Friday, 13 February 2015

From Riding the Roller-coaster to the Art of Gliding

Gliding is an activity I have long been fascinated by since I was child and we lived in the vicinity of a gliding club. In fact, I love all kinds of flying, I enjoy travelling by air, the smaller the aircraft, the more enjoyment I get out of the journey. I've parascended, zip wired and enjoyed flying in a helicopter through the Grand Canyon. Learning to fly is high on my Bucket List. Gliding, I think is a good way to learn the rudiments of flight, so I plan, in time, maybe to start there.

This past week I have hit some turbulence in my emotional equilibrium. It has come as a shock to my system especially as I have experienced a longish period of relative stability, particularly in what I refer to as my 'baseline'. Since early January my baseline has taken a dip towards depression, again. The symptoms are familiar to me. In the past it would have taken much longer to even notice this foundational dip, let alone take action to adjust myself to the change.

Initially the symptoms of depression and the consequent negative thought processes which have been part and parcel of my story for so long, have made me feel like I am 'failing' in my recovery. Before this becomes a cyclical thought/emotion dash to self destructive behaviour I know I need to take a step back and think more clearly about what is going on. This is when I started to think about gliding.

In the past, I experienced most days as roller-coaster rides. Massive shifts between negative and positive emotions happened in the space of one or two hours and back again, over and over again until I exhausted my emotional and physical reserves and ended up completely empty. Everything was out of my control, without me having access to any means to manage, direct or control my experience of life.

Today, I think, I am more like the glider pilot. I am still at the mercy of the 'thermals' of daily life. I cannot predict when the actions of others, or the simple process of being a human being are going to challenge me to negotiate a drop in emotional pressure. Unlike the experience of the funfair passenger, the glider pilot is capable of 'riding' the thermals, the forces which dictate the movement of the glider. In addition to having a vessel capable of negotiating the air pressure, there is a simple object - the joystick, which allows me, as the pilot, to determine the overall direction of the glider. Only if I let go of the joystick and give up on getting anywhere in the glider, am I in danger of crashing. Most of all, as that pilot, I need to acknowledge and use what nature throws at me.


I have never piloted a glider - yet, but I have enjoyed sailing in the past. In the same way, in sailing, I cannot change or determine where the wind is going to come from, how strong it is likely to be, or its effects on the waves around. I can, however, use the tiller and sails to negotiate my way through the water, making the most of the power the wind and waves supply. Again, I am able to determine the overall direction in which I want to go.

Right now, I would only be wasting my emotional and physical energy if I deny or resist the fact that I am depressed. In accepting that is where I am at the moment, I give myself permission to look after myself, to not try things I cannot achieve - for the moment. Nor do I need to give up on the hope of keeping moving forward with my life. This month, is not going to determine the progress of the rest of my life, any more than the glider pilot or yachtsman, are unable to steer their way through the thermals or waves - provided they use the tools and skills at their disposal.

For now the tools and skills I am using are Distress Tolerance, to cope with negative thoughts and emotions and Looking after myself physically (DBT PLEASE Skills) and using my DBT inter-personal skills to set aside some tasks that were causing me additional anxiety.

Above all, I am so pleased that the ups and downs are now less roller-coaster and more glider. The dips I am facing don't feel insurmountable. I have also learned that, as quickly as this storm has blown up, it can and will change - 'This Too Will Pass', as some of the worst moments in my life already have. I don't know how long it will last, but it will change to something else, something different, another part of the experience of life. I'm with Carole King - it is all part of the rich tapestry.