This period in my life has, no doubt, been the most difficult that I’ve ever had to go through. I’ve always thought that I was fairly resilient and the thoughts and feelings that I’ve had during this period has shown me that it has nothing to do with strength or resilience. Dark periods will always exist for everybody. Sometimes, life just throws you that way. But one crucial thing that I have learnt is that no-one can cure you or save you from how you feel; which is not to say things won’t get better but most of the heavy lifting has to come from within yourself.
The following has really helped me:
– I’m in therapy, albeit temporary it’s helped me develop some interesting skills in terms of reflecting on asking why I feel the way I do about things and then confronting the cause of the negative feeling.
– Travelling. I’m lucky enough to be able to afford short trips away when I feel like things are getting a bit overwhelming. Being able to see foreign landscapes and cultures does help put things into a more objective perspective. But generally I find being outdoors and in the countryside helps, no matter if it’s abroad or not.
– Exercise. This is the key one for me. I am a very keen climber and go anywhere between 2-4 times a week and have done for the last nearly four years. In terms of the physical benefits, there are loads. Mentally though, the things that help me are the same reasons why I specifically love climbing:
– I can gauge my progress. The indoor routes and most outdoor routes you
come across will be graded in terms of difficulty. And even if you don’t benchmark your performance against that, there will always be moves or climbs that you can’t do but keep working at until you get it. That satisfaction is so encouraging and translates outside of climbing.
– It makes me switch off. Or rather, it forces me to not think about whatever worries I had on my mind. I have to focus on the route in front of me and be present in order to a) do the climb and b) do it safely so that I don’t injure myself.
– It’s an individual sport. To quote Nietzsche “But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself”. For most people, physically they should be climbing way harder than they actually do. For me, I definitely recognise that the main obstacle holding me back is my own head. To climb and to keep succeeding is to help overcome this.
I don’t imagine climbing is for everybody. But exercise is. Our bodies are built for movement and actually doing what it was meant to does help things go a long way I think.
– Friends. They have really been my rock throughout all this. Some more than others, some not at all. You can never blame someone for how they will react because some people just don’t know how to be around or be what you need. This obviously sucks when they are someone you are really close to or rely on like your other half but in that case you just have to come to terms with the fact you can deal with the situation better without them – they are something you can deal with in future.
The more I relied on my friends, the more I realised I wanted to rely on myself and then to have their support is extra on top of it all because support from other people isn’t a given (I think a lot of us take this for granted). I am always going to be there for the people I love as much as I can, but it’s in not expecting it back in the same form or even at all that it stops you from having the situation exacerbated or feeling like you’re drowning because you have you to stop that.
But the above are all things that have helped the main thing which is processing what happened and dealing with why I feel how I feel. There are and always will be days that are darker than others – no one is exempt from this. But it’s in recognising that I am not helpless, even on the very darkest days (and there were some very very dark days of which I shan’t repeat my thoughts), I made myself get out of bed eventually and go for a quick walk to the park. Tricks that helped me get through to days where I can process, question and conquer the dark feelings.
In truth, I feel so much more detached and numb than I did before all this and I don’t actually know if I will ever go back to feeling more like I did before. But at least I learnt, I have me. I will always have me. As long as I have faith in myself.