Figuring Myself Out – Imagined Defeat and Tangible Victory

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

I’ve been writing posts on this blog for about five years now. Most of them were deleted back in 2016 when I was going through a bad episode. Before then, I had posted almost every day. Afterwards, I slowly diminished my output. That isn’t a surprise to me. However, it’s not something I’ve actively decided to do.

What I mean here is that I don’t have much in the way of tangible records of the thoughts that go through my mind. The kind of illness in my head is something that discourages me from leaving records. It’s like I’m Hansel and Gretel in the forest, sack full of breadcrumbs, and not even willing to set one of them down to mark a trail. Even when I do manage to leave one, there’s a good chance I’ll end up doing something to erase its existence.

The net result: I always feel like I’m starting over.
This feeling is like at the beginning of weaning oneself off of something addictive. In my case, it was nicotine. Quitting wasn’t easy, and it seemed like an impossible task. If I wanted to stay abstinent, I was going to have to abstain for the rest of my life. Thinking of it that way makes the task more difficult.

Every time I quit, there was a time when I went back and started smoking again. Every time I relapsed, I’d remember the ordeal of working up the courage to stop. Every time I worked up that courage, I felt like I had to start from the absolute beginning.

That’s not true, but I always don’t remember that.
Something that finally helped me quit nicotine was the reminder that quitting forever is a pretty big task. Quitting for a day is something that’s pretty manageable. To accomplish the greater goal, one has to just quit for a day. The whole future doesn’t exist, and the past doesn’t either. It’s just today.

While I’ve remembered this in the past, I keep forgetting it in the present. As it applies to coping with depression and anxiety, that forgetting also makes me feel like I keep starting over. I don’t always see the progress I make. So I go through periods of fighting the same battles over and over again – except they aren’t the same.

Yes I will have to deal with the same issue multiple times. I will have to deal with being frustrated that I’m climbing the same mountain. But I’ve made some progress, and I cannot just imagine that away, either.

Success won’t be noteworthy all the time. It still exists.
There are two recent reminders I’ve had that this is the case. The first is that the garden I started a while back had become overgrown due to ignorant neglect. I thought I could wait between the many rain showers to weed it. I have learned the error of my ways. When I finally got in and dealt with the gigantic weeds, I saw that most of my plants were still okay. I’ve dug them out. Months of work has not been in vain. There will still be peppers and tomatoes aplenty.

The second, more important reminder, is that my cats had caught a mouse. The cats didn’t kill it; they treated it like a very interesting toy. As they chased it, I noticed it had a limp. It wasn’t going to find any shelter from the cats unless I stepped in.

The significance for me is that when I was younger, I probably would have killed the thing. I never did it out of personal malice. It was more because I was told by adults I had to obey that it needed to be done, and that the reactions of some family members really stoked my anxiety. Rather than give into that fear, I made a sensible decision.

I managed to safely get the mouse into my hand, and it played dead most piteously. I took it outside, crossed the road, and set it into some tall grass and bushes. The mouse scrambled to its feet, ate some grass while I watched over it, and made its way to better cover. So long as it remembers the cats, I’m certain it won’t come back for anything in the house again.

In both cases, I had to deal with past negative experiences trying to override my judgment. I will have to deal with them in the future. But I have, right now, two things I can hold onto and say that I did something right.