A 19th century German physiologist hypothesized that a frog in a slowly heated kettle of water will allow itself to be boiled to death without even knowing its dying.
Life can be like this. One minute you’re lounging in a hot tub and the next you’re being boiled to death by life’s worries and struggles. So many things bring the heat into our lives, not the least of which is a diagnosis of chronic or catastrophic illness. When I was first diagnosed with mental illness I thought my quality of life had ended. When our daughter was diagnosed with cancer we became well aware of her fragility and mourned the temporary nature of life. I thought there would never be a place for me to call home again after my mother abandoned me during my senior year of high school and I was devastated.
The initial stress of crisis like these can feel stifling, unsurvivable. In each of these instances as the heat increased I struggled to survive in my new normal. After the initial shock of my diagnosis wore off I decided I would not accept its permanent diagnosis. I could beat it by working hard and taking care of myself. Three years later my self care regiment of exercise, meditation/prayer, rest, sleep, being careful about how much I work etc have made given me the ability to live ‘normally’ but have not eradicated my C-PTSD.
I have been discouraged of late because for three years I have not allowed myself to adjust to the uptick in the heat and pressure in my life. I have fought it all the way because I thought if I accepted it that just meant I was giving up. Surrender meant defeat. Subsequently, I have felt like I was boiling. Its time for me to be a frog and thermoregulate to the reality of the my situation.
Psychiatric professionals often talk about living in the ‘now’. They encourage you to not anticipate the future, which causes anxiety or regret the past, which contributes to depression. ‘Living in the now’ is the shrink way of saying “adjust” or you’ll boil your frog to death!
In life, as in frog, it is the heat that creates the crisis but the inability to recognize the change in environment and adjust with it is what actually kills the frog.
My beloved buddhist, evolutionist, Native American trauma therapist said to me one day, “Jill whatever primordial pool your ancestors crawled out from – YOU were made to survive.” I do recognize truth in what he said, even though I believe in intelligent design. I absolutely was made to survive. With the help of my faith and my God, my spirit has been able to withstand many difficult circumstances. And sometimes, in an almost inaudible scary Batman voice I say “YOU WILL NOT KILL ME” to myself, just in case any of my internal or external enemies feel the need to try and take me out again.
Bring on the heat. I have hope in the future and in my faith. So, if you need me you’ll find me lounging in the hot tub of life. And for the love of God, will somebody please bring me another cold beverage!