A perfect life is made up of imperfect days

And success is made up of a bunch of lessons learned from failures.

The screw-ups, break-ups, surgeries, traumas, illnesses, natural disasters, losses, and accidents, are all woven into the tapestry called life. They are not events we want to happen but they do. And the best way to come back after any one of them is to learn and grow from it, not to bury the feelings that go with these experiences. Because if your feelings are covered up and buried, you get stuck in a really raw place for a lot longer than you need to.

This is where we build resilience. By feeling our feelings and learning they won’t kill us if we let them in, reflect on them and then watch them lift because all feelings are temporary.

The day my naivete left for a permanent sabbatical

It was around 2010. I was out running on a mild, overcast day not long after my wisdom tooth was removed in my 40s. The doctor had joked that he had to all but put his foot on my chin in order to remove the impacted molar.

Something was bothering me during my run. What was it? What did I miss?

I had told the doctor I did not want any opiates for pain and that Tylenol and Advil would do. He insisted it would be necessary. I told him I wouldn’t take them. I had, after all, had two brain surgeries, a cranial reconstruction, and surgery before all that at age 15 for a broken neck. This was nothing.

Oxycontin had been prescribed for me after brain surgery number one in 1999 and I’d had horrible dreams and just a really an immediate bad feeling about them. I was so convinced they were bad pills, that for both my second brain surgery and the cranial reconstruction that followed, I had it put on my hospital bracelet in red that I didn’t want that medication and went as far as to say I had an allergy so they wouldn’t give it to me while I was under. Because in early 2000, they did that kind of thing.

My husband was afraid I would be in pain after the wisdom tooth removal since having it done at age 40 is usually more painful. The doctor convinced him to fill the prescription anyway just in case. He had come home and put the medication on the kitchen table and I was furious because I told him I didn’t want it and meant it. I didn’t want that stuff in my house around my children. I thought oxycontin was an evil drug before it was common knowledge that it was. Something didn’t sit right and it did little for my pain. Besides that, I was going out for a run which was hardly what a woman who couldn’t endure some minor tooth pain would be doing. I went upstairs to put on my shoes and I went back through the kitchen on my way out.

Two blocks into my run, I stopped and started gasping for air. Not because I was out of shape but because a tsunami of a revelation hit me in the chest. My naive, safe life had just taken a permanent sabbatical and I knew I’d never see it again.

Everything changed

That medication? It wasn’t on the kitchen table when I had come back through the kitchen.

And somehow I knew where it was and who had taken it. My son, Charles.

For the next five years, our lives were chaos and I was an emotional wreck as I watched my kid self-destruct despite all the barriers we threw up and the help we hired.

I hated what we were going through but I had no choice but to go through it. I was not going to abandon my child. And the experience changed me in so many good ways. Not that I saw that at the time.

Because with each calamity, and there were a lot of them, the initial feeling of shock was always the same but with each experience, recovery happened more quickly. Embracing humility and building resilience weren’t my goals but these character traits were the result.

I learned to pick myself up from the mud, wash off the humiliation, apply a bandage to the hurt, and move forward.

The string of imperfect days stretched out into years

And in that time, my son would be diagnosed with anxiety and depression, become addicted to drugs, and kill himself in 2015.

That five years of agony from 2010 to 2015 looked like a picnic by the ocean with chocolate cake once I lost my son. I never even imagined an ending so horrific or pain so unbearable.

What’s surprising is that as bad as it all was, and it was brutal, it wasn’t all bad. It was hard to see the good things happening around me, and to be grateful for what I did have and I learned to make sure those wonderful moments were savored and tucked away in my memory bank.

I learned to be in the present, to stop projecting and hovering over a future that had not happened. Because even if I predicted everything that did happen, pre-worrying about it has never helped anything.

These are the skills I learned because the desire to find a path forward and thrive again was my bait.

Real life is messy, beautiful, ugly, and then beautiful again.

A perfect life? If you define it by all that we endure then yeah that’s a perfect life. Because the definition of a “perfect life” as being flawless doesn’t exist.

Life has struggles. That doesn’t make life “bad.” Those hard times just make it easier to recognize what’s good.

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked mental health speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational mental health keynotes, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, anxiety, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

4 thoughts on “A perfect life is made up of imperfect days”

  1. Anne Moss, Adam’s Story, just posted on face book a story of sharing and caring from Dr. Sara Azzam, M.D., our Allergy Doctor. During one of our routine visits, I had left a resource packet with Crisis Line numbers and how to know the signs of mental health crisis/suicide. Just a couple days later at the clinic, an individual went into a crisis mode and Dr. Sara was able to use the Johnson County Mental Health Crisis Line number to get help for that individual. On my next visit Dr. Sara and her staff shared this story with me, what a feeling of accomplishment and praise. Sometimes we feel no one gets it! As Adam’s father, I continue to receive more than I can ever give, even when growing weary in well-doing, God knows our hearts and our needs, even in those dark and foreboding days the ones present and to come He is with us, protecting us, using us to fulfil His purpose. From Me to You, You continue to be a friend and blessing.
    Keeping the Faith,

    1. One little mention. One little number. Had HUGE results. And just think of the awareness you built there in your son’s name. You know it’s the start of allergy season and one of the theories is that suicidal thoughts are activated by spring allergies. We don’t know for sure but it’s one of two. Thank you for what you do!

  2. Great read , I feel like I am in the recovery state of 8 years this July since my son left ! How can that be ? I remember the pain back then , I believe I have softened and aware how I have changed for sure , I think of my son every day his birthday is this month he would have been 30 ! How can all of this be?
    Thank you Anne for posting and sharing your thoughts I look forward to learning when I read your post !

    1. Thank you for commenting Wendy. My son’s birthday is also this month, April 26. He would have been 28. My son died 7.5 years ago. It does seem like yesterday and then so long ago at the same time.

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