Our two-year-old daughter is smart one. She can follow most conversations, dress herself, is nearly potty trained, and she even holds a pencil correctly. But what she cannot do is discern what is, and what is not, within her control to change. This is probably most apparent when she climbs up on a chair or bed and then wants to get down but isn’t sure she can do it on her own. She just doesn’t know what she is capable of and fears getting stuck.
Over the last week, I’ve been talking to her about what it really means to be stuck. I told her that if you could get in somewhere by yourself, you can get out by yourself. However, this isn’t a steadfast rule as drug addiction, pregnancy, and bad hair cuts are just some examples of how this logic can be flawed but that if you are able to get up onto the bed, you should, in theory anyways, be able to get down by yourself.
We discussed various ways of getting down from the bed. I demonstrated the slide-down-and-land-on-your-butt method which she found humorous and the more difficult to demonstrate as an adult woman, slide-down-on-your-stomach-grasping-the-comforter to slow your fall method which she seemed to favor but still was unwilling to try.
Then I suggested the use of a step stool and brought it to the bed side. She looked at it unamused and rolled to her stomach and did the slide-down-on-your-stomach-grasping-the-comforter method. That was two days ago. She has since completely reverted and now refuses to get on the bed or off without help. She seems to have forgot our little talk and that she has, in the past, successfully gotten off the bed herself.
Being stuck is something people and animals alike fear. Whether it is being stuck in a cage or in a dead-end career, we will do just about anything to live in the illusion that the door will one day magically swing open or that next promotion will come unsolicited. Without this illusion, many of us would simply give up and resign to a life of unhappiness or invite death to our door. However, it is this illusion that permits us to become stuck in the first place.
Seventeen years ago, I was held against my will. Time moved very slowly and the only thought that kept my mind present was that the police were going to bust down the door at any moment. I strained to hear the sirens that never came. Once I accepted no one was coming, my soul negotiated its pending departure from this world with one condition, not here in this bed and not without a fight.
The rest of the story is anticlimactic. I simply got off the bed and walked down the stairs, past my captor who was stooped over by the bedroom door, and I left. I survived. The next people to cross the captor’s path were not so lucky. I have no doubt that had I stayed on that bed, convinced that I needed help to get down, I would not be here writing this today.
The feeling of being stuck is a trigger of my PTSD. Whether it is a job, a car, a bad relationship, a long line, whatever horribly annoying thing that involves not being able to move freely, I can make that much worse with my anxiety. But because I am aware of this trigger, I’m able to avoid the stuck feelings with some planning.
For example, I’ve written a resignation letter on my first week of employment at every job I’ve had for the last 17 years. I tell myself that no job will ever define me and that I was looking for a job when I found this one. I give myself permission to jump ship whenever my ethics are violated with the condition that I always speak up first. This has given me the confidence to get myself out of jobs and situations that I get myself into.
Parenthood has introduced to me a new concept; sticky, not stuck. Currently, my domestic duties and children take up more time than I would like to give. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. I know this because I’ve tried every other way. I’m not stuck, I’ve chosen this. But there are days where I feel my identity fades into the loads of laundry, soccer practices, and packed lunches. Somedays I need to be reminded that like my daughter, I can do all sorts of things but sometimes it’s ok just to ask for help when things get a little sticky.
Today, I will remember that I am not stuck in this life even when things feel a little sticky. As long as there is air is in my lungs, I have the ability to change direction.