Learning to Balance on Shaky Ground
By Jenna Spowart
When I think back to my first few months in eating disorder recovery at Woodstone Residence (now the Looking Glass Residence), I recall being overwhelmed by the intensity and unfamiliarity of my new routine. Stepping into treatment felt like I was an unarmed and untrained soldier going into battle for the first time. Recovery was a world of mystery, and I was very afraid. I took my cues from other residents through conversation as we shared our victories, gratitude, and our pain. Before long, I began to notice a theme within our conversations. There were certain words that seemed to be used over and over again as the others spoke about their journeys. One of these words was ‘balance’. Many spoke about the importance of balance within the process of recovery. Although I was no expert, it seemed to me that the solution to my pain could not possibly lie within this cliché concept of balance. Still, I adopted balance into my vocabulary and pretended I could identify with it. In reality though, I longed for answers with depth, and balance seemed superficial.
In treatment I thought that finding balance meant promised success. I thought that if I could follow a specific routine, then I could excel in recovery. In the past five years, my understanding of balance has been constantly evolving. Balance looks different in every season, for every person. It is about identifying my own needs and emotions, as well as my health, responsibilities, strengths, and limitations in any given season. Balance is taking the details of life into consideration, and walking in recovery despite it all. It is indeed an important piece within recovery, but I believe we need to talk about it in such a way that facilities an understanding of its complexity.
This topic is on my heart right now, because for the past few months I have been searching for balance. I have entered into an unfamiliar season of life, and with it came crippling depression. Many days I have struggled to get myself out of bed, to work, and to be civil around other human beings. I have been angry. I am angry at everyone, about everything. When I am at home, you will most often find me curled up in bed. I have been quick to judge myself, and considered this routine to be anything but balanced. But still, the concept of balance has seemed like a topic I ought to pursue.
Balance is taking the details of life into consideration, and walking in recovery despite it all.
In my pondering, I have come to recognize that in our society, balance wears a superficial mask. There are many idealized images of what balance is, and how it looks. Personally, I can get pulled into the trap of scrolling through my Instagram feed and concluding that if only I did more yoga, or lived an unconventional life in a cool van, then I would find balance. But we all know that’s not true. As I’ve been battling through this bout of depression, the typical question “how can I find more balance in my life?” has been replaced with “what does balance look like right now?” This question alone has transformed my outlook. Suddenly I realized, it is not impossible to discover balance amidst this fatigue and depression, it will just look a bit different than usual. I am not a failure; because there is no one right way to find balance. Instead, my job is to create the balance and structure that I need right now.
So, what does balance look like for me right now?
Balance means thinking less about perfect portions and more about making sure I have three meals a day. It doesn’t mean that every meal includes at least three food groups; it just has to include food.
Balance means accepting this temporary yet turbulent rhythm of life. It means trying my best to get along with people at work all day, and then melting into solitude when I get home. It doesn’t mean I try to be friendly with everyone, all day long.
Balance means riding the intense waves of emotion: allowing myself to laugh with friends in one moment, and excusing myself due to looming tears in the next. It doesn’t mean I maintain any one mood or emotion for a specific amount of time.
Balance means taking a few big deep breaths whenever I can manage to take them. It doesn’t mean meditating every night before bed.
Balance means writing down a few words in my journal about how I’m feeling. It doesn’t mean I write pages of poetry like I do when I’m inspired.
Balance means I’m willing to challenge the typical definition of balance itself.
Balance means we are constantly adjusting, which is not always comfortable. I heard a TED Talk a few years ago, in which the speaker proceeded to do a handstand while talking about balance to the audience. He explained that even though he was upside down on his hands, he was only able to do this because he was constantly transferring his weight from one hand to the other. He had to be aware of his feet way up in the air, the movement in his body caused by his breath, and of many other muscles in his body, all of which were playing a role in his successful handstand. He wasn’t absentmindedly balancing on his hands; his entire body was engaged.
I had a similar experience a few weeks ago when a friend and I were taking photos in a pumpkin patch. I tried to balance on one foot to pose for a photo, but it was quite difficult to do while holding a pumpkin and standing on uneven ground. It required concentration and a willingness to adjust where I stood. Balance in this situation, however temporary it may have been, still existed. The same principles are involved with balance in recovery. It is daunting; it takes practice and the building up of strength. It is a lifestyle, yet it is fleeting. It is not a one-time thing, nor is it a one-size-fits-all. We are each required to discover and create balance for ourselves in any given season, only to repeat the process over again in the next.
What does balance look like for you right now?
Jenna is a poet, musician, and a lover of deep connection with others. She recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a degree in Psychology, and is passionate about supporting others along their own unique paths of recovery and healing. This desire stems from Jenna’s gratitude toward those who walk alongside her in her own recovery. Jenna finds comfort in vanilla chamomile tea, walking barefoot outdoors, and hugs.