Don’t Tip the Scales

The Table Tip

It might seem like an odd title for a post, “Don’t Tip the Scales” but, as usual, there is logic to my madness (I know, I know…it’s scarce!)  Before I reveal that, though, I want you to think of the show Total Wipeout.  Do you remember that?  Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina and hosted by Richard Hammond, it was an obstacle course competition where contestants pitted themselves against each other to be crowned the Wipeout Champion.  They’d go through the qualifier, eliminating the out-of-shape or slowest of them.  Next came a second challenge designed to thin out the herd even more.  Then the last three would compete in the epic Wipeout Zone for the title of champion.

I loved it!

Seeing people fail…while it’s not necessarily a nice thing to enjoy, seeing people fall into the pools or muddy pits was actually really funny.  A bit like seeing those people take on Takeshi’s Castle or the American Ninja Warrior challenges.  There’s an odd kick that can be had out of seeing these people, so confident and full of that bravado, trying and failing to beat the course.

One part that I remember from Total Wipeout was the Tippy Table in the Dizzy Dummies run.  A large table that tipped steadily from side to side (at least as far as I remember it), making contestants slide into the pools at either side.  It’s that that I want you to picture.

The Total Wipeout Tippy Table

A Mental Health Tip

Just as the Tippy Table tipped contestants into the water, I find our mental health can tip us as well.  If you have depression and anxiety, as I do, then it’s possible for our mental health to tip like that Tippy Table.  Walking with depression and anxiety is like walking a knife’s edge because one false move or misstep and you’re over the edge.

What do I mean?  Well, I’d like to tell you a little story of something that I’ve experienced.  It’s one of the harder parts of walking with depression and anxiety.  I was sat in my old church in one of the services, participating as I normally would (I was in the brass band, the singing group and so on) and I suddenly felt my anxiety clawing at me.  Yes, I do actually mean clawing at me, because it felt like some ferocious beast trying to suffocate my heart.

I sat there as best I could, trying to fight the demon – yeah, I know, not very religious and holy to have a demon inside of me in church, but that’s how it felt at the time!  Unfortunately, all my best efforts failed and I ended up having to get up and remove myself from that situation.  I found a small, quiet room and barricaded myself in a little so that I could have a moment to attempt to recover.  Seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn’t work.

In the end, I went home.  It was only a five minute walk, round the corner to the block of flats I lived in, but I thought the fresh air and the home environment would have done me some good.  Already, the anxiety was abating and my heart-rate was slowing back down to normal.  I bet you can’t guess what happened next…

Off the Knife-Edge

Imagine for a moment that you are walking on that balance bar.  Cheryl did one recently at Cattle Country when we went on holiday.  We’d stopped off to break up the journey and give the 4-year-old a little bit of respite from the car and Cheryl decided she was going to do the balance beam.  As her weight shifted, the beam went to turn one way so she compensated for it to right herself.  That compensation turned into overcompensation, however, and she fell off the other side instead.

Well, this is what happened to me.  In my attempts to push myself out of my anxiety attack, I pushed myself too far.  Instead of my mood and emotions rising and rising in the uncontrollable bouts of anxiety, they plummeted like a meteor crashing or a spaceship re-entering the atmosphere in free fall.

My mood crashed.

In a matter of half an hour, perhaps even less time, I went from being so anxious that I was bright red from additional blood flow, heart racing, unable to sit still and remain in the situation, to being at rock bottom.  I was feeling nothing.  It was as if I’d just completely severed any kind of emotional link in order to protect myself, much like an electrical device has a fuse to protect itself from too much electricity.

And so it was that I crashed.  Completely and utterly, back to “the cutting room floor”, so to speak.  Yes, I’m attempting to put a humorous spin on it, but that’s one way that I cope.  In pushing myself out of the anxiety attack, I’d sent myself head-first into a depressive spiral that sent me back to self-harm to cope.  It wasn’t something I’d have thought I’d go straight to, but it happened.

A Balancing Act

So, as you can see, having a mental illness is just like a balancing act.  You walk the knife’s edge, trying not to tip yourself one way or the other.  It’s a constant struggle between sink or swim, fight or flight, getting yourself where you need to be with the resources that you have.  If you wonder why someone with depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions is often tired…this is why.

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Author: Alex Davies

Alex Davies is the creator and writer for Pushing Back the Shadows. Find out more about his journey here and connect with him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

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