I am a chaos junky in recovery.
I love a busy schedule. One of those schedules that makes you feel like it may not be possible to get it all done, but somehow you always do. I thrive in those conditions. Lately, I’ve been exploring why I am that kind of person. Turns out I’m addicted to a life that is chaotic, and chaos creates stress.
Most of us have read blogs or seen posts on social media about stress management, and they honestly just make my eyes roll. It’s a lot of information about deep-breathing or grounding techniques, which simply does not work for me. I recently read a post from VeryWellMind that touched on the life events consistently ranking at the top (1) Death of a loved one; (2) Divorce and (3) Moving.
I have been touched by all of these events, but number three is a showstopper in my life story, because my father worked for the railroad. He’s from Mississippi, but when he met my mother, he moved to North Carolina and they started their lives together in a sweet little town called Bethel about 30 minutes outside of Asheville. That’s when he started with Norfolk Southern. When you think of careers that relocate frequently, the first one to everyone’s mind is the military —but a career in the railroad will move a family just as much.
My first move was at seven years old from Bethel to Cincinnati. I don’t articulate it in terms of being terribly stressful for me, but I know it was chaotic for my family. Think about it, the slow-paced, Appalachian lifestyle of Bethel to the major metropolis of Ohio. With move number one under my belt, I thought doing it again would be a snap. But as the years when on, the chaos took its toll. I would go on to do eight more moves with my family, spanning from Toledo to Atlanta to Hattiesburg. In addition, I packed it up again for college and law school. I developed a lot of great coping mechanisms that are useful from the relocations, but chaos and the stress that comes with new environments became my best friend.
I am reflecting on my life a good bit lately, now that I have joined the R+E team, and hope to have found my permanent home. Thinking back, because I was constantly moving, I became accustomed to a certain threshold of chaos. It became what was familiar. I craved it, and when I did not have it, I created it.
When you exist in chaos every day, the pressure and uncertainty become the norm, and you can hardly remember what life looks like without it. When the stress is not present, there is a feeling of being unsettled and on edge. For me, I would look for ways to make my new life look like my old life.
I was addicted.
I would get my hit mostly from overworking myself until I snapped. For some people, the hit may come from toxic relationships, substance abuse, procrastination, impulsive spending, or over exercising. The list goes on and on, but people pick something that makes life feel messier just because they are used to the mess. When you are forced (or choose) to live in chaos, it becomes like oxygen. Without it, the world is not right. But overtime, your body breaks down. But as the book title suggests, the body always keeps the score.
The chaos and stress that come from number two on the list, divorce, is similar. Someone who finds themselves in a divorce attorney’s office has been experiencing a constant, high level of stress for years. Sometimes they do not even realize the level of stress they are under until they are in our office and verbalizing their life experience. There is something powerful about telling another human being something you have only internalized. When our clients begin to put into words what life feels like behind closed doors, the dots start to connect. Although chaos once was the fuel for their life’s energy, they now long for rest. It takes some people years to realize it is time for a change. It’s funny how our nervous system will choose a familiar hell over an unfamiliar heaven repeatedly. Some people come for the initial consultation and never come back, choosing familiar over unfamiliar major life change. They sadly repeat old, unhealthy patterns out of familiarity. Sometimes, however, we get to watch a person choose themselves, their real self, for the first time in a long time. It is amazing to watch someone choose joy over chaos. Life over death. Health and wellness over familiar.
Life in chaos requires a suit of armor. Obviously, the divorce process is not filled with unicorns and rainbows, but nothing worthwhile is easy.
A divorce is simply the season of time between chaos and freedom.
When you start navigating that space, your true self starts slowly (but surely) making its reappearance —finding what was lost when chaos became your everyday reality. Paving a new path will lift the curtain on who you were before stress became your familiar companion.
Maybe you are dealing with narcissistic manipulation, infidelity, alcoholism, physical abuse, or some other behavior that produces chaos. Don’t let chaos be a placeholder for peace. Other people notice when someone’s fight or flight is always activated. Kick stress to the curb, and cope with the lack of chaos in a healthy way, because you deserve to live a life uninhibited and full of repose.
Mandalin Blanton is an outstanding R+E law clerk from Mississippi College. She is a high achieving student with a competitive edge, whose family has worked in and around social services her entire life, making her a great fit for family law. She moved a lot before she found her home in the great state of Mississippi, studying Psychology at MSU. Her growing experience in family law, coupled with her integrity and adaptability, make her eager to assist you regardless the chaos of your circumstances.