You may think someone has it all together. But what you don't see is often the very personal and invisible struggle they use to fuel their life each day. You don't see them under the covers in the morning wrestling with themselves to just sit up and put their feet on the ground. You don't see the very personal reasons they never give up or what the Japanese call Ikigai (ee-kee-gah-ee).
Many people in my life know my son has cystic fibrosis. It's not a secret. Just google my name and my work with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation or being a mom of a child with chronic illness will surely pop up. Some know what we went through before diagnosis and the trauma he (we) endured. But only a very few know of my personal journey with PTSD as a result and how, while so very vulnerable and wide open, I found some good help and some not so good help.
Why am I sharing this today?
I guess I’m thinking someone will read this today who, on the outside looks ok (maybe even more than ok) to everyone who knows them, but may have no way to even begin to share those thoughts, those scary moments that send them into a sort of emotional paralysis, maybe even on a daily basis. And I want them to know, that life is not really about being ok or getting yourself together BEFORE you let someone see you. I want you to know, it’s about showing up when you aren’t ok and sometimes proving to yourself that you can indeed at least get out of bed today.
I want you to know if (or when) you ever project your own power or beauty or creativity or worthiness or whatever it is you think you don’t have yourself onto that person that has their stuff together just know this...everyone had to decide why they were getting out of bed today.
For me, on really tough days, I get out of bed for my children and those I love. If that doesn’t work it is then to fight cystic fibrosis with and for my son. If that doesn’t work, it is to get up for and walk along side the children and families I serve who right now may be in an even harder struggle than I could even fathom. A struggle I may find myself in one day.
Usually the first reason is all I need, but I sometimes need all three to plant my feet on the floor and rise.
I am human.
I get so very tired.
I get confused.
I get sad beyond measure.
I get angry at the messiness of life.
I get sick of disease and suffering.
At times, I am intolerant of people who make up stuff to be upset about (super judgey I know!).
And at times, I’m intolerant of myself when I make up stuff to be upset about!
But on those kind of days, I get up any way. I go through each of my 3 reasons and I put my feet on the ground and I just stand up (and I make strong coffee, good strong coffee).
I know in the deepest crevices of my being that teens need to see someone a little older than them (or a lot) surviving, dragging themselves through the muck, and making it through when it’s hard. They just need to know it’s going to be ok and that sometimes it’s going to be really awesome too; that there are and will be so many (countless really) mornings you can’t wait to wake up. They need to know the struggle is worth it...no matter what...and that staying in the tension may not be easy, or comfortable, but it’s possible, and certainly worth it.
Death sucks. Diseases sucks. Mental illness can suck. Trump definitely sucks. But these things are also part of life and have their place at the table right next to pleasure, awe, fun, peace, and laughter.
Helping teens find their ikigai
People ask me all the time: “How can you work with suffering or dying children, that’s so sad? Oh, wow, you work with teens, god bless you, that’s a tough crowd!” Well, the answer I’ve come up with is because I have to get up today too. I have to face the very fears I struggle with as well. I have to know I’m not alone in this. And I do know. I’m not alone. And the quiet presence of someone who simply knows and accepts this is very powerful - in fact, even if begrudgingly, it may be your very super power whether you know it or not!!
It is why I’m a therapist. I really have no choice. It is one of the reasons I get up every morning.
Jody Pittner, ATR, LPC