I have mentioned many times in my past posts, about, how living with, and at times struggling with a mental illness, I need to take life, and this journey, step by step, one step at a time. Not only do I need to take it one step at a time, but often, the size of the steps can vary. Sometimes all is going well and I can take long, confident strong strides, other times, I may be struggling and take smaller, and even baby steps. And there have been times, and may in my future, where I need to stop taking any steps at all. This is often a time of processing hard work, or recovering. And then, I start all over again, but I keep moving forward, even if at times it doesn't feel like it.
This past week, a couple of events have brought the importance of this process of one step at a time into the spotlight.
A few weeks ago, on the long weekend, I went for a hike with a friend up into the local mountains here. We did the Kwai lake loop. It’s a 14 km hike through alpine meadows, lakes, treed ridge lines, rocky paths, etc. It was lovely, sunny and beautiful as always. And it was so good to be out there amongst the beauty that is nature. It helps soothe the soul.
All was good till later that night when I was home, and the outside of my left leg was really sore, I could hardly walk on it. This was different then sore muscle pain- I have had plenty of that, but I had no idea what this was. So, to make a long story short, I got it checked out and it’s the iliotibial band- commonly known as the I.T. band, issues. Seems I strained it somehow. The I.T. “Iliotibial band (IT band) syndrome facts. Iliotibial band syndrome is an overuse injury of the connective issues that are located on the outer thigh and knee. The iliotibial band runs along the lateral or outside aspect of the thigh, from the pelvis to the tibia, crossing both the hip and knee joints.
So, I learned something new, saw the Dr. and am now getting physiotherapy for it. It was frustrating as I had to stop hiking, and going for any walks. I couldn’t work in the garden as that irritated it, and basically couldn’t do much. Well, I could do the stuff, but I would pay for it and it would make it worse and longer to heal. I am happy to say it is getting better and I was able to go for a short walk today. What surprised me was the urge to push myself before I was ready.
Last week I was emailing back and forth with someone I know. I had mentioned to him that I think I am finally starting to get on a bit more solid ground after my “Epic Irish Odyssey” and processing a lot of what I learned while on that journey. Things and realizations and discoveries from that trip are still coming and I’m sure it will for the next year or so. But I think I am ready for the next step and that is writing my memoirs, and looking into doing a TED Talk. I mentioned I have no idea how to go about doing either, but I will start looking into it.
Well, the person replied with a lovely offer of hosting me for dinner and inviting an author friend of his so we could chat. Needless to say I was surprised, full of gratitude and hopefully it will work out. He wrote…”It’s a small step, one of many”
I replied that I like small steps,they help me not feel so overwhelmed and he replied“Step by step works for many of us. Cliff jumping, not so much.” – I almost spit out my tea laughing. Thinking “Aint that the truth!
Then as I do, I started to think of that statement, and the step by step on my healing journey. I started to think back to a time, before I was correctly diagnosed, actually, before I got any help at all. Where instead of the step by step, I was “Cliff Jumping”
I have done a lot of “Cliff Jumping”- metaphorically speaking, in my life. As a very young child I learned how to “Cliff Jump” and could sometimes eject myself out of the house when things became dangerous,- the natural “fight or flight” had saved me, but there was nowhere to safely land. I had nowhere to go but home, and things just repeated.
I became an expert cliff jumper, to deal with emergencies in the moment, but what I did not learn was the subtle skills or planning out for non-dangerous situations. My brain and nervous system had no idea what that was.
Fast forward 40 years and I was noticing a repeating pattern and knew something had to change but no idea what. I was exhausted, tired of having to pick myself up, crawl back up to what seemed like a functioning level, just to crash again. I asked for professional help.
My professional team and I worked hard to tease out what was going on, and in time I was correctly diagnosed. As much as I wanted to get better, NOW!!! in this work, there are no short cuts.
So, in time, I leaned that step by step was the way forward, even though the thought of “running like a child who stole a chocolate bar”, crossed my mind many times. This step by step philosophy did not come easy to me. But through hard work, determination, and help from others, progress was being made. In time I noticed I was incorporating this philosophy in other areas of my life.
This last May, I went on my “Epic Irish Odyssey”, my dream trip to fulfill my lifelong dream to go to Ireland. I was there for 10 weeks. The first seven weeks I was on my own, traveling via public transit, then a friend joined me for 3 weeks, and we rented a car and traveled together. It was an amazing experience and I came back a better, stronger and wiser person. Some folks I talked to, both at home, and in Ireland, thought this was amazing. Which, I guess it was, but this was not a “cliff jumping “trip- this trip was planned over 3 years, I saved for 10, and dreamt about it for over 45 years. There were moments it was really tough, was not all smiles and a bed of roses, but it was still amazing. And even during the tough times, I was still able to deal with it by going step by step, and working with my support system that I had put in place before I went. These are some of the advantages of planning step by step and not cliff jumping.
I want to get serious about my writing, and doing a TED Talk. This is huge, and I know it will be a lot of hard work and at times, just the thought of it becomes overwhelming. My brain and nervous system will want to “Cliff Jump” its way through, but I know it won’t work. So, when I let someone know this is what I wanted to do, and I received the lovely reply of dinner and a get together to talk about writing etc, I was surprised and full of gratitude. And why his line “Step by step works for many of us. Cliff jumping, not so much.” Cracked me up, it’s like he was in my head!!!
This week, I have had to remind myself many times, why I need to abide by the “Step by Step” philosophy, both for my writing and recovery of my leg. As strong as the urge is to jump forward, I know it will cause more harm than good. I also realize that not allowing my brain and nervous system to act on the old belief that “If we don’t do it now it won’t happen”- Cliff jumping- will take some energy and I need to be gentle with myself, and self-care is in order. I have a limited amount of energy, and cannot compare myself and my writing output and walking, to others. All I can do is the best that I can, keep a balance and go forward step by step.
Those are my thoughts for today. Its now time for me t bundle up and go for a gentle 20 minute stroll to get some fresh air.
I wish you all well and smooth steps on your healing journey. Below are links to my travel blog I wrote, and continue to write about my journey in Ireland. And a link to a great talk by a father and daughter, on their journey with anorexia. It’s powerful.
PS- I know the type is not aligned, I have no idea why it changed, I guess something else I need to learn...