Delay, Fear and Perfectionism Out – Recover Life Unlocked

As you may have figured out by now, I’ve had a hard time launching Recover