brought us to tears – and let us FEEL.
So, on those days when something in my head pushes the angry button, or the confused button, or the can’t-stop-crying button, or the fear button, or the self-destruct button, instead of retreating into myself and not feeling at all – perhaps it is the time to look outward and find someone else who may just need a kind smile.
Sure, my smile may look more like a leer on those days, but at least it helps me start to see what is going on around me. Others are struggling. Others are discouraged. Others are fighting their demons as well.
And you know what is really great?
When the person you smile at, smiles back.
Now we are both on our way to feeling again.
And that’s a good place to be.