Earlier today, I found myself in a bit of a predicament. I was driving & the driver in front of me slammed on their brakes. My instincts told me to slam on my own brakes to avoid rear-ending them. But…one of the first things I learned about driving was to avoid slamming on my brakes. It’s bad for the car, after all.
So there I was, tough decision to be made. In the end, I decided just to hit the car in front of me. I had to get my brake pads replaced once before & it was pretty expensive so I wanted to avoid having to do it again.
The problem, however, is that now my car is totaled, as is the car I hit & the car they hit. So it actually works out to be a bit more expensive than it would have been to just get my brakes replaced ahead of schedule.
Did this actually happen? Of course not. Maybe some of you have synapses that fire quickly enough to have internal dialogues like that, but mine don’t work like that. My instincts said SLAM ON THE BRAKES & my foot stomped down.
So why are we talking about it? Because I love metaphors about mental health & this is one of my new favorites.
We need to recognize that there’s a difference between ordinary behavior (not regularly slamming on the brakes) and situations that call for out-of-the-ordinary responses (slamming on the brakes to avoid an accident).
Not sure what I mean? Here’s an example: ordinarily, it’s great to have a job with retirement benefits. However, if the thought of going to your responsible job for one more day has you itching to put a gun in your mouth, maybe it’s time to focus a little less on saving for retirement & a little more on making it to retirement.
Forever? Nope. But for a bit.
The problem doesn’t have to be your job & suicidal urges. Maybe you’re a parent who needs treatment, but doesn’t want to leave your kids. It can be your hometown & your raging alcoholism, your relationships & your PTSD. Fill in the blank with what’s applicable to you.
Because here’s the thing: when we override our instincts to change situations that are keeping us sick, when we think that toughing it out is the responsible course of action, we’re making an even worse decision than hitting the car in front of us to extend the life of our brakes. We’re creating massive pile ups in our lives, fostering legacies of suffering that ripple outward onto generations that aren’t even born yet.
If you need help, get it. Today. It’s not selfish. It’s responsible.