i read a book years ago in which the author used the term “balanced” to refer to a character who was poised at the edge of a mental breakdown. i’ve always considered it a remarkably appropriate term.
i’ve been balanced for weeks now. i feel like i’m on the edge of a knife blade, hovering over a pit, and the slightest misstep will send me tumbling. it’s a rather frightful way to live.
i know what it’s like in the pit. i’ve been there before, many times. each time you fall, the climb out seems a little bit harder. each time you fall, the climb out seems a little more pointless. why bother, since you’ll only end up back in the bottom. this is the true danger of depression. the despair.
i tripped a few weeks back. when i’m balanced, it doesn’t take much to knock me down. it was a small thing that did it. a picture of myself, taken at a pre-christmas dinner with friends. i’d enjoyed myself, actually. i’d stayed present, mostly, and held off the negative self-talk, for a large part of the time.
i avoid seeing pictures of myself as often as i can. they are depressing. they have a nasty habit of punching me in the face with reality.
there are consequences to mental illnesses, visible and invisible. years of an eating disorder have left me somewhat teeth impaired, and that gives my cheeks a sunken look. years of a facial self-mutilation tick have left me with significant facial scaring and several areas paralyzed by nerve damage, leading to a rather skewed smile that twists the mutilated tissues oddly.
i forget about these things, mostly. that is, i work hard to. i stay away from pictures. i try not to obsess over my image in the mirror. i remind myself that i’m alive. i remind myself that the left-over damage isn’t in my control. i can’t fix or change it. i try to let thinking about it go. things that aren’t in our control should be beyond our concern, to paraphrase a quote that i repeat often. i thought i was getting to a place of acceptance until, wham! a reminder on social media of the damage those years have wrought.
the day i saw the photo was a complete loss. i fell hard; just tumbled on down. i spent most of that day crying or hiding in my bed, unable to face getting up. devastated by the indelible proof of the consequences of my behaviour, full of self-condemnation, and unable to face doing the various things one does to try and level out again. i’m good at taking my meds, but less good at the non-pill things that could help me up when i stumble – exercise, writing, meditation, reaching out.
still, over the next week, i worked my way back up to the edge of the knife. i’m out of the most recent hole. luckily, i didn’t fall too far. i’m still balanced though, still poised on the edge of collapse and i can’t quite figure out what to do about it. i’m afraid to choose and action lest it be wrong and instead sink me.
i’m afraid to leave the house, to change my routine, to do anything out of the ordinary. problematic when we are poised on the edge of a new year, and friends and family are clamouring for my attendance at gatherings both formal and festive.
i can’t decide what to do. stay home and risk being lonely? go out and risk the same, or worse? drink if i go out, to quell any social anxiety and risk the depressed consequences of that, or go out and stay sober and thus feel out of sorts and wrong?
i want someone else to make these choices for me, and i want someone else to take on the consequences. my gut says “stay” but i haven’t trusted my gut in some time. it lies too. life holed up in a safe little cell is lonely.
photo credit: ThoughtCo.
(december 31, 2017)