Back in April, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. The first week of the month consisted of musical performances, lots of essays and assignment due dates, and a general feeling of anxiety the whole time. I spent the entire week on the verge of tears, and on the Friday afternoon I wound up in the office of my then Religion teacher/vice principal crying.
Before I can get into the balloon part of this story, let's go through all that was going through my mind that week, shall we? My dad had just gotten married a couple weeks prior and my brother wasn't handling it well and I was worried about him. There had been hours of musical rehearsals and even though I was happy to be on stage, I was also not getting enough sleep. I was in the process of getting over a heartbreak and even though I'd been doing really well, a few things had happened that week that had caused me to step backwards a little bit. I had multiple assignments that were either due very soon or were a few days overdue. College was looming over me and I wasn't sure where to start with the enrollment process. My class had received multiple speeches about how some of us were in the red in terms of graduating, and I had taken all that stress and started panicking that I wouldn't graduate (even though there was no chance of that not happening). I hadn't had coffee that morning and even though it wasn't a big deal, it was the cherry on top of an awful ice-cream cone. And to sum it all up, I'd missed my therapy session that week.
So there I was, crying into my sleeve while my teacher nudged the box of tissues towards me. I ignored the tissues as she looked at me in sympathy and said, "Have you ever heard of the balloon analogy?" I shook my head no. My teacher smiled softly and told me about an analogy that changed my entire outlook on the remaining weeks of the year: "Imagine you have a blown up balloon. You can hold it and deal with it just fine, and once it deflates you can move onto the next one without any problem. Now, imagine you're holding two blown up balloons. It will take you longer to deflate them both. It's doable, but a little harder. You have so many, fully blown up balloons that you are trying to juggle. It's hard to take all of them and fix it by yourself, because you will inevitably drop a couple of them. Sometimes we need someone else to come around and take a couple of our balloons."
"My problem is it feels like I need to keep all the balloons because I'm the only one who can deflate them."
"I know the feeling. Think about it this way: Some of these balloons belong to other people. You're trying to juggle all of your balloons while also trying to help everyone else juggle theirs. It's okay to let everyone deal with their own balloons until you've popped most of your own."
I stayed in her office a little while longer, and after I left I felt much better than I had. When I went home I had some coffee and put the sunflowers my mom had got for me into some water. I did some work and then took a break. It had been a really long week, and taking a break felt really good.
In my teacher's office that day, I learned two things. 1.) When you have too many of your own balloons, it's okay not to help everyone else with theirs, and 2.) Popping balloons is extremely therapeutic, whether figuratively or literally. In realizing that I didn't have to take care of everyone else's balloons, I was able to have a less stressful end to my school year. I didn't start avoiding my friends and I didn't turn into a apathetic friend, either, but I was able to listen to them talk to me without turning their problems into my balloons.
I tell you this story because the balloon analogy was really helpful for me. It helped me put things into perspective, and that was something I really needed (and still need quite often). I have a feeling this analogy will stay with me for a long time, and I hope it was able to help someone reading this as well.