Shoe Laces

Since the darker day, that was Tuesday, I have been on a more positive tip. I have started to see the different strings of the cognitive strategies hanging loosely, waiting to be pulled together around a workable solution for my illness.

Each day, either formally or informally, the conversations that we share with each other here at the clinic start to form a network of workable thoughts and ideas. This is something that has been very foreign to me over the past few years, I am used to having so many conflicting thoughts always battling for my attention which is followed then by ill disciplined attempts to carry them out all the while the noise of lesser thoughts and ideas are distracting me. I now know it is at this point in me consciousness that the anxiety begins leading to an inevitable slide into depression. I am determined to change, as many people have said to me recently, it will happen in its own time don’t force it.

The key areas that I have started to recognise as interlinked are: the concepts of Vulnerability Vs Fear, working towards self acceptance, motivation and emotion and mindfulness. I will attempt in later posts to cover these specific areas in relation to my illness and mental health in general.

Listening to and reflecting on the Vulnerability Vs Fear topic, I realised during a group session yesterday that a switch had been flicked to ‘on’ in my head. It came about while we were talking about how at one end of the scale we have Vulnerability (interlinked with Passiveness) and at the other extreme Power (interlinked with aggression) Assertive in the middle which can be where positive relationships are. Personally this is an area I have been searching for over the past few weeks but it has only come to because I have let all other topics follow through, I have then engaged each one separately and in doing so learnt and developed a greater understanding of this illness(es).

I have just come to understand what my anxiety feels and looks like. I have begun recognising and picture it not as nervous tension but as a very real physical fear, a vulnerability. It is what I sense when I am about to run away from a task, project or in fact anything that I assume I don’t have complete control over or an ability to complete. It is my mental fight or flight mechanism. For so long as a child and then as a adult in the professional world I have sub consciously developed even invented avoidance tactics, ones so complex to me and so safe that they gave me a sense of power, where in fact they were nothing more than well scripted avoidance techniques. Any of you reading this that went to school with me, know just how willing I was to beat the system, get out of class even out of the school grounds. Here I was taking pride and power in these accomplishments and actions but inadvertently developing a mechanism to hide from the fear, the fear of failing.

The first eyelet that I thread this string of hope through is my reflections on the attributes of being a perfectionist. Was I a perfectionist? Was that what I was aiming for, and when I realised that I could not maintain it I developed a fear: the anxiety of failure? Was it then the emotional elements of my personality that was overwhelming the practical side leading me to be unbalanced, missing the middle ground of a wise mind? I see myself as paradox happy at being sad. So good at this state of mind all other options are too painful to imagine. No I am not a failed perfectionist.

Eyelet Two: What was my motivation? Were my desires, will and the energy focused on solutions that could in no way bring me true hope of an outcome? Had I learnt the art of failing and applied the perfectionism to this negative/depressive side of my personality. Was my previous coping mechanism substance abuse, applied in order to soften the inevitable fall, the inevitable hurt that came when I found myself feeling unaccomplished? How could I change the perspective on my lifestyle, one that I had seemingly spent immeasurable energy and emotion in building?

Threading through the third eyelet, let us turn our attention to the physical and emotional symptoms of my anxiety. How did I manage these symptoms? For so long I had avoided the confrontation of the truth and my perceived understanding and yet again medicating myself in ways that only caused the cycle of physical and mental pain to perpetuate. So I would lower the standard, lower the outcome, lower, lower everything to a point where I do nothing because of the permanent fear and anxiety of failing. Not one thing could I set about doing without experiencing distress either mentally or physically, so I remove the search for sensory pleasure from all aspects of my life that I believed I could not control or had previously failed me.

Now into this mix I assess me self esteem as eyelet four. My social persona and inner self sought acceptance through proven competency, built on very material outcomes, very immediate and lacking any true worth. Not too surprising to the reading that after all this personal destruction and berating means I am left with little, again turning to self destructive activities, substances and behaviour in order to give myself some short and immediate hit of happiness.

This leaves the bucket so empty of values. Through avoiding the fear and pain of my perceived inabilities, I again inadvertently reduce and rule out many of the values that I had previously set my life to. The depression is my shield, hiding me from accepting that, not only had I watered down many of ethical and moral fibres I had once strived for but I now ridicule myself for disbanding all attempts to understand who I had become. Deep down I hate myself because I have bought nothing to the table, except empty promises.

Now I am faced with the connectedness of all these elements, understanding that through changing some of my ingrained cognitive behaviour, the perspective I take of my illness and having a great level of self acceptance. I now see that there is a way that I can positively contribute to managing this illness, a way that may help me reconnect to positive relationship that have been victims of my self imposed emotional isolationism. In writing these accounts I am taking those first steps towards exposing my core self to judgement, but I feel assertive confident in what I am saying and doing, proving to myself that I can focus and complete something that is emotionally difficult.

These elements of change are threaded through the eyelets of my being, wrapped around me to provide support, but I am barely strung together. Like a shoe laced so loose it is easily kicked off and slipped on at convenience. This string is weak and as I pull it tighter around me, in an attempt to master this illness I can feel the fibres trembling at breaking point under the pressure. A simple tug of self criticism is all that it would take to snap.

Slow, slow, slowly draw them all together, slow, slow, slowly accept the great change that you have committed to. Slow, slow, slowly learn to accept the new and let us not be distracted by the past fears. Slow, slow, slowy.


~ by Rob McClintock on October 15, 2010.

3 Responses to “Shoe Laces”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this. I know it must have come out of a quantum life shift and an ocean of reflection. There’s a lot to learn from your writing.

  2. Rob, you are begining the journey of looking forward and for that you must be proud. Your writing is so raw, yet so powerful. Thank you so much for sharing this journey and I send you lots of hugs as you continue to go forward. Someone (my Mum) always use to say to me “Rome wasnt built in a day” and you know what? I think she is right so I telling you her advice. Be proud of how far you have come so far. Luc

  3. Thanks Kate, I am glad that you have found my blog a worthwhile read. And I hope that there is more to come.

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