You know, lots of ups, tons of downs – and very little in between.
There are no ‘plateaus’ in roller coaster rides. Either it’s hard graft to try to reach the top – but you can’t enjoy that high place for even a second, because before the back of the caboose has even made it up there, the front is already falling off a cliff.
While it definitely makes for a fun 10 minutes at the fun fair (although honestly? I can’t stand roller coaster rides in real life, and they make me want to throw up) trying to live a whole life like that can get pretty taxing on the nerves.
So, over the course of the last say, 40 years or so, what tends to happen is that I will put maximum effort in to chugging away at a project, a job, a goal – until I burn out and crash.
Or until 5 seconds after it’s completed, where subconsciously I’ll start casting around for the drama, the excitement again that’s going to stop my life from being ‘boring’.
Ah boring. We’ll talk more about boring in a minute.
And of course, to stick with the roller coaster ride, ‘excitement’ and drama happens when you’re whooshing downhill at a million miles an hour, and you don’t really know if you’re going to smash into a million pieces or not. On the roller coaster of life, that bit is never obvious, there’s no guarantee of a safe landing.
Back in university when I was going through a very tough time mentally, I went to see one of the student counsellors. To this day, I still don’t know if she was excellent at her job, or really, really awful. I sat down, I talked to her for about 10 minutes – and she flat came out and told me I was manic depressive.
So then, I smiled my fake smile, and ran out of that place as fast as my legs could take me.
But even then, getting yourself lumbered with a ‘diagnosis’ just meant being pressured to take pills and talk to a bunch of people who mostly went into psychology because they are completely crazy themselves.
No ‘normal’ person from a ‘normal’, mentally-healthy family is interested in psychology. People are nearly always drawn to that field because they are messed-up and broken themselves, and they are trying to figure out what went wrong in their own families, and how to fix it.
So anyway, the ‘manic’ and ‘depressed’ thing was with me for many long years, until I discovered the practice of talking to God in my own words for an hour a day, and then the ‘clinically depressed’ part started to go away.
What sped it along was understanding that C-PTSD and very unhealthy relationships was underneath the depressions, where I was basically flashing back in to a despairing FREEZE emotional response that was my ‘go to’ coping mechanism in childhood.
The manic also calmed down – a lot – and transformed into determined motivation to do stuff. That’s mostly a good thing, and a blessing. But in recent months, God has been giving me so many clues that I’m still living my life with an underlying roller coaster pattern. Subconsciously, I seem to be always craving that excitement and drama that comes with disastrous, awful, destructive ‘downs’.
Why is this?
This happens when you grow up in highly unpredictable circumstances, around people who could flip from nice to nasty in a nanosecond. That dangerous unpredictability acts on the brain like emotional crack. You experience things that are so intense and that feel so dangerous and out of control, that ‘normal life’ pales beside it.
It’s the same reason why people like extreme sports and bungee jumping. That moment when the rubber snaps back and they don’t bash all their brains out on the floor below is mega-exhilarating and often euphoric – it’s the ‘high’ that comes from that low place.
But you can’t live a productive life pinging from highs to lows, and from ups and downs.
You need to plateau, you need that place in between.
And even when your conscious brain is craving stability and routine, the subconscious brain that got addicted to drama and excitement in childhood is always there in the background, working on its next subconscious ploy to flip your life into chaos and madness again.
Again, I’ve worked on this issue a lot over the years, from a bunch of different angles, but what gave me extra urgency to really try to nail it, at least enough, was that I’ve realized I’m passing on my tendencies to my children. Our life has been so ‘dramatic’ the last few years, that I can see they are also starting to crave that sort of crazy excitement.
And that’s the last thing that I want for my kids.
So, to cut a long story short, we worked on a lot of things from childhood via One Brain and BodySpin, and I came out of that session feeling like I’d been run over by a truck. I’ve been pretty ill the last 2 weeks, and I know it’s all connected to trying to clean up all these deep, dysfunctional emotional states.
(It’s a post for another time, but inflammation in the body also affects the brain’s functioning, and can also be behind a lot of things that are often referred to as ‘mental illnesses’.)
But I also came out of that session knowing I had some hitbodedut homework to do, in my talking to God sessions. If I just plain aim for the ‘up’ the ‘high’, that is inevitably going to lead to the destructive down.
I need the middle place, the place where I’m neither totally apathetic and can’t be bothered with anything, or totally burning the candle at both ends to try to get things done and achieved. It’s only today that I realized where I’m actually aiming for: energized stability.
That’s the state I’m after. Where life is stable, and I’m not plunging myself down rabbit holes all the time just for the fun of it, but where I have energy and excitement and enthusiasm for life. And let’s be clear, I’ve never experienced that place in my whole life. I can’t get to it by myself, because I don’t know how to find it, where it is on the emotional map.
But God knows.
And I’m asking Him to show me how to make energized stability the touchstone of my life, going forward, just as a free present, just as a gift, in the same way He’s given me so many other emotional health presents.
None of us can pick the circumstances we’re born into, or how our brains happen to get hardwired into unhelpful patterns into unhelpful patterns when we’re younger.
But all this can change.
As long as we hold our hands up, admit we aren’t perfect, and get God involved in the process of fixing our problems.
After I wrote this post, I got a mental picture of what I’m really aiming at here: The highs and lows are competition, trying to be ‘the best’, trying to be the winner, the number one – and the flip side, of feeling like a ‘loser’, and the worst.
These are the ups and downs of the roller coaster.
Where I’m aiming at now is like a train chugging along the tracks at the bottom of these peaks and troughs. It’s low to the ground – representing humility. I’m not better than anyone else. But it’s also moving forward at a steady pace and covering a lot of ground. The engine isn’t straining to go uphill, and it’s not hurtling out of control on the descents.
It’s just moving steadily forward, at the bottom of the peaks.
Bring it on!