If you ever find yourself in a vehicle submerged in water, your first instinct may be to open all of the doors and windows in order to escape. If you try to do this, though, you’re going to have a really hard time for a while. Until the car completely fills with water, the pressure from the outside will prevent you from leaving the vehicle. It’s not until the water has completely surrounded you that you will be able to break a window or shove open a door.
The trick to escaping quicksand follows a similar method: struggle against the thing that pulls you down, and the process will only get harder. When faced with a bear, you may feeling like running or climbing up a tree, but trying to stay calm and back away slowly might actually save your life. The list of survival situations goes on and on.
While it is very unlikely that any of us will be faced with these particular life-or-death situations, every person is faced with struggles that seem inescapable. Maybe you can’t seem to make ends meet or you’re stuck in a relationship that looks hopeless. Maybe your GPA is beyond repair, or your plans for the future will never work out. Or maybe you’re just tired of pretending to have it all together while your whole world is falling apart.
I have some bad news and good news: If you’ve never been faced with a hopeless situation in your life -- you surely will. If you’re in a hopeless situation right now -- it’s not forever.
I know what it’s like to go off the rails, and then get back on them only to discover I was strapped to the tracks and the train was headed right for me. The reality of our lives is that they are often messy, confusing, and full of disappointments. There may be times when you wonder how you are even alive. But here’s the thing -- you are. You have the privilege of being a living, breathing human being with unique emotions and experiences, someone who is capable of change and who has an impact on other people.
For a long time I was uncomfortable with the reality of my mental illness. I was ashamed and frustrated at my inability to be a “normal person” because of the chemical balances in my brain. But mental illness is, like every other thing we experience in this earthly life, a human condition.
Not everyone’s brain is wired like mine. Not everyone startles whenever the phone rings, has constantly scattered thoughts, and feels exhausted after being awake for five hours. But I do, and when I ignore my experiences I just make things harder on myself.
The way your heart pounds when those test results come back, the deep hurt you feel in the pit of your stomach when you see your ex with his new girlfriend, the anger and confusion that rack your brain when you get rejected from that job -- these are all part of the human experience. Maybe you’re going through all these things in the same short season of your life. And that’s okay.
This life is the craziest, wildest, most tragic and most miraculous thing that has ever happened to you. Deep inside, we are all just trying to keep from sinking.
Don’t worry so much about how you’re going to get yourself out of this. It’s learning to thrive in the chaos that makes life worthwhile.