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How Do You Know When You’re Stable?

pexels-photo-31263There was an interesting question I came across on the internet this week about mental illness that made me think. It was an honest inquiry into stability and what it means to be stable after recovering from a mental illness.

Simply put, this person wanted to know what stability was, they wanted to be able to gauge their recovery in the frame of other people’s experiences and seeing as how I’ve been stable for a while I figured it would be a good topic for my blog.

First and foremost, there’s no set point of stability, living with mental illness is nothing if it isn’t a humungous grey area. You can be doing well in one regard but still struggling in another. You can be doing well for a while and fall back into a place of instability just as easily.

That said, it might be pertinent to know what doing well looks like. For me it has been whether or not I can perform as a “normal” human being. In essence, if I’m relaxed enough to carry on a conversation or I don’t feel the need to flee because of an increased spike in paranoia then I know I’m doing pretty good.

Really, the gauge for me has been, how well do you act like a normal, happy, confident human being?

This is a good gauge because I know that if I have paranoia I get jumpy, I have a hard time maintaining eye contact and I feel like I want to escape the situation immediately.

This works on the inverse too because there have been moments I’ve been too loopy on medications to carry on a conversation and while the numbness of it felt good to me it was hindering my ability to function and perform in society.

I think the biggest thing to realize is that you’re always on a tightrope between symptoms and side effects, paranoia and anhedonia, delusions and loopiness and being able to walk that tightrope takes a lot, I mean years of practice.

It’s perfectly ok if you stumble and fall off sometimes too, granted you have a good support network you never generally fall very far.

The truth is that stability is essentially exactly what it sounds like, the ability to stay stable on that tightrope, the ability to handle everything your illness is throwing at you as well the obligations and responsibilities of living in the modern world.

Being stable means that you have the tools and the coping mechanisms to juggle the simple reality of being a normal human being while the monster of mental illness is riding on your back.

Most people don’t realize don’t realize how mentally strong and agile you have to be to maintain this standard but if you do it everyday of your life you eventually find that you can handle even the most serious stuff because you handle a monster while walking a tightrope everyday of your life.

That’s why I expressed last week that it’s ok to not be fazed by complications like a bad hair day or your sports team losing, that’s little inconsequential stuff and though stuff like that can be a valid concern for a lot of people, living with a mental illness gives you the strength to deal with it and move on.

Stability is, in essence, a balance that most normal don’t have to do and if you can do it successfully and gracefully you’ve pretty much got life covered.

How Do You Know When You’re Stable?

Michael Hedrick

Michael Hedrick is a writer and photographer who has lived with schizophrenia since he was 20. His work has been featured in Salon, The Week, Scientific American and The New York Times. You can purchase his book 'Connections' here or Follow his blog on Living with Schizophrenia here.

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2016). How Do You Know When You’re Stable?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 May 2016
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