Getting Hung Up On The River Ride – A Mental Health Analogy

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**The ideas contained in this post are the opinions of the writer and communicated without reference to supporting documentation. The writer also recognizes that BPD is a disorder that affects both males and females, and uses of “she” or “he” in the communication of ideas are not intended to covey sexual bias. Breakaway MHE Disclaimer

Some of us are NEUROLOGICALLY PROFILED TO EXPERIENCE EMOTION AND MOOD REGULATION DISRUPTION. Likewise, some of us are more exposed than others to life traumas (abandonment, family instability, loss, etc.) that tend to aggravate these inherited vulnerabilities. These are the kinds of differences between people that can influence the odds of developing (or not developing) mental health disorders. These neurological differences and variations have been documented, studied, and shown to be associated with mental health difficulties.

To help illustrate what this means to those who struggle with their mental health, I will relate an experience I had “tubing” down a river. This experience of “tubing” down a river brought to my awareness an analogy about what it’s like to continually be impaired in mental health functioning. I hope this analogy will work to increase compassion and help others who don’t struggle with mental health better appreciate the struggle for how hard it can be.

In Canada, we have lots of rivers and lakes, and lots of opportunity for water-related fun (water skiing, white water rafting, sailing, tubing, etc.). As I ventured into river tubing one summer, I believed it would be easy to participate… that we would all sit in our tubes and allow the river to take us to our destination. I honestly thought we could relax, even to the point of falling asleep if we wanted to. Little did I know that the river had many shallow points and exposed rocks that would present an ongoing array of blockages and navigational challenges.

And so it was, at various points when riding and attempting to calmly enjoy the sun, a rock (or set of rocks) would suddenly produce a snag and leave the tube and rider hung in place, going nowhere, but still dealing with the pressures of ongoing water flow. When this happened, the rider had to find a way to unhinge or otherwise remain motionless in the current. Getting unhinged often meant getting out of the tube, traversing slippery rocks below, then hopping back aboard as soon as possible. It was a pain in the butt – literally sometimes.

And for some reason, it continued to surprise me that we had to put up with these challenges, even though it was happening over and over again. When I was finally able to find acceptance that this was going to be the reality for the full 3 hour ride, it then also came to my mind that an emotionally vulnerable human is similarly and repeatedly challenged with getting hung up on emotions, unproductive thoughts, and ineffective behaviors that delay and sometimes undermine life enjoyments and life progress completely.

Just like the river’s constant flow of water, life doesn’t stop moving and delivering its pressures and challenges when mental health difficulties are being experienced. The person who gets “hung up on the ride” and suffers the repeated emotional lashes, reactions, and consequences that come as a result of ordinary life situations, must nonetheless find a way to cope and survive.

Of course, this type of challenge isn’t apparent to most others since the pain of mental health disorder is not observable in the same way other pain is noticeable. Emotional distress and related dysfunction are very often invisible and misunderstood by the untrained eye, and therefore unacknowledged and invalidated right, left, and center.

But getting hung up on the river ride, over and over, is what it can be like living with untreated mental health problems. The absolute frustration and hindrance in moving toward opportunity and potential because of unmanageable and misunderstood emotional pain and anxiety is genuine and deserving of improved understanding.

Not to suggest that a struggling person can spend his life making excuses. Of course, the person that struggles must find an effective way to glide down the river of life EVEN THOUGH he has challenges others may not appreciate or ever have to deal with themselves. He must take responsibility for the repeat instances of emotions and anxiety he experiences, rather than blame others. He must acquire some tools and gain some more in-depth understanding of self that many others may not even need to obtain.

Good news is that this is, in fact, possible to gain the necessary understanding of self, and likewise, that “the river ride” can become more manageable and even experienced as enjoyable despite the hang-ups and navigational challenges. Mental health awareness, skills, and tools can provide a means for efficiently maneuvering through the emotional and thought obstacles that accompany mental illness.







photo credit: sebastien.barre via photopincc

photo credit: arbyreed via photopincc


Thank you for reading! Please share to help us raise mental health awareness.