I’M LOOKING FOR BALANCE, TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WHERE THE STATE OF EQUILIBRIUM LIES BETWEEN ACCEPTANCE AND PERSEVERANCE. Three months ago, when I surrendered to another depressive breakdown, I was forced to accept my limitations. As a man, that is generally not a viable option. Acceptance of limitations, for a man (and I can only speak from the male perspective), is tantamount to failure and subjugation. When a man acknowledges his limitations, the world becomes a fearful place, where he must go into hiding or face the prospect of domination and humiliation.
We are naturally competitive beings. It appears to have been genetically encoded and plays out all across the male world. From the falsely benign question, “What do you do?,” to the gladiatorial trials of athletics and combat, men live in a world of hierarchy. Our competitive predispositions are probably related to survival in some primitive sense, but they become a punishment for those men who are saddled with a mental illness.
I have said time and again that those of us who endure a life of mental illness are on a heroic journey. And I believe this. It is heroic to face off with a Goliath-like foe, and depression and its armies are nothing short of a Goliath. It is heroic to go into battle, knowing that the chances of total success are slim. Soldiers come home to parades and accolades because their heroism is on display for all the world to see (Although this has not always happened, as in the case of our Vietnam veterans who never received the hero’s welcome they deserved). But the war of mental illness is unseen. To be sure, there are signs of the battle within, but these outward symptoms do not illicit admiration, but alienation. After all, who wants to be around a person who appears sad, negative, disoriented, or angry? As one of the depressed, I must admit that even I choose to avoid people like that, like me.
So where is the balance? I’ve found that pushing too hard to compete with the mentally healthy leads to a crash. But, to continue the sports metaphor, stepping out of the game or off the track, also doesn’t appear to be the answer. I’ve come to the hard conclusion that my old way of living is no longer viable. I no longer have the capacity perform in the same way or to tolerate my previous levels of daily stress. What a difficult thing to admit! But yes, I am weaker than I once was.
However, like my companions, fellow soldiers, in the battle against mental illness, I am no quitter. While I may not yet know what I can achieve professionally and personally, I know that I will strive. I will. Although war is never a preferable option, when the rubble is cleared, often a new world arises. This is my hope. That the internal war against a foe that strives for total dictatorship, might be won. And that through this process, a new life of authenticity and fulfillment will arise, as always, one day at a time.
May you and I find balance in our lives.
Thanks for reading and have a great day.
~The Bellowing Angels (TBA)