Despite my progress, I often feel I am one stumble away from tumbling into a deep chasm of self-loathing and shame.
At times, my road narrows to a small path along the edge of a mountain, one side bordered by the stone face of the cliff, no shoulder on the other side, just a vertigo-inducing drop. It is unsettling how little it takes to trigger anxiety that I’m no further from the edge of the abyss than when I was trapped within my head, a solitary confinement of the worst kind.
When I was in despair, I did everything possible to validate my hopelessness. I’d list my failures. I’d remind myself how I failed my family, my friends, myself. I had no capacity to ask forgiveness, or forgive myself.
I’m no longer in despair, though the vivid memory still scares me and motivates me. Maybe that’s the motivation for my work. I will do whatever it takes to avoid the abyss.
I understand rewiring my perspective doesn’t occur instantly. Changing lifetime habits require time and effort. I know there are no quick fixes. Suggesting otherwise reminds me of a line from The Princess Bride, one of my family’s favorite movies.
Princess Buttercup says, “You mock my pain.”
Wesley replies, “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
As part of my rewiring, I strive to be more aware of, and to acknowledge my progress. I’ve come to realize moving forward can be as subtle as not feeling like I’m a fraud as frequently as I once did.
Another sign is how I now respond when I doubt my progress. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed, I recognize and acknowledge my fears and self-doubt. While I pay attention to the feelings, I don’t let them control me.
I’m not saying I don’t have moments of despair. I do.
I’ve written about habits I’m trying to incorporate into my life, like meditation. Like 10,000 steps a day. Replacing judgement with kindness. They’re all ways in which I’m committed to avoiding the abyss, to reaching and maintaining a state of mindfulness.
I am a work in progress. Baby steps are steps, nonetheless. I have to remind myself to savor those moments when I could have easily slipped into a spiral of shame, comforting myself through a combination of food, alcohol and pot.
Will a day come when my road no longer seems as perilous as it feels today? I’m not sure. My work toward mindfulness doesn’t include creating expectations. I’m striving to stay focused on this moment.
In this moment, through the act of describing my feelings, I feel that much safer in my journey than before I sat down to write this.
Thanks for listening.
Stay in touch. Connect.
PS I couldn’t decide on which Princess Bride clip to feature so I chose a montage of Wallace Shawn.