• Kristina Mulligan

The Coping Mechanism

“You are never given more than you can cope with.”

It’s something I’ve heard many times from many people - friends, family, and others that simply felt like sharing their opinion. I heard it throughout our NICU stay, and even more now as we navigate our way through special needs diagnoses. It’s true, I didn’t know how strong I could be until going through all of this, but I never intended on entering a strength competition. Who decided that my endurance should be the one to test? I’ve asked myself this same question many times, in so many ways. Besides, regardless of the size of your plate and how much is piled onto it, what can you do other than cope?

The world doesn’t stop spinning, you know. No matter how much you have going on at once, no matter how broken your heart is, no matter how much you cried last night, life carries on. People flutter about continuing their everyday routines, just as I must carry on with mine. I still manage to check things off my never-ending to-do list, packing each minute of my days with something. Sometimes it’s work, sometimes it’s doctor’s appointments, sometimes it’s fighting with insurance companies. The point is that it never stops. None of it. At times, the constant motion helps, other times it’s suffocating. All I can ever do is cope.

It has very little to do with strength and nothing to do with endurance, but everything to do with time continuing to pass even though my watch seems to have stopped. Seconds, minutes, hours, and days keep coming even though I ask them to wait for me to catch my breath. Instead, I cope. Not because I haven’t been given more than I can handle, but because I haven't been given a choice.

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