Saturday, 3 August 2013

Anxiety Diaries | Balloons

I'm a self confessed 'balloon thief', having spent years frantically clinging on to other peoples' balloons in the hope that I'd somehow find my own way in doing so. Living with 'I am lost' meant feeling permanently puzzled, depressed, confused and helpless. It led to searching outside of myself, believing I was missing some sort of vital information, some snippet of knowledge that those around me were given. Why wasn't I? Recently, CBT has helped me look at things in a different way. If I chose to live by 'I am found', will that free me from pursuing other peoples' paths? Am I really missing knowledge... Or have I had it all along? The following is a short story I wrote off the cuff about the search for your very own 'balloon'. I hope you enjoy reading, even if it is admittedly a little strange!

Imagine that every possible pathway, every dream, every nightmare, is its own balloon. We're born with no balloons, our hands free to capture the strings of those that appeal to us, those that do us good, those that do us harm. Every avenue as a balloon with its own string, and every empty hand soon reaching to take hold until we walk around with fistfuls of ribbons, each one overlapping the one before. We each have our very own unique balloon but it isn't always easy to find. Yet it is there, somewhere, and so we spend our time looking. 

Perhaps as you're growing up you're unsure of how to recognise your balloon and so you consider borrowing other peoples' balloons. Maybe your friend's balloon could be your balloon too? You accumulate one balloon, and then another, and you decide to keep going in the hope that one of these balloons is in fact your balloon in disguise. You try each balloon for size before either discarding it or clutching on to its strings ever tighter. You question whether there really is a balloon out there for you. You doubt you'll ever find it, so you think it might be best to settle for holding on to someone else's balloon, whether it's a job, a behaviour, a thought or a feeling. You find these balloons can be quite comfortable but it's almost like sleeping in a hotel bed night after night; cosy, but not quite as cosy as sleeping in a bed that's your very own. 

Suddenly, unexpectedly, you find that the balloons you've been holding start to pop. One at a time, without warning. Pop. Pop. Pop. You are afraid. You wonder if you have been holding the balloons too tightly. Your fistful of balloon strings suddenly feels useless; you can no longer see the balloons that are supposed to guide you. You can no longer see or recognise any balloons at all. Friends continue to wander past with their balloons, ribbons looped loosely around their wrists. They do not clutch or squeeze or grab at numerous strings. You can't understand why this is happening to you, and you question it. Where is my balloon? 

You are afraid. 

You decide to take steps to come to terms with the loss of these balloons. You are empty handed. You have had enough. You imagine releasing each balloon, one by one, wishing it well and hoping its owner is able to find it. You watch as it rises higher and higher, lifted by the wind across fields and over water. You watch as people reach up, their fingers brushing against the strings. You no longer feel as afraid. The balloons you had been clutching no longer seem intimidating, or cruel, or to be feared. And so you now have no balloons; you are balloon-less! 

You sit alone for the first time in a long time, no balloon strings to battle with, no ribbons criss - crossing your wrists, no balloons forming a pack in front of your eyes. You have said farewell to what could have been but what ultimately wasn't to be anymore, and you notice that you're starting to see a little more clearly. Balloons float past, ribbons brush by your forehead but you don't grab, or lunge, or chase. You watch as they pass you by. Your heart doesn't recognise them and your head won't lie for you anymore. You have no bunch of balloons to guard and watch over, and so you look up less and focus on just being. 

One morning, something strange happens. You wake, and upon opening your eyes you see a small, half blown balloon bobbing on the floor next to your bed. You wonder. As you go about your day, you notice the balloon seems to be following you, staying close to your feet. It has a ribbon but it doesn't seem to be floating far. You watch it curiously. 

Days, weeks and months pass and you're vaguely aware of this little balloon growing bigger and bigger. Still you find no need to tie it to you. You let it bob along and as time goes by it begins to rise and floats slightly overhead, mirroring you as you go about your day. Other people try to borrow it, to take hold of its ribbon, but they soon find they can't hold on for long. 

You decide to undertake an experiment, just to check. You reach your hand tentatively into the air, feel the whisps of thousands of balloon strings gliding past your fingertips. They stop slightly, inviting you to take hold. You resist, draw your hand back. You watch them continue on their way. They felt comforting, familiar somehow; but the balloon that floats above you feels better, and it still there, as always. 

One morning you wake and feel as if something has changed. Something feels... different. The little balloon that has been at your side and in front of you for months now is still there, only much bigger. It floats easily, calmly, as always. What could it be? You can't put your finger on it. You go about your day and find that at times your thoughts drift towards the balloon; yet for the most part you don't give it too much thought. You know where it is and you no longer fret about it floating away, out of reach. With this thought, something tugs on your memory; reach, out of reach, reaching for balloons... The fistfuls, the criss-crossing of ribbons, the constant battle to keep so many balloons under control... And then you realise- that's it!

You look down at your wrist, your heart pounding, a smile forming; an intake of breath and then a joyful laugh as you realise what has changed. You look up at the balloon, your balloon, and then you look down at your wrist again, at the ribbon looped loosely, ever so slightly, not at all too tightly. You could easily slip it off if you wanted to, but you don't. You feel no need to. 

You marvel at how long you spent frantically searching, only to wake up one morning with a ribbon tied gently around your wrist and your balloon bobbing along above you. 


  1. Hi Imogen. This makes very interesting reading. Something CBT taught me was that we make our own paths to a degree, and when life throws things at you, it's perhaps not what is thrown, but how we deal with it that matters. xxx

    Carly's Beauty World

    1. That's very true and such a great thing to learn. We may not be able to control what happens to us but we can work to control our reactions to events and to other people xx

  2. Imogen, I love your balloons analogy! This perfectly describes a lot of how I feel on a daily basis. I see so many other people happy with their balloons, and I just try to grab whichever ones I can keep a hold of. And some days, it really does feel like someone has come along popping them all leaving me with nothing. I'm still hoping to find my balloon, and I hope it shows up soon!

    Megan | Little Miss Average

    1. I'm so sure you'll find your balloon, or rather that your balloon will find you! Probably when you least expect it :) I reckon it's already there, waiting. It's definitely a lifelong process, I'm still figuring out what my balloon is but every day I trust that I'm getting closer to finding out :) xx

  3. This is a bizarre story in a way but also really beautiful & just made me smile :)
    Anna :)


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