Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. Winston Churchill
Recently, it has occurred to me that some of my struggles may have been related to the problems I had with my mental illness. It just seems quite a little bit too coincidental that a few of my struggles have lessened as I continue to maintain better control over the illness. Until recently, I didn’t know that I don’t mind cooking. It is a much easier thing now to get myself to do. I mean, I was in a such a bad place that taking a shower required mental preparation to get myself to get up and actually do it, and I am one of those people who love taking a relaxing shower. To me at least, it does make sense that some of these struggles were definitely either in place or being made worse because of the illness.
This conclusion has made consider some other things. Some of these things I’m not able to test yet. But for instance, driving. Recently, I was driving and I felt nothing. It felt fine. I didn’t struggle. I wasn’t anxious. Then the light bulb went off and it occurred to me that maybe the anxiety I had felt previously about driving wasn’t actually about driving – it was all related to the test. When I really started to think about it compared to other tests I had taken over the last couple years (undergraduate, graduate, and firefighter certification), much of the anxiety I had wasn’t about the material – it was about taking the actual test. I am fairly certain that this conclusion is correct when it comes to driving and taking the test, but my anxiety isn’t 100% vanquished yet, and, honestly, this is something that I’ve struggled with for so long that I would like to be a bit more comfortable before I try to test it by, well, testing. It’s not a race. While enough people ask me when I’m going to get my license (which also does up my anxiety because usually I want to yell I DON’T KNOW), I’m going to go with my gut on this one and take my time. But something is telling me that this particular failure stemmed from the mental illness.
I’ve talked about this before. I talked about how I was trying to find motivation in failure to keep going forward and keep trying. But this, this throws an entirely new perspective to it. Now it is something else I have to consider.
But first, I do agree that in some ways, it is not a failure until you’ve given something up. I’m not giving anything up right now. However, I have other considerations that I need to look at.
Just because something isn’t an official test doesn’t mean it’s still not a test, especially so if you are a perfectionist. I say that from experience. So, failure is subjective. It depends on your point of view. Tests and failure come in many, many different ways.
I’m about to get pretty personal here. Before, I blamed many of my failures on being…lazy and weak. I didn’t think I was strong enough to keep pushing myself further. And that if I hadn’t been lazy, maybe I would’ve done better and achieved what I wanted. This can really beat the shit out of you, especially when those around you seem to accomplish what you so desperately want without any issue. But then you’re the one saying it to yourself (and others may be saying the exact opposite to you), so basically you are beating the shit out of yourself which isn’t good. So, yes, I do think that this way of thinking and self-talk may have very well been both the depression and the anxiety talking to me. It is like the devil and the angel on your shoulder, except the devil is screaming, and you can’t really hear the angel at all.
God, so many times I had asked myself why I hadn’t pushed myself harder. So many times I asked myself why I couldn’t do more, why I couldn’t keep up. Again and again, I just blamed myself. I thought I was weak. And every time I thought I was weak, it was another figurative punch and a feeling of disgust with myself. That’s when it whispered that I should just walk away. I should just give up. It is kind of sickening to look back on now with a clearer mind. Self-harm comes in many forms. I have the physical scars. But these mental ones make me feel just as sick to look at. And honestly, this type of thought process contributed to the physical type of self-harm at times. I might as well have had a portion of Voldemort’s fractured soul latching onto mine. It’s a damn parasite.
These are the times that made me frustrated as hell. Beyond belief. I’m sure I was unbearable to be with at times. There were also times I couldn’t even articulate my frustration and feelings into words.
But I didn’t give up. Even then, when I felt like the shit on the bottom of a shoe, I didn’t give up. That has to count for something, right? I still wanted to fight.
And now…I really want to fight. Like, potentially physically at times. What I mean by that is that I am filled with more energy than I have had in actual years and have no idea what to do with it. I am waking up at 5:30 AM-ish with no prompting roaring and ready to go for the day, and this includes when I have no reason to be awake at that time. If it were warmer at that time of day, I’d probably go for a run.
