Three steps forward, two steps back…

It’s been some time since I last posted and even longer since I wrote about my deeper feelings. The fact of the matter is that I thought I’d recovered but like many before me I’ve realised I’ve still a long way to go. And boy could I have done without Christmas.

Looking back at the last 2 years it’s been a prety positive journey. The way I’d always looked at my breakdown was like coming downhill on a bike: at first it feels good to let go until you realise your brakes don’t work and there’s a cattle grid to bring you off at the bottom.  Equally I’d always thought of recovery as the uphill struggle afterwards, climbing bck on the bike, shaken and bruised, ready for a long hard slog. At that time I’d told myself there would be bad days but as the journey progressed I found a rythm and managed to get through. I even began to enjoy life.  yet in the last few months I’ve found it a struggle again. Like I’ve had a brief respite in that climb but all of a sudden the gradient has been cranked up.

In all honesty Christmas was a few emotions too many. I was almost back in the place I found myself in October 2009: feeling lost, washed up, run down and a failure. Cry? I did plenty, with no explanation or understanding but as regular as the tides with wave after wave of (negative) emotion.  Why? I really don’t know: too much time on my hands; sitting waiting for others; boredom – just a few ideas that I’ve considered. Another descent and another climb ahead.

Throughout it MrsAB has asked me to recall the skills and techniques I learnt in counselling. There’s one snag with this – I’ve forgotten. I’m embarrassed to say so but this sis the frustrating truth. All that money, all the effort and when I need it most I can’t recall what I learnt. And this just reminds me of how hard this journey is. For me, life has been relatively easy. I’m not saying I haven’t worked hard but when I’ve put my mind to it things have become natural: riding a bike, driving a car, doing well at school, securing a job. I’ve done all of these and more, yet when it comes to controlling my emotions and thoughts I’m  looking for the help manual each time things go wrong. It would be like having to look up how to change an inner tube every time you had a puncture. And so each time it happens I feel like I’m back at square one, dealing with the issues afresh.  I think you can see why I say frustrating.

So how do I feel right now? Not great but equally there’s hope. I’ve gone back to worrying too much, consuming energy fretting about things when I could be doing something else.  I worry about money, I worry about what to do, I even worry about the new neighbours in the street.  The anxiety takes up the room in my head where I want to clear thinking to take place. So I need to relearn how to deal with it.

But again that assumes that I know where to start. I remember saying to my counsellor that it felt like a ball of strings with several threads tangled together and the ends all hidden.  Right now this includes the big picture of what I want out of life right the way through to the little picture of where to go on holiday, what to eat for tea this week and how I might occupy the next hour.  Sometimes its a blank canvass, a void to be filled which scares me, other times its too many choices and fearing making the wrong choice. If you’re exhausted, frustrated and confused reading this imagine living with this inner dialogue 24/7.

What I have come to realise in times of more objective thinking is that I need some goals to help me through this. There once was a time I thought I knew what I wanted in life. There have been times when I have known what I want to do in work and in leisure.  The plain fact is that for far too log I was following what I thought was expected of me, doing what seemed “right”, making a “success” of myself.  In many ways this is why I am finding the present so hard – I no longer know what is right but more importantly I can no longer see what it is that I want to do. I suppose I have never been great at focussing on myself but perhaps this is what is called for right now.  I’ve worked hard and felt guilty if I’ve not or I’ve indulged myself – the paradoxical mix of the protestant work ethic and Catholic guilt complex. Trying to break free of its grip is hard enough without a vision to work towards. So in the last week or so I’ve realised I need some goals. The trouble is (and this is where I really value your input folks), how do I identify them without it contributing further to the problem?

5 thoughts on “Three steps forward, two steps back…

  1. Sorry to hear times have been hard, but you don’t seem to me to have forgotten the essentials. I can recognise some of the issues you are having, and you are right that some realistic (small-scale?) goals might help. Worth spending some time on this, even if it feels self-indulgent or tangential…

  2. Well written. You probably already know the ‘ miracle question’ but I find it really useful though I have to try it a few times before I get tuned in. It’d the one where you try hard to imagine what your life would be like if a miracle had happened while you were asleep. You try to imagine your life in the smallest detail afterwards

  3. Reading your post Rob sounds very familiar and is something I wonder whether all those who have suffered depression go through. I have always felt that by recognising that there are problems (signified by the original major crash) is one of the major breakthroughs that anyone goes through but that this opens a can of worms as you are then left with the ability to question yourself and your life far too much. I have yet come to the conclusion of whether this ability is a good or a bad thing but finding your way through life is probably always going to be a series of hills and valleys if I stick with your metaphor. The key as you say is remembering how to deal with the lows, but also the highs too. So if you think advice from anyone else will be useful this is how I am struggling through at the moment…try and imagine yourself sat with your counsellor and have a conversation with them (ok this might make you sound like you have completely lost it) but trying to remember being in that situation might jog a few thoughts on how you dealt with things last time. Remember that you are probably in a completely different place than where you were a couple of years ago and in fact the issues are likely to be totally different but fundamentally your thought processes and emotions will be probably be the same (challenge them). Hold off on making those major life changes and instead address why you are thinking the way you do for the small things…if you can find answers to those then that might lead you to the answers for the big things. I don’t know whether this will be helpful at all, in fact probably not but keep talking…..just knowing that other people are struggling with their lives helps me and makes me feel less of a failure 🙂

  4. Rob, sorry to hear it has been a difficult period. On the flipside though – and as you well know – its always a win to externalise it and that in turn is proof of your own will in wanting to get moving again. I recently went back into counselling, initially with disappointment as i was having to do it again, but very quickly realised it was a positive and that in one way i was to use the time as a ‘refresher’ course on the things i had learnt the first time round, but had in time forgotten. I recommend this, as it certainly got my mind working clearer and helped in me seeing where i was and what was potentially next (in life). Having goals is good – it is something i have realised i need to have interwined into the everyday – they are ‘you’ time; something you do…for you :-). A small tip though, if i may – the journey and ultimately reaching a goal is a high, and as we know, highs can be followed by a low as we wonder what on earth we are going to do with ourselves now the goal has been reached – so i suggest staggering, or having back to back projects running so to combat this. I recall you have entered a sportive – how about entering another, longer one some time after so to work towards once the first one is completed? Its well overdue for us to go for a ride, and meet 😉 so lets see what we can sort out 🙂

  5. My ideas for simple, easy-to-achieve ones to get you started (small steps and all that):

    Try this It’s so simple and I really like it for helping me record what I’ve achieved (however small) and reminding me regularly about it. How I’ve felt every time I’ve received one of the reminders has in turn helped me with achievable incremental goal setting.

    Read this if you like Oliver Burkeman’s Weekend Guardian columns. As far as I’m concerned it’s a bit brilliant

    And listen to a relaxation/meditation cd/podcast you like nightly to help with sleep at least until you feel more yourself again – they’re not perfect but my favourite free ones from ITunes are The Meditation Station and The Meditation Podcast.

    All the best

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