A dance to the edge

A good friend recently mentioned that she felt like she was going to fall, and fall deeply.  Part of her was expecting, and almost wanting the fall to happen.  Thankfully, her fall hasn’t happened, and I hope it doesn’t; but what she describes is a feeling I know all to well.  It’s like standing on an edge, waiting for that last push to send you over into a mental health free-fall.  The scary bit about standing there, is that you have an awareness about where you are.  You know that one more negative thing is going to push you over, and part of you wishes that it would come so that it’s over with; but another part of you hopes that you can still claw your way back to safer ground.  It becomes a tug of war between different parts of you…  This alone is so tiring that it can be enough to tip you over…

I know I’m also moving closer to the edge.  The stressors in my life have kicked into high gear and I can feel the pressure building.  At the moment, I’m far enough away to know that I’m in danger without being too close to it.  A part of me niggles that I’m thinking myself into moving towards the edge – why do I think of my ex-husband, why worry about the ACC assessments etc.  But the rational part of my brain knows that I’m experiencing PTSD flashbacks and my worry is justified based on past assessments.  This is the beginning of the tug of war that intensifies over time.  Soon other issues will come in to muddy the waters – denial, and a need for validation have already started to appear.  All of this increases my anxiety levels.  I’ve experienced this often enough in the last few years to notice the pattern…  It becomes like a dance, to and fro… ever closer to the edge…

The problem becomes, how do you stop the dance?  If I called a crisis line, they would take me through the individual stressors I am facing and encourage me to break them down into solvable chunks.  This would work for some of the issues I’m facing, but they can’t help with the PTSD symptoms.  I saw Jo today, and she was recommending trying to ground in the present, and while I agree with her reasoning, I also know that I can be very grounded in 2010 and still keep on dancing towards the edge.  Some of the grounding work can make the situation worse – repeating “it’s the 26th of January, 2010 and they are just memories” can morph into a denial statement about the memories all being made up.  The most effective way of keeping the anxiety at bay is to consciously breathe deeply – this also tends to by one of the first things I forget to do.  Like many survivors who experience anxiety, I have a form of hyperventilation syndrome, with my breathing being short and shallow.  It takes a conscious effort to alter my breathing pattern to a healthier depth and pace.  Changing my breathing will temporarily ease the anxiety, but often this isn’t enough to stop the dance towards the edge.  I’m not always sure what moves me away from the edge, I think this time it will be the formal dissolution of my marriage and completing the ACC assessment.  If this is the case, I’ve got about another three weeks of doing the dance around the edge.  I don’t think I’ll fall, but a part of me thinks I will…  A part of me wants to fall, because they think that this is what I deserve…

And so the dance continues…

Now playing: The Feelers – Stand Up
via FoxyTunes


10 thoughts on “A dance to the edge

  1. I do understand the “dance”. Unfortunately, when we cannot do a lot about the real life stressors, I think all we can do is find some way to soothe and ground.

    I keep coming back to Kate’s resources page at:


    It’s a really really good page.

    I have had people suggest to keep an index card in your pocket to remind yourself to breathe. I actually keep a list of comfort words in my pocket that my therapist wrote for me. Sometimes just taking the time to look at those words, takes the attention off of what’s going on just for long enough to give you the relief you need to keep going.

    Sometimes, it’s about keeping going, even when it seems hopeless. And this, to me, is the worst… I am reminded of your post with the “computer reset” graphic. I have for many years hoped there would be an off button. Remember like Commander Data in Star Trek? Unfortunately our off button means staying in bed for days and then that leads to depression and a different set of problems.

    The best thing I can say is probably that I hear what you are saying… and feel for what you are going through.


    • Thank you Paul…

      I know that we’re heading towards the edge. I’m seeing Liz this afternoon, so hopefully we can come up with some different strategies to help me get through the next few weeks. I’ll check out Kate’s page again, I remember looking at it when it was first published, but often when I’m like this I forget about the different options available to me.

      Take care,

  2. I’m sorry you are going through this dance and are at standing so near the edge. I lived in that space for a very long time. This is what helped me, I would call a hotline or someone I could talk to about one of the problems and work on that. It helped so much for me to just have one less thing and then I didn’t feel as though the next thing would tip me over. And the things that I chose to work on weren’t the abuse memories or aftereffects. It helped me a lot. Sometimes the solution is to take it all on at once and that was not workable or doable for me. You deserve to be able to step back from the edge. You all deserve that. Good and healing thoughts to you.


