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Walking the Tightrope

There is a thing about trying to live with bipolar, a thing where sometimes, maybe often, it feels like walking a tightrope.

You’re on this knife’s-edge, and if you stop, you’ll fall.

So you keep “moving forward, using all [your] breath,” gritting your teeth and trying to relax your neck (which is weirdly like the first passé balance en relevé at the barre, come to think of it).

The only thing that keeps you upright is momentum (which is totally unlike that aforementioned passé relevé balance; you don’t have momentum to save you, just the dancer’s wordless prayer and good technique and a few hundred years of evidence that it can be done).

If you falter, you fall (presumably in flame, like the “…staaaaaaaars, in their multitudes, scarce to be counted…” — which is totally unlike ballet class; we mostly try to avoid self-immolation during barre, no matter how tempting it may seem).

Life with bipolar is coolly executing 32 fouettés as you feel your supporting pointe shoe slowly unraveling; it’s lifting the ballerina and feeling something give in your shoulder and continuing to gaze serenely up into her eyes as you desperately pray you’ll make it to the end of the pas de deux.

We don’t show it because that’s life. To some extent, life is a performance, and the show must go on. It is when your edges crack, when hints of Von Rothbart invade our Dashing Prince routine that the world spooks and backs away. So we hold out as long as we can, as well as we can. Seigfried is not also supposed to be Von Rothbart, after all.

So this is how I live much of my life, how I’m living right now. Bipolar tells me to stay in the house, but tomorrow I’ll go to class anyway. Bipolar tells me that I should give up on the tutoring job I’m applying for, but I’m going to fight my way towards that, too.

Bipolar tells me I’m going to fall, so I keep going, one foot after the other, across the chasm, never looking down.

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