Things Get Worse Before They Get Better

I’ve been reflecting lately on how, when we’re trying to make positive changes in our lives, things usually get worse before they get better.

After sleeping poorly for many years, I finally went to a specialist and was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I’m now a few weeks into using a CPAP machine at night, and while I know this will be good for my health in the long run, it’s tough to get used to, and I’ve been an absolute zombie lately. 

I don’t like complaining, because I generally have it pretty good in life, plus I want people to think I’m tough and unfazed by anything. But my wife pointed out that sleep deprivation is a way that militaries torture people to get information out of them, so I feel permission to claim that this adjustment isn’t fun. Things get worse before they get better.

Lot of things are like that. When someone starts using anti-depressants, they can sometimes feel worse as their brain gets used to new elements in their system. When someone begins recovery from substance abuse, withdrawals are often unpleasant. When someone starts exercising more regularly, their muscles get sore. When someone adopts a healthier diet, their body takes to time adjust to having less fat, sugar, or carbs. Things get worse before they get better.

Two of my children are old enough to have their own devices, and for their own good my wife and are instituting time limits and other restrictions around screens, and the kids don’t like it. We’re willing to endure them being mad at us for a bit because we know structure and boundaries will help them grow into functional adults. Things get worse before they get better.

My youngest child is a ball of pure energy, and he knows how to push my buttons. Over the course of this pandemic year, I became more grouchy and less patient with him, so when the new year began I committed myself to being a non-anxious presence when he is going nuts. I spent the first few weeks having to remind myself to take deep breaths and embody the calmer energy I want him to have. It’s still a challenge, but it’s gotten easier. 

Things get worse, but they gradually get better.

I don’t know, dear reader, what challenges your life journey is bringing you right now, but I do know we all struggle as we try to be better. It’s OK to admit adjusting to healthier changes are not fun. It’s OK to ask others for support. 

It’s OK not to be OK.

I’m not OK right now, even though I’m making adjustments that will help me over the rest of my life. And I know some folks reading this are also in that in-between, “not OK” space, too. You’re not alone.

So get some rest. Take some time to do things that restore your spirit. Ask for help. We may not be OK in the moment, but we’ll get there.

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