Dictionary.com defines balance as an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady or also defined as keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall.
This makes me think. How much balance have I had in my life? Have I been able to remain upright and steady, in a position where I am not falling? Sadly, the answer is no, no I have not had balance in my life. It also makes me think about how hard it is to achieve balance. The tight rope walkers make it look so easy… arms stretched out to either side creating a “plus” shape to the body… slow, carefully planned steps, placed on the rope and before you know it they have made their way successfully across the rope.
When you have mental illness, it can be challenging to find balance in your life. With so much out of your control, how can you achieve balance? I know that I have struggled for years to maintain balance. As far back as I can remember, I was either up or down, running around like crazy, taking on far more than any human could possibly handle or dead on my feet and horizontal for days at a time. There was no grace or fluidity, just ruggedness and inconsistency.
Recently, we have been working to tweak my treatment to relieve the symptoms that cause me to suffer. This is not just changes to medication, but is comprehensive and includes sleep, diet, exercise, school, work and relationships. As I make slight changes to one portion of my life, it directly affects another, and I feel like I am completely overwhelmed with all sorts of change at once, even if the changes are small and feel like I lack any balance at all.
In addition to having balance with mental health, there is the aspect of balance in life itself. I have been pursuing my college degree for fifteen years at this point. I have either been in school or dropping out of school because life was just too much. Until recently there was never a good balance of maintaining a career with school. Since relocating in 2009, I have been in a relationship with a man who has two children from his first marriage. This was another area where I struggled to have balance. How much do I give? Where are the boundary lines? How much time do we spent as a family and how much time do we spend as a couple? Can I handle not being the number one priority and center of attention?
And then you mix it altogether: Having a mental illness, being a college student, having a career, being a step mom and a spouse. At this point everything gets a bit dicey. If you pull too far in one direction, you neglect another, and this could cause astronomical consequences.
But, when I take a step back and use the wide-angle lens, I can see that the slight changes that I have been making are ultimately creating balance. I have a job that provides me with flexibility, so I can get the help I need to keep my mental and physical health in check. Although I have some stressful days, the stress is nothing compared to what I used to endure. My job also allows me to see my kids every afternoon and spend excellent quality time with them. The dynamic of my job enables me to be a part time student and work towards my degree, which has been a goal that I have had for 20 years. The balance I have during the day, allows me to be the type of a spouse and mother that I want to be. I also have the time to work on my studies and achieve adequate exercise to maintain a healthy body.
I am in a place where I still would like more balance in my life, but I am the most balanced I have ever been. And for this, I have joy. It’s taken many years, a ton of sacrifices and an enormous amount of loss, but I will force myself to focus on the positive, and the biggest positive is that I do have balance, and I am having success in my life as result of the balance that I have worked so hard to achieve.
Photo credit: Trapeze walker at Circus Girl University of Florida, March 1952. Photo from Life magazine