BALANCE by Amelia Allard
Audio version <a href="http://ripr.org/post/balance" target="_blank">www.ripr.org</a>
The summer I was twenty-three, I went mad.
It was like something out of a textbook. I didn't need to eat or sleep. I didn't need to stop moving. I didn't need to stop talking. I ate nothing but spoonfuls of peanut butter and the occasional apple. I drank nothing but whiskey and hangover-soothing chocolate shakes. I lost thirty pounds in six weeks. I was incredibly productive, turning out story after story, essays, letters and poems. I read dozens of books and dissected them with whoever would listen, however begrudgingly. I spent money like it came pouring from the faucet and I entangled myself in an ill-advised love affair. I was brilliant and talented and vivacious. In my occasional moments of clarity I recognized that something was gravely wrong with me, but those moments were so fleeting and I felt so good, so great, so infallible that it was simple to convince myself that I'd been wrong.
In short: I fell, like Alice down the rabbit-hole, into a manic episode.
I was a melancholy adolescent, a difficult teen; in college, I struggled with depression, I drank to excess, missed classes, slept for days. But there were hints of what was to come: an impulsive proposal, for example, to someone I'd known a few weeks; midnight trips to the grocery store, returning home with bags and bags of food the dining hall would've gladly provided; incredibly ambitious course selections that inevitably ended in C-minuses or dropped classes.
One day in late fall I woke up and realized what damage I'd done to my life. By the following summer, I had a support system, a treatment plan, and, finally, a clear view of life after madness.
It took a long time to learn to live again. To find a way to be happy without mania, to be sad without depression. To be my best self. To be sane.
I believe in balance. In saying no when I need to, yes when I want to, and maybe, too. In sleeping when I am tired, in eating when I am hungry, in moving even when I'd rather not. In working hard and playing hard; in talking things out and thinking things through. In solitude without loneliness; in togetherness without overwhelm. In holding on to the good and letting go of the bad. In consciously, constantly maintaining my balance.
Like Alice, I have been too-large and too-small. I have been to Wonderland; I have nearly lost my head. And like Alice, I have made it back.
And I am stronger and smarter and better for the journey.