My point is that it makes me wonder how much more I can do. How much was I being held back by because of my illness? How many things did I struggle with because of that voice whispering that I was a failure?
How much more could I do now that I felt like myself again?
I completely understand why Luke failed in The Empire Strikes Back now. Believing makes a difference.
Where does that leave me now?
Would I now be able to push myself further, stronger, faster? Some of these goals before that seemed so far away from me and so unattainable, how hard would they be now? I don’t expect them to be easy by any stretch, but attainable is a pretty good start.
When I was coming to these different realizations and additional questions, I was practicing reflexive meditation. When I first read about it in “Mindfulness, Meditation, and Mind Fitness” (2015) by Joel Levy and Michelle Levy (a wonderful book by the way, that has really helped me these past couple of months; I’ve learned a lot), I realized how useful it could be and how it could help during the stage I’m currently in of managing recovery and figuring out myself, basically. After you haven’t felt like yourself for so long, it takes time to get reacquainted.
Reflexive meditation is contemplative. To me, it is kind of like untangling my jumble of thoughts except it is a very specific jumble and the answers can lead to more questions which means more needs to be untangled. And that’s okay. It all is supposed to lead to answers in the end. It is a type of very focused thinking.And it helped me come to these different conclusions about what my mental illness was actually doing to me. I believe that I have accepted that it was holding me back in more ways than I realized.
But it also leads to more questions.
What if some of those struggles remain the same? What if the failures remain the same? How will I handle it? Where do I go from there? What if it is just too far away from me, and that I will not have the outcome I am looking for?
That will probably fuck me up.
Now, here’s the thing. First, obviously there are still some anxiety things I need to work on. I feel like that is important to put out there. Recovery is a process. It’s not going to happen all at once. Just need to keep working on it, and I will. Secondly, the book also explained about basically flipping those types of thoughts. It is pretty simple; instead of thinking “what if I fail?” turn it into “what if I succeed?” But I’m trying to break it down further to establish mantras and goals rather than general success and failure.
I do think that this time can be different. But there appears to be many more sessions of reflexive meditation in my future. I struggled so much with meditation at first, but now parts of it are really starting to come together. I can’t wait to put together a blog post about meditation and mindfulness. With reflexive meditation, I tend to write my thoughts out because it helps me keep track of them. It has definitely helped contribute to the mental clarity that I am now experiencing. Now I am a Jedi. Right? That’s how this works, doesn’t it?
You might think I am crazy for the fact that when I started to truly feel better and not taken over by depression or anxiety for the first time since around 2012 that I immediately begin to question whether or not the elimination of mental illness form the equation means that my previous failures are truly my own. But I think I have always been more of a realist, and I am looking at both sides of the equation. The difference is what I will continue to focus on. One thing I am getting better at is recognizing things that are beyond my control and letting them go. In this case, I’m not going to know whether I will succeed or fail for some time. It might take a few tries as well. So it will take time which I have no control over. My goal is to not focus on how I will respond to failure but rather on how to succeed.
Do or do not, there is no try.
Can’t go wrong with that one.
The greatest teacher, failure is.
I do agree with Yoda on this.
Success is measured by how high you bounce when you hit bottom. George S. Bottom
I’m pretty sure I hit rock bottom, but I also believe that this will be my greatest comeback yet. Think Rocky versus Apollo the second time around. I still got knocked around, but I managed to get to the top.
Everything you want is on the other side of fear. Jack Canfield
This sounds like a Yoda/Jedi quote. I do believe this. The fear being that I am my own failure.
The Phoenix must burn to emerge. Janet Fitch.
A slight twist on a 2018 meme/social media trend: When I get my mental health together and am on the side of wellness, it’s over for all yinz bitches.
Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure. Napoleon Hill.
None of it has to be great. I just want to reach my goals.
Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. JK Rowling.
I might not have needed a total foundation, but it helps to guide me to what’s next.
Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail. Confucius
Damn, I hope so.