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Why Living Without a Protective Bubble Can Be Both Good and Bad

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My mental illness is like being stuck in a bottomless pit, but because there is so much more complexity to it, my metaphor has evolved over the years.

I had always counted on the bottomless pit metaphor; it does fit fairly well, after all. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression all feel as if I am stuck in a bottomless pit, desperately clinging to the side, hoping I can hang on — hoping someone can hear my screams. There are times I am able to climb my way to the top, and even make it out entirely. However, I can never get very far away from the pit; it’s always there, as is the ever-present fear I will fall back in at any moment. There are times in which I am so tired of holding on I consider just letting go, giving up and letting the pit take me. The bottom is most likely death.

I’ve managed my life with mental illness quite well, especially given the fact I have ended up with new diagnoses added on over the years: addiction, self-harm and an eating disorder. As you can imagine, this is a lot for one person to handle. I still keep the bottomless pit metaphor but as my illnesses have added up, so has my need to find a more fitting way to clearly describe how it feels to live with multiple mental illnesses.

When explaining my mental illnesses, I compare my life to living in a world in which everyone else has a protective bubble surrounding them, shielding them from all of the sadness, fear, and hopelessness in the world. They go about their daily lives without seeing, hearing or feeling any of these things. For me, however, I do not have this protective bubble. Everything gets in and hits me hard, penetrating my heart and soul. I cry at things most people wouldn’t even bat an eye at. My heart literally aches from the suffering I see and feel every day. As you can imagine, this only increases my mental health issues, causing extreme anxiety and depression. PTSD triggers are around every corner, making it more challenging to stay away from my unhealthy coping mechanisms (drugs, food restriction and self-injury). It’s a constant, daily battle.

However, I see a silver lining in missing my protective bubble, as it also allows me the opportunity to see the beauty that surrounds me. I think those who have that protective bubble may be missing out on the things I am able to see, hear and feel that make my life worth living. The smell of rain, the touch of the bark on a tree, the intricacy of moss, the vibrant colors of nature, the calming touch of my dogs, the sun shining in just the right way to amplify the light spreading across a deep blue sky. I am extremely sensitive to all of the bad and all of the good.

I can’t deny there are dangers in living near a bottomless pit without any kind of protection. It’s scary and unpredictable and I must stay mindful of how I manage my health every day. I also can’t deny there are benefits. I know that pit is always there, so I take extra care of myself to be sure I don’t get too close. Taking care of myself in healthy ways increases my ability to protect myself. My lack of a protective bubble allows me the opportunity to experience beauty despite the sadness and fear, and that is something I am immensely grateful for.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Unsplash photo via Aaron Burden

Originally published: April 19, 2017
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