And I have been busy living the change.
My son finally knows where he is going to college. My daughter has moved up to starting goalie. And within our family we have a member who is changing genders. How is that for change?
While navigating this, it has once again become clear to me that life never, ever stays the same. We all like to believe that we have control over everything. We think that we can keep things on an even keel, keep them the same. Or if the “same” is not possible, then if we make the right choice, everything will work out the way we want. And sometimes it does. But even then, the “working out” is still a change. And sometimes things don’t work out. Still more change.
How do you navigate the uncertainty that occurs in your life?
Some individuals, who struggle with eating disorders, try to keep control of life by controlling what and how they eat. Other individuals try to organize everything in their lives — if they make enough lists or do things in a certain way, then things will stay predictable and nothing bad will happen. But here is the reality: life changes. We each get older. The Earth shifts. The Universe continues to expand. Remember:
“The fluttering of a butterfly's wings can effect climate changes on the other side of the planet.” ~Paul Erlich
Through these last few days I started to understand the overwhelming emotions that many individuals feel when they are faced with uncertainty and change. I had one patient who when we were trying to adjust her medication dose—she was on meds to help with her anxiety—said, “You mean that so I can deal with change, I first need to make a change?”
But for her even increasing her medication felt overwhelming and difficult.
The challenge is that we all have different levels of change that we can accept without feeling overwhelmed. Some of what we need to do is recognize our comfort level and then work to find coping skills to expand it. And we also need to realize that, yes, change happens! And each of us will feel overwhelmed by it at some point in time. But we can get through it. And often we come out the other side of change stronger for having gone through the experience.
• Write about how you feel about change. Do you find it scary? Exciting? Both? The challenge with excitement is that it can veer over into panic. Think about the sensations you experience when you are excited about something: heart races, you get butterflies in your stomach, you may start feeling tingly and revved up. Now think about when you find something scary: your heart races, you can feel nauseous, you get revved up—part of the “flight or fight” response. Does change tip you over the edge from excitement to panic? If someone tells you that “Life is change”, how do you feel about that? Don’t write just one word, write about change for 10 minutes. If you get stuck, go back to the core sentence: “Change means….”
• Write about a time in your life that you had to deal with a significant change. What was it? How did it go? Describe the event and your emotions. What was hard about the change? What was good? What did you learn? Would you deal with it differently now? If so, how? I could write about moving my senior year of high school, or any of those other many life events that started off this blog.
• Write about excitement—what makes you excited? Why? Do you love roller coasters? I do, but I don’t like waiting in line. It is not just the wait, but during that time my excitement will tip over into panic if I think about the ride too much. Think about what excites you and why? What terrifies you? And why?
• What is one change that you’d like to make in your life? In the world? Write about a year from now, five years, what changes would you like to see have happened? What steps do you need to get there?
All right, time for a change. You need to stop reading and start writing.
So, go, write on!
Martha Peaslee Levine, MD