The Double Edged Sword

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 2-13-2023

There are issues that come up in a persons life that have no good, easy or perfect answers. In some cases, we get to a fork in the road where we have two or more crappy options, and we have to try to sort out the question of: “which option is the “least” awful one?” I call these “double edged sword situations”. Why? Because you will get cut either way. It will hurt either way. You will deal with consequences that you don’t want, either way. These decisions cause the most “stuck points”. The stuck point will last a good while as someone contemplates what type of suffering they would rather endure. Let’s explore these ‘double edged swords’, and gain some deeper empathy.

Keeping or Resigning a Job that is destroying your Mental health To keep a horrible job in order to keep the predictable income that is coming your way? Or leave the job for the sake of your mental health, but then you have a new problem… where does your next paycheck come from? How will you pay your bills? The more sensible answer might be to find another job before resigning from the current one. Then it’s a question of: Will this job actually be better for me? Or will it be the same BS, just different people? Or, what if the new job is even worse?! That cannot be predicted, it’s a chance you may have to take. I tell my patients that “I am never dissapointed when someone chooses their mental health over their toxic job’. But, I also recognize it is NOT a simple decision. Some people are literally living ‘paycheck to paycheck’, and to resign would mean a new life stressor that can exacerbate their mental health: Fear of the unknown along with fear of where the next paycheck is coming from. Another thing I also say, ‘Only you can really know when you are done with something. When you have reached your limits, you have reached your limits’. If your job makes you miserable, it is highly likely there is a ‘better fit’ for you elsewhere. It requires exploration. People that fear change have a harder time with this. Some people choose to find ways to make themselves ‘more affordable’ by cutting down on uneeded expenditures; in turn, they can then manage to work less hours and remain affordable. Some people choose to live with family or room mates; we saw this a lot during the pandemic. And I encourage this, as long as the family is NOT toxic. If someone’s job is making them miserable, I hope they can seek a way out. It may not be ‘your ideal option’ or lifestyle, but it’s likely better than risking your sanity.

Leaving a relationship vs staying; especially when kids are involved I regularly get clients that are in harmful relationships. And, when there are kids involved, it is not as simple as ‘just leave’. (Even without kids; break ups are not simple!) The double edged sword is in knowing that even if there’s relief with breaking up; the kids will likely grieve. Even when the break up is for the best, the kids will likely miss having daily access to all parents. Stay ‘for the kids’ knowing the relationship is harmful to you; and therefore will bleed onto the family dynamics? Or leave the relationship, and deal with the grief aftermath with the kids; take them through that harmful break up and hope there is a rainbow at the end of the storm. All family break ups look different, of course. Some parents manage to break up and do minimal damage to their kids, and find very healthy ways to coparent. That is the ideal. Unfortuantely, there are many break ups that are messy, and some parents run the risk of triangulating the children; putting them in the middle. Some ‘broken up parents’ cannot seem to find a way to reconcile just enough to ‘focus on the kids’ and keep their hurt/ rage out of the equation. Worst case scenerio is when the relationship was heavily abusive. In cases like this, I encourage my patient to ‘let the lawyers do most of the talking’. If you find you cannot have a conversation with your ex spouse without it turning into huge screaming match; that’s what the legal teams are for. You’re paying a divorce lawyer; let them do the arguing. A mind cannot be at peace when it is hijacked by an ex lover. Even the most crafty parents, may be ‘hiding a lot from the kids’, but remember the kids can also feel and pick up on your energy too. Protect it at all costs.

Continuing the Drug(s) vs going Sober The drug is helping you medicate in some way, it’s helping ease some of your distress. It’s also causing some long term adverse side effects. Decisions decisions…. Society will often always scream ‘sobriety’, but the sufferer know’s it’s not that simple. The sufferer knows what lies on the other side of sobriety: feeling what they were trying to ‘escape from’. This could be depression, trauma memories, anxiety, ADHD, lonliness, grief, chronic pain, chronic stress, toxic environments with minimal opportunities for escape etc. This is why I am a huge fan of ‘harm reduction’ models; for those that do not see sobriety as an option. If someone can stay sober, more power to them. For those that cannot, I want to help them find the balance; reduce the drug use while compensating with other healthier coping outlets. This…. TAKES…. TIME. It rarely happens over night. Old habits die hard, new routines take time to build.

A ‘Great Body’ with deprivation vs ‘The normal routine’ The ‘just eat less and exercise more’ influencers are out there, mad that people don’t take their advice. Not even all doctors, nutritionists and fitness experts undersand that this path toward a ‘healthier lifestyle’ is a complex ‘double edged sword’. Firstly, everyone has a different metabolic rate. Let’s at least acknowledge right now, that some people can eat junk food everyday, and remain ‘thin’. Meanwhile, some people must restrict a lot, and go great lengths to remain ‘thin’. Secondly, let’s reflect on societies average definition of what ‘healthy looks like’. We often base health off of our ‘aesthetics’ and appearance. Most people will praise a ‘smaller framed person’ (unless they are ‘too small’), and most will shame a ‘heavyset’ person. The smaller framed person may be told “keep it up!” (Whether what they are doing to remain ‘thin’ is healthy or not), while the larger person may be encouraged to eat less and exercise more (regardless of how much they are already doing this) This leaves people with a dillema. If someone is working out regularly, and dieting often, but still has some ‘pudge’ on their body, are they willing to ‘go that extra mile’ to get rid of it? Can they do it in a healthy manner? Is it even worth it? What will they be sacrificing? Nutrients? Sleep? Social time? Hobbies? Will it risk injury? Will it lead to burnout? Will it actually make them feel ‘happier’? Outside of the superficial level of more compliments and likes on social media? Will they feel deprived and ravenous, and in turn, more depressed despite having ‘the ideal body type’? Is it even attainable with their current lifestyle? (Demanding jobs, kids etc. can be a time barrier and cause people to shift their priorities). Every individual has to decide what’s healthiest for them. What lifestyle helps them feel ‘the most balanced’.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

One thought on “The Double Edged Sword

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: