“I feel like something is missing from my life, maybe it’s time for a change…”
This is a VERY common phrase my husband is tired of hearing. I’ll bet, as I wrote that sentence, he compulsively put his head in his hands and doesn’t know why. In fact, it’s a phrase that’s probably more common than my wailing of “Ugh, I’m soooo boooorrreeeddd” or “Whats for *insert meal time here*?”
No, that was a joke, there’s not much I say more than those two, I promise you that.
But in a conversation the other day, I told my husband I don’t get why I keep feeling like this. Life is going pretty well for me right now. I have a good, steady job; I’m in the process of creating a from home bakery; I have a fairly decent social life; so whats the deal? Why am I feeling like I need to shake it up?
The first thing I always go to is my job. Maybe it’s my job that needs changing, but it’s not the job, the job is fine. Then it’s a new hobby or activity. I ask myself, maybe I should start going to the gym, or take up yoga? But it’s not the hobby because I get bored so quickly of it that it’s not worth the invested effort. Then I think, maybe it’s time I change up my hair style or color my hair again, but I know it’s a short lived feeling and that’s the wrong reason to do it.
So what’s the deal?
When I look back on my life, I’m constantly hopping from one activity, one job, one ANYTHING to the other. I’ve always known I have a short attention span for anything I deem redundant and too easy, but I’ve yet to figure out why that is. Unfortunately, anything becomes redundant and easy after a while, so with this mindset, nothing will ever fully satisfy my need for a structured, yet constantly evolving, life.
But I digress… So, I’m mid-ramble when my husband kindly interrupts me with the reminder I needed: “Do you think it’s possible this is related to your inability to be comfortable in calm, routine settings?”
Y’all should have seen my face.
Of course it is, why didn’t I think of this before? In fact, this is a common topic of discussion with my therapist. He explained it to me that people who have had a chaotic life typically struggle with being in a place of calm. Typically, this encompasses people that have: grown up in families that are toxic, people who have been in toxic relationships, have spent a lot of time in jail, or even people who have spent most of their lives in a constant state of anxiety/panic; but it’s pretty open ended to any degree of chaos you feel has greatly impacted your life.
His reasoning is that our bodies become accustomed to living with this unhealthy level of chaos. We learn how to function normally, all while feeling constantly scared, worried, or dodging metaphorical bullets, and at the time that was totally needed; learning to adapt to less than ideal situations is fight or flight in action.
However, when that threat is no longer a constant in our lives, it’s like our brain never got the memo. So, it in turns leads to this nagging feeling that something is missing, that something is wrong with us, or that something is wrong in our lives. When in reality, our brains are just trying to default us back to what we’re used to, even if that something is unhealthy.
This means that we now create chaos, whether consciously or unconsciously, to satisfy the need. This can be by starting fights with our significant others, job hopping to keep things constantly changing, finding drama or creating drama for the sake of feeling the rush, ending up in an abusive relationship after just getting out of one, and many, many others.
Something I’ve noticed in myself recently is that while I know how drained I’ll feel, when I’m dealing with drama or something that is, well, chaotic, I get excited. I feel myself perk up, get almost a rush of adrenaline from the idea that this is happening. Not only does that make me genuinely feel like a horrible human being (depending on what the chaos or drama is), but I think it speaks to this unconscious desire to place myself back into the conditions that bred me to be who I am today. I don’t try to create it (sometimes it happens though), but I do find myself gravitating towards problems, drama and chaos in other peoples lives.
Even more so than that, I’ve struggled with this idea that for some reason, despite all my best efforts, it seems as if my mental health isn’t getting better. My therapist and I just seem to keep finding issue after issue, and this cycle is constantly re-immersing me back into the predictably unpredictable nature of mental health. I hate it, yet I’ve noticed that there’s a part of me that feels so empty without; and I almost feel most at ease when it’s around.
It’s not normal to want to thrive on chaos, let alone feel good and most yourself when it’s happening. So I turned to trusty and all knowing Google and asked if it’s possible to be addicted to chaos. I actually first heard this from RuPaul’s Drag Race, when RuPaul is talking to Katya about how she could very well be addicted to anxiety, considering her past history with addiction to drugs and alcohol.
What wasn’t surprising about my search is that there isn’t much in the way of research on addiction to chaos and anxiety, but the few articles I did find were eye opening.
I actually found an article from Recovery.org that I feel like completely changed my world. It was the first time in my life I had an actual “mind blown” response that was more physical than mental. No really, I actually literally exclaimed my favorite profanity (any guesses which one that is?) and leaned my head backwards in my chair as I felt a wave of “Holy crap this is me” crash down over my body.
If I were to pull out the prominent aspects of the article, I’d be in trouble for blatant plagerizing, but what I will do is share with you the one quote that I feel resonated with me the most:
“Continuous chaos can also be normalized over time as home environments with these characteristics come to solidify themselves as predictably unpredictable. A person being raised in an environment with these characteristics also learns how to control the chaos so that it can become manageable and functional within their lives (the notion of ‘control’ is a prominent factor in this regard). Moving forward in life, that individual’s viewpoint of the world is altered in accommodation of dysfunction and their ‘wires’ become crossed: what is chaotic is viewed as normal, and what is supposed to be normal becomes chaotic and overwhelming within their perspective.”
Could this idea of being addicted to chaos be the root of all my issues? Am I just incapable of letting go of what keeps me on my toes because, deep down, I actually feel like I thrive in that environment and without mental health I’ll be in the ultimate state of normalcy?
I know better than to self diagnose, but based on what my therapist has already mentioned and what I have found through the internet, it honestly wouldn’t surprise me. He never used the phrase “addicted to chaos” but he’s told me that people who have grown up in chaos tend to unconsciously create it to give themselves a sense of peace. I shouldn’t label myself, but it feels good to know there’s someone out there just like me, struggling to maintain a sense of calm because they feel like they need chaos to survive.
Anyways, I highly encourage all of you to read Recovery.org’s article on chaos addiction. I think if anything, it’s going to help educate others on something that I think many experience but don’t know how to put into words.
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