Have faith in yourself

After about three hours climbing Snowdon along the Pyg Track, the coffee and rest at the top were greatly appreciated. I decided to head back down the Miners’ Track but felt that the challenging walk was made even more difficult by the burden of my heavy backpack. Like many things in our lives, it weighed heavily on my shoulders. More than once I wished I’d left it at home as I clambered down the rocks and steep path.

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Yet, as there are two sides to every coin, there were aspects of my burden that I needed. It carried my camera, water for me and the dogs, snacks, and extra clothing. I thought about the amazing photographs I had taken, how much I needed that warm fleece in the bitter cold on the top. No, I would not choose to be without them.

As I plodded down the mountain, the two dogs on their leads in case they ran over a steep edge, I could feel the effects of a tough day on my body and limbs, and it restricted my joints and my gait.

My backpack weighed heavily and my knees and ankles were suffering from the concussive impact of each deliberately placed footstep. My mind turned inwards, focusing on my burdens and pain. Briefly, I would be distracted by the sun catching a distant mountaintop or a small hardy plant and I would get my camera out, but it wouldn’t be long before I was back in the thoughts of my own misery and wishing I wasn’t so far from the car.

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Then, my attention was captured by a noise from behind. There was a sound of laughter and merriment from a group of walkers behind me. Though we were walking the same path there was a vast difference in our mood and manner.

They carried loads which were much heavier than mine and with much greater ease: big backpacks with camping gear and supplies.

Ahead of them ran two dogs agilely jumping down the rocks. As the walkers passed me they talked and laughed as they traversed the trail like mountain goats, leaping from stone to stone. I watched their light, fast movements. They were walkers who were familiar with the path and obviously with carrying heavy loads, so surely there's was an example to follow. I adopted them as my model, let the dogs off their leads and started to replicate their gait. ‘Spring rather than plod. Move lightly’ became my mantra. And the results were rapid. The pains in my knees and ankles began to ease.

Then I let fear resume its grip. What if I went over on my ankle? What if I stepped on a loose rock and fell? What if… In fear, I again slowed my pace, deliberately watching each footfall. As I did so, I felt the full weight of my burden, and the concussion of each firmly planted step brought the pain back into my joints. My dogs, meanwhile, agilely traversed the path like the dogs ahead now that they were free.

The laughter of the walkers ahead drifted up from below. “Surely”, I thought, “My eyes are capable of seeing the path ahead. My legs have supported me well through life so far and know how to move. I just need to feel confident in the abilities I already have. Somehow, reminding myself at a conscious level what I already knew at a deeper level freed my body to move comfortably and lightly. Permitting myself to be in touch with long-held capabilities allowed my feet to travel easier. As I traversed the stumbling blocks of my mind, I moved over the ground with great ease, and the weight of my bag wasn’t so heavy and burdensome. Every now and then I stopped, a little worried again. If I started to worry about falling, I felt myself become tense, and I wasn’t able to move freely. When I reminded myself that what I wanted was well within my capabilities, I felt the worry fall away and my gait became freer.

All I needed was to trust my inner mind to do what it was already capable of doing.

When the burden of life becomes heavier, when it starts crushing our shoulders with all its might, it is time to be stronger! Mehmet Murat Ildan.

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Sometimes a change is all you need

Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken. Warren Buffett.

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If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got.

Julie reminded me of the truth of that statement. 

Julie was feeling depressed. She worked in admin in the local hospital and every workday she set her alarm for 7 am. She’d make a pot of tea and would drink two cups every morning followed by a bowl of cornflakes. While she had breakfast her husband would have a shower and then she would shower while he had breakfast. She would leave the house at 8.10 am to drive her Ford Fiesta to work, arriving half an hour early so as to set a good example.

She told me that she had worked in the same hospital in the same department for nearly twenty-five years. She didn’t enjoy her job and was looking forward to her retirement even though it was nine years away. Every lunchtime at 1 pm she would go to the staffroom and eat the cheese sandwiches that she’d brought from home, along with a cup of coffee. She’d leave work at 4 pm and arrive home an hour before her husband. She would cook dinner and he would do the washing up before they settled down to watch television for the rest of the evening.

I asked her about her weekend routine. Julie said that her husband always set the alarm for 7.30 am on Saturdays so that they could have a lie in. After the regulatory pot of tea, and showering, they would go out shopping, always to the same town. In the afternoon they would potter around the house and garden cleaning and catching up with the washing and ironing.

“What about Sundays?” I asked hopefully.

“Oh, we always go out on a Sunday,” she replied. I thought, at last, there might be something interesting that they do.

“Where do you go?” I asked.

“To my husband’s favourite café” she answered. “We have fish and chips and a cup of coffee. It very good value and my husband always says that it saves me cooking.”

I was hardly surprised that Julie felt depressed. She clearly illustrated the principle that if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.

We began to explore how she could change her routine and change how she was feeling. Julie felt hesitant, fearful even, which was perfectly natural, for what she had been doing was not only familiar but it also kept her life balanced and stable. Her lifestyle limited the risk of the unexpected but it also limited the possibility of enjoyment.

We started to talk about what small steps she could take to facilitate this change. To start with it was small things like taking a different route home from work, sitting at a different table in the café, or eating different food. Ideas such as trying a different café or town were rejected at first. I later found out that Julie’s husband had been resistant to any change at all and he would become angry at even the smallest change in their routine so at first, it was things that only affected Julie that were changed.

Julie began to look at whether she was really enjoying what she was doing and, if not, how she could do things differently. As she introduced more change into her life so she began to experience more positive emotions. Soon she was meeting friends to try out new coffee shops and go for walks. She stopped watching so much television and had signed up for an evening class plus joined a local wildlife group.

Her husband refused to change his routine at all and he disliked his wife having new ideas and interests. Soon Julie realised that they needed to separate and they did.

Sometimes change can seem difficult and frightening, but Julie learned that making gradual changes at your own pace soon opens up opportunities for new experiences and new possibilities.

She has remarried now and she and her husband have opened an art gallery and café. They regularly travel abroad to unusual places and Julie’s depression is a thing of the past.

Julie adapted the quote at the beginning and printed it to put on her wall. It reads:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got, and you’ll always feel what you always felt.

Feb16

My stories about clients and patients are just that – stories. Clients inspire me, but they are not included in my posts.