I Am a Candle
- – A Check-in With Maintenance About an Earlier Issue
The Myth of ‘Recovery’ .
I feel like the flame of a candle, sitting in a still room, no percievable draft or wind present to cause the incessant flickering of my soul from one thought to another. My light is here – it’s burning, alive, ready and able to keep shining a light for those around me – to help them see – yet I cannot seem to sit still. My centre is continually bending and reaching high, only to dip low again into the comforting depths of the wax beneath me that is necessary for my sustenance, yet also the reason behind my instability. The deep is scary, and too hot. Slipping down there for good would be the easiest thing to let myself do.
I must continue to burn. I must continue reaching up.
There is no breeze. No movement. So why do I flicker? Why do I dance around, frantically searching to catch on to another flammable substance, to breath the same as another and validate this confusion; to give myself a feeling of purpose?
I am a candle, and I bathe in the warm sea of my catalyst that’s always there in my times of light, yet which hardens me to an impenetrable force of solitude in moments of darkness.
I dance, seemingly carefree to all on the outside who breeze past. But it is only those who stay long enough to see my attempts to return to stillness that see this ludicrous dance for what it really is. It’s the uncertain, stopping-starting, trial-and-error kind of tiptoeing you do around a new place as you find your feet and attempt to balance upon them. Whatever this new place is, it serves as the foundation for all I must build on, from the bottom up. Yet if this wax is constantly burning, changing, shrinking away and bending to my heat – there is nothing solid ever in place for very long on which to build. It’s a constant struggle to acclimatize, to grow, to adapt. To allow the flame burn bright and high again after reaching so low a point that it almost extinguished itself.
The music to which the flame is dancing has ceased, and while we define ‘dancing’ as ‘the movement of feet to music’, it would suggest that as music and movement are in direct correlation to one another in this instance, and there is no music present, that what I am doing could not even be defined as dancing. It’s a flailing around desperately, trying to gain some sort of balance, stability, and peace, all the while worrying that the flickering light in my brain will never settle and I’ll eventually collapse and give in to the inviting hibernation of the dark pools below, forsaking the potential of the heights I have previously achieved.
This is why I believe that ‘recovery’ is not an accurate term or goal for someone who struggles with mental health issues to strive for. ‘Recovery’ suggests a solution. It suggests an unrealistic fix, a few days off work that will magically help the mind settle in a comfortable place, ready to burn and continue again where it left off before. An assumption that this will happen even though the circumstances have not been changed, and it is likely the confusion will start again once placed back in a similar situation.
In reality, being ‘in recovery’ from a mental illness is a conscious decision which must be made Every. Single. Day. A decision to not give in to the negative cycle of thoughts and retreat into the warmth of the deep pools of comfort that are of our own design and destruction. A decision to keep burning, to flicker around desperately from one thing to another until we learn to stand up straight by ourselves, fulfilling our purpose and lighting up a path not only for our own benefit, but for others to learn from too.
It’s as if people expect a bout of depression, a panic attack, a mental breakdown, or disordered eating patterns and thoughts to be passing phases, like a cold or flu that’s difficult to shake. Whilst it is encouraging to note the similarities between physical and mental illnesses in that they render a person incapable of going about day-to-day life in a similar way to others, I’m a firm believer that a mental health issue is something that, once identified, can merely be maintained and controlled – never entirely subdued. There will always be that fear, that awareness of the instability that once took hold, and a dark fear that the symptoms and suffering has merely been stifled for a time – the dance of the flame stilled by an unusual period of calm.
Because the flame can only react to that which surrounds it – a passing breeze, a draft, a stream of heat blowing in from somewhere that was not expected – as happens in life.
“Recovering’ from the draft does not mean the dance is going to cease completely. The burn marks will still exist. The wax will have sunk ever-deeper.
‘Recovering’ means realising that it’s ok to be that unstable spark of light, and beginning to accept that sometimes the beauty of the light itself is that it is constantly in motion, in a neverending and unpredictable dance.
This dance is of our own design. We swim in our own warm pools of comfort, dangerous in their depths, and always a potential place for us to drown should we push the boundaries too far.
However their depth and destructive nature makes the light above all the more desirable, and we reach for that, striving to maintain a solid balance between the two when a match does strike to signal a fire.
‘Recovery’ is not a state of being where you can look back and give a cheer that the bad guy has been vanquished, the dark cloud cleared and the path ahead looking bright and easy.
‘Recovery’ is the awareness that your candle is lighting in the corner of the room, and an awareness of the dangers posed by the open flame should it get knocked over or mishandled.
‘Recovery’ is the acceptance of this need for awareness, and regular, intermittent glances to make sure the flame is still emitting a healthy glow, unthreatening and balanced in it’s dance.
‘Recovery’ is remembering and being aware of the need to blow out your candle before you get into bed.
‘’Recovery” is an ongoing process, and some days are easier than others. I’m not going to promise I won’t knock my candle over tomorrow, because I can’t know that this won’t happen. All I can do is my best to ensure that I keep an eye on it right now as I sit here, and remain aware of it’s existence.