    • Thank you Kate… I know what you mean about tackling one problem at a time. Sometimes doing something practical can help ease the other issues. At the moment I’m taking it a moment at the time…

      Take care,

  3. I have struggled with an eating disorder for well over three decades. I don’t remember when I began referring to anorexia as “My Dragon”, but I’ve called her that for as long as I can remember. (And yes I said “her,” but that’s entirely another issue!) Anyway, I’ve always felt that our relationship began with an embrace ~ and then we began to dance. I’ve been dancing with The Dragon for over thirty years. I think anyone who has struggled with an ED experiences those times when they feel they have danced to the brink of the cliff of death. The Dragon brings me right to the edge of the ledge ~ close enough to look down into the abyss that holds the hay and stubble of my life. Just one small spin or step will send me careening down…down…down…. Sometimes the Dragon allows me to dance away from the edge. As The Dragon watches me tap dance away I always call over my shoulder, “I’m never coming back.” Those are the times ~ always brief ~ when my life is about love and people and not food. But just when the word “recover” eases itself into my thoughts, the speed of the dance increases and, once again, we’re waltzing closer …and closer…and closer to the ledge once more. The Dragon knows this is a dance marathon and every eye will be on us as we tango our way back to the edge. I’ve lost track of the number of times these dance moves have been repeated over and over again.

    I had never considered how well the dance analogy applies to our mental health issues. I’ve always used roller coasters and merry go rounds to make comparisons to try to get people to understand about my depression and other “emotional issues.” (I hang out with people who like to use softer, gentler words instead of the accurate “icky” ones). You’ve been through this part of the dance well enough that you could be the instructor. Saying you don’t think you’ll fall is such a positive step ~ you know what’s coming, what you need, when you’ll need it. You’ve taught yourself how to breathe. You know this dance routine. Just remember to wear shoes with good ankle support and don’t text and walk at the same time. You won’t fall!

    How do we stop the dance? I have taken some drastic steps in a few areas and not only have I stopped dancing, but the party is over. (Examples of drastic: resigning from a job I loved, cutting my entire birth family out of my life.) In other areas I’m doing better…some areas not so good. The areas I’ve improved in give me the encouragement I need to keep trying to “fix” me.

    I wanted to let you know that this is the mary that commented to you about your Polyvore collages. I needed to change my username for the protection of my children. I discovered that there is another “mary” who visits many of the same sites, forums and blogs that I do, is a child abuse survivor as I am, and writes poetry about her experiences as I do. If they find her, it’s just a skip away from them discovering me. I can’t take that risk.

    ~ Cookie

    • Hi Cookie,

      I’m glad you have the strength and knowledge to protect yourself and your children…

      I have food issues, but not an eating disorder, so I don’t know the extent of the pain or all of the issues that go along with an ED; but I get a sense from your words that I can understand the constant struggle that you go through. I’m sorry that your dragon keeps taking you closer to the abyss… I’m sorry that this post describes some of your struggle… It really is an awful place to be in, no matter how often you’ve been there before. Each time brings a new set of issues and problems. It feels like a dance, but this could be my early years in ballroom dancing speaking 🙂

      You write so well, I’m glad you have the outlet of poetry to help you through this journey…

      Take care,

  4. I dunno what to say.
    Sorry bout that it so bad.
    Sometimes stuff seems so…inevitable. Sometimes overwhelm. Sometimes just too much noise.
    I not so smart, but I dunno, but maybe somes your others want to be heard?
    Cuz I dunno, but that what my T is trying to help me listen to them and not shove them away and treat them bad, cuz that what I done alot.
    They hurting inside, somes hurting and maybe somes can help them upset ones some and then they can be better some?
    I can feel sad for other peoples lils but not my own.
    I hope you can feel better some.
    I say hi and maybe them scared and sad ones can come and play in my safe place w/somes my lils.
    But maybe you think I weird 😦
    I sorry.
    I just dunno much but I want you to feel better cuz I like your words and stuff.
    And i feel sad for your lils and wished they could play.

    • Hi Ones,

      The young ones are all hiding. We’re ok with this, as this will keep them safe while all the negativity is happening.

      I do have a habit of shoving parts down, this is what the denial and the validation issues are about. We’re trying to work our way through this time. We keep on thinking that we’ve been here before, so we can get through it.

      Thank you for you comment…
      Take care,

  5. I’m sorry I’m so late coming to your post. I also know the dance, and the teetering on the edge. There’s a lot in your life that’s pulling you closer, but know there’s also a lot pulling you back here, like your friends here (me included!)

    Please hang in there. As one of those who’s been to the edge, and back again, I know it’s possible. It’s not easy, but I know you can do it. You are so strong. Sometimes it really is just about putting one foot in front of the other and, when you can, biting off small bits of the elephant. Whatever you do, don’t try to eat it all at once as that is a sure recipe for falling!


    • Hi Kerro,

      There’s no need to apologise 🙂

      We’re trying to stay positive and think our way around the big issues. It was a rough long weekend, but we got through… Thank you for being there…

      Take care,

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