I’ve often described my moods as “precarious.” I am forever teetering on the edge. I am always as the word is defined: likely to fall or collapse, not securely held in position, dangerous. One wrong thought, one random situational annoyance, one person who treats me unkindly…and I may very well be pushed off the ledge where I am forever perched.
The cliff on which I sit, then, can be thought of as a kind of precipice: a very steep rock face, especially a tall one. It is a hazardous circumstance. It is being close to potential disaster. And the precipice is where I spend most of my time.
A precipice isn’t inherently negative, I don’t think; being on the precipice of change is often a good place to be, but the word ‘change’ is the qualifier that matters here. It’s the key factor in displaying that the precipice isn’t necessarily always terrible.
I guess what I’m saying, or asking, or trying to figure out is: must a precipice be precarious? Say that three times fast. But really…
I read a poem recently, and it was titled “The Precipice.” It’s author describes her troubled state, detailing how rescue from it is unlikely. Her situation is overwhelming and frightening. But she then comes back with a counter-thought, explaining that she is “a girl with a street education in disaster management and talking [herself] off a ledge.” I’m not certain the author feels particularly confident, as she ends the poem with “something’s gotta give before I do,” but I interpret this work in my own way. I heard a message in these words, and it’s one that I find useful.
Constantly talking yourself down, using conscious energy in nearly every moment to manage the dangers of imminent disaster, is first and foremost a major accomplishment. I also believe it’s something that gets easier over time. Working on calming down or dealing with chaos, it must change your brain connections, right? Neuroplasticity is a thing. It’s like positive self-talk, it is powerful. It’s like working out a muscle, it gets stronger with repetitive use (although it’s probably important to keep in mind that rest is a necessary part of building muscle appropriately).
My next thought is somewhat pessimistic. In my life, with my bipolar disorder, I’ve learned that the longer you go while experiencing episodes, the more extreme they get. I’ve read about it. I’ve experienced it, witnessed it. It’s been proven to me. So, I’m left to wonder, will the logic I explained earlier even apply? Is it true that the higher you go the harder you fall?
The optimistic counter argument is an idea I’ve felt to be true since I hit rock bottom at age 17, when I very nearly gave up the fight against the eating disorder that had me in a choke-hold. I was rescued and subsequently worked hard to get better, and I succeeded, and I internalized the notion that we need to hit an ultimate low in order to trampoline back up. We need to fall, kinetic energy turning into potential energy, to be allowed to bounce back up.
Which perspective is better? The latter is obviously more helpful. But maybe the former can be useful still, so long as you use it as motivation. If I use the facts I learned about bipolar disorder’s progression, if I let it fuel my fire, maybe I’ll end the dramatic episodes, or at least improve them, and I won’t see myself descend further into it.