I want to admit something. I often think about dying. That maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, for all the stress and overwhelm and intensity to end – when this world of mine just doesn’t seem to stop.
People usually kind of freak out a little (or a lot) when you say stuff like that. So I’ve always kept it in. Since people’s reactions just added to the overwhelm and stress – one more person to have to reassure and convince that I’m “okay.”
But I understand why people get upset – we’ve all been just a little too close to suicide these days. Whether that’s through people we know or just through the media. It strikes close to our hearts and resonates with our fears.
I wonder if that fear comes from having felt that way personally at some (or many) points? How many people (particularly our children/teens) feel overwhelmed and unable to cope and like things will never get better? How many have lost hope, even if just for the moments when their emotions flood their brains and logic escapes them?
And sometimes, I’m sure it’s simply the “what if” that strikes such fear. What if she means it? What if I don’t “do” something?
And yet, it’s not these feelings or thoughts about death that hinder how I live my life – it’s the shame that cripples me. Shame for not being “normal.” Shame for not being able to handle it all. Shame for being so screwed up in the first place. Shame for feeling this way…
There something that I’m learning not only to understand, but to truly live. It doesn’t matter whether I should or shouldn’t feel this way. The reality is that I do. Regularly. And that’s okay!
Here’s the thing: I feel. Everything. Deeply.
I used to hide behind the coping mechanisms I learned so well as a child, then practiced over most of my lifetime – avoiding, numbing, overthinking, anxiety, pleasing, fixing, controlling. Learning to be aware and to change generational patterns has proven to be quite a monumental endeavour for me. But I knew I had to – since I wanted to raise emotionally healthy children. They deserve that. And it means I have to figure out my own baggage and issues, in order to be there for them.
In fact, I find it rather ironic that my feelings of overwhelm and wanting to die have served to flame my passionate need to live. Many days, I have to consciously choose – to keep trying, despite having no idea how I’ll get through. To live. And it is the intensity of my passion that makes something like suicide unimaginable. I may want to escape, but I can also honestly say it will never be by my own hand. Being the parent that my children need simply means too much to me – I refuse to fail.
I don’t worry so much about myself anymore. I’m finding my ways out of the shame trap. I can see and feel my growth and learning – even when it’s not yet evident to others. I’m gradually moving past “doing it for my kids” to “doing it for me” too! Who knew that would be (and still is) so hard?? It took a level of self-esteem and love to feel I was “worth” the effort. Thankfully, I had my incredible love for my children to pull me through some of the hardest parts – until I could learn to value myself enough to keep going.
But I still worry about those that feel that shame. We are so obsessed with pathologizing our everyday struggles, let alone the really hard stuff we struggle with. Divorce. Bullying. Abuse. How in the world do we expect kids to handle this stuff without a struggle? “Don’t worry, be happy!” the world tells us. Ya. Right.
I worry about those highly sensitive, creative and/or gifted souls who feel all the intensity (and teens who have raging hormones on top of that!) – yet don’t have secure attachments with meaningful adults in their lives to pull them through.
I worry about those vulnerable kids who haven’t found something to be passionate about – something that will help them make it through the hardest times, when they haven’t learned to believe in themselves yet.
Kids need safe places where they are loved and valued for who they are – not for who we want them to be. They need to be able to rely on people, in order to learn to rely on themselves.
Kids need this where ever and when ever we can give it to them. At home would be ideal – but that’s not always realistic. So they need schools and teachers that focus less on grades or “achieving” and more on “being.”
And kids need opportunities to try things, to be part of something that they can get excited about – in whatever form that takes. It may be sports. Or music. Or Scouts. Or church. It could be an art class or an after school robotics club. Or simply some friends to explore a forest with. Kids need joy.
When budget struggles make it feel like we have no choice but to cut back on the “extra” stuff (whether in families or in schools), I fear our most vulnerable kids will be the ones who will pay the price. Heck! I fear ALL of our kids are paying a price, to some extent or another.
I wonder if we can think different?
What if we all understood that “learning” doesn’t happen until kids feel safe and free of shame? What if we all committed to making a connection with every child, no matter what? What if making a connection with every child was something we refused to fail at?
Ironically, I think the outcome would be more learning. And higher test scores. And more “achievement.”
Unfortunately, we seem to confuse the outcome with the need…