Back on page 15 in this thread I made a post. Logging on today I was reminded of it as someone had hit the reaction button on it. Coincidentally it's exactly a year ago today. It feels like forever ago. So much has happened!
Back then I had hit rock-bottom, and I had just recently made an effort to make some needed changes. I had stopped drinking, gone to the doctor, the employment agency, started exercising, etc. Since then it's been one step after another in the right direction. It's a bit difficult to remember what I came from, it feels so distant.
First off I started exercising, walking, hiking, and in general being active and getting lots of sunlight and fresh air each day. I needed something to entertain myself on my long walks so I started listening to audio books and podcasts. I came across Dr Robert Glover's No More Mr Nice Guy, and it was a revelation to me. It explained so much. My absent father and lack of male role models and subsequent adorning of females, my people-pleasing personality, my debilitating fear of rejection, and on and on. I think the most crucial aspect of it, was cluing me in to how afraid I have been all my life, and how I have let anxiety limit my life to the point where really, depression was inevitable. I started listening to podcasts by a lifecoach-type guy from New Zealand that delved deeper into the same subjects as the book, and the way he turned my perspective around, however subtle, was life changing. (they are freely available, so if anyone's interest is peaked let me know)
Instead of running in the opposite direction as soon as I felt anxious or fearful, stressed or nervous, I started seeing those feelings as a compass of where I could go next to improve myself, grow, learn and gain confidence.
I got in to a work program, a 80% position at the local paper. First as a photographer. The editor wanted me to try writing, and although my whole body resisted, I was writing stories within a couple weeks. Fast forward a few months and I had broken records at the paper on the amount of time people spent reading a story, as I had written a long portrait about a drug addict with bipolar disorder, and I wrote a piece where I tracked the recycling and garbage from our small city, out into the world. Now I'm so much more clued into the workings of our city and have gotten a large amount of good relationships in all areas of business and education through the work I've done. I feel like I am a part of something, not separate from it.
I started dating. I took a leap of faith and traveled to Hungary to stay with a girl I had only been to a couple of dates with. We had a great long weekend. In the end it didn't work out, but it was fun and exhilarating. I got a girlfriend later on, and for the first time ever I felt like there was an "us". I've been in relationships before, but I don't think I've ever opened up properly. Whereas before I thought I was devoid of feelings and unable to connect, now I saw that I was filled to the brim; I had just repressed it because of fear. The relationship ended a couple of months ago, but truly, it was the best experience I've had and I'm thankful for it.
Every autumn and winter since I was a teenager I have gotten heavily depressed. This year, after the relationship ended, I started feeling like I was about to dive into that black hole again. It was hard to fall asleep at night, work became a drain on my energy. It went on for a few weeks, getting progressively harder to go on. I started doing indoor sports climbing back in April. I signed up to a course by myself, and made a point of talking to and getting to know everyone at the course, for the simple reason that speaking to strangers have always terrified me. Turns out it was easy and most people there were relieved and happy to get to know new people. We became a close-knit group of complete strangers that went climbing 2-3 days a week, but as I could feel the seasonal depression coming on, I lost the will to go there, progression stalled, and I started feeling fear when I was climbing. In a moment of clarity I decided I would go all-in and focus everything on making progressions as a climber. Eating, sleeping and cardio, strength and mobility exercising was now all about becoming a better climber. I think that made a big difference. The stress that had built up and my need for isolation vanished, as I focused my all on one thing that made me happy.
I think that will be an important thing to remember for me going forward. I recently read Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and I wholeheartedly agree that it's important to chose a limited amount of things in your life that you care about, and then let go of the rest, and especially, to let go of the things you can't control, and shake the negative feelings they bring - to stop that feedback loop of where you tell yourself all the things you need to be great at, and then punish yourself every time you diverge from the plan of becoming this perfect being that can do everything. Focusing in on climbing, I could put my head on the pillow at night and retrace my last session, plan my next day, and think of the problems I could solve in the future, and feel asleep before I got that far. When work felt hard, I could look at my hands and my calluses and blisters, feel the strain the last session had on my forearm tendons, and the stress would melt away in doing so.
Going forward the work program will end in March, but it looks like it will be extended to June. I've gotten an offer of a 40% position at a new startup firm that profiles and does content marketing for local food producers (and is expanding in to other areas of business). I will combine it with my work at the paper. I'm also working with a local beer brewery here and a firm that does closed water heating- and cooling systems, and it might just be that I'm working full time by the time the work program is completed. Exciting times!
Anti-depressive drugs never had an effect on me. And I think that's important to realize that depression is usually the symptom of something else. It's easy to think "I am this way", or "I am prone to this", and that's how it is. But I think often people are stuck in a pattern of thinking and behaving that limits them, and that they can't recognize or get out of themselves. I was lucky to find literature that helped me. Others might need a psychologist to find that outside perspective.
I've learned a lot about myself since this last year. I think the most important thing is that I need to approach anxiety like it's a tool for growth. I need to express my feeling, and not let them simmer inside of me and morph into something else. I also need to be okay with my imperfections and take ownership of my life situation and all the ways that I'm vulnerable. Nobody is prefect, and people don't like those that try to be, or those that attempt to hide in plain sight. I have a long way to go still, but I look at myself now and I laugh a bit, because I'm weird and it's funny and that's okay.