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When Balancing Aspects of Life With Mental Illness Feels Like Spinning Plates

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For as long as I can remember, there have been several versions of me stored inside my head. There’s the version of me that I imagined as a child, the one I dreamed I’d become. There’s the version I know my mum and my family want or need me to be. And then, there’s the version that’s most realistic; this one changes as often as the wind does.

One of the hardest things for me to realize in life was that, for one of these versions to exist, the others had to fly away. This wasn’t good enough for me. Ever the perfectionist, I was determined to find a way to bring each version to life, any way I could. It didn’t matter that I was costing myself happiness, and the potential to grow and thrive along any one of these many, many paths. All that mattered was not letting anyone down, not letting myself down, and proving I could conquer the world.

Obviously, this was a fruitless goal. Outside of a dystopian or sci-fi novel, we can’t really have multiple versions of ourselves coexisting in perfect happiness — life doesn’t work that way. What really happens is you make sacrifices, and choose elements of each life in order to create the best possible version of yourself that you can.

And this is where I was failing. You see, instead of working out how to create one single, perfectly good version of myself, I was working hard on creating three, or four, or five perfect versions of myself, and many more good versions. The more I tried, the more the versions splintered, and the more work I created for myself.

The only thing I was succeeding in was spinning plates. Now, spinning plates might seem pretty interesting or exciting at first, but that’s only because we know at one point, those plates have to fall. And the problem usually is that you have no control over which plates end up taking the plunge. So, when those plates represent parts of your life, this balancing act becomes less interesting and more terrifying. Because you never know which aspect will smash to pieces next.

So, what do you do? What can you do? Honestly, I’m still not sure of that myself. So, I’m doing the only thing I can think of — I’m taking down the plates. I’m hitting the reset button, and starting from scratch. Because if there are no plates then there are no competing versions of myself, and if there’s no competition, then I’m free to redefine myself, whomever that may be.

I have no idea if this is the right call, but the thing is: with depression, anxiety, personality disorders… sometimes, there is no right call. Only the call that feels right for you. You’ve got to make the choice that means you can face yourself every day and keep going. The choice that makes you happy and comfortable in your own skin. If that choice looks like the wrong one to someone else, remember: they haven’t seen the view from where you’re sitting yet, so sometimes they just can’t see the reasons something is so right.

There will always be more plates to spin, and there will always be people in the shadows laughing and cheering when those plates drop. Just remember, you are not here for anyone’s entertainment — so take those damn plates down. The show is over; they can go now. The only person you have to answer to is you. My arms are tired and my spinning days are over, because I’ve realized all I need is one perfectly balanced plate.

Getty Images photo via AOosthuizen

Originally published: May 3, 2019
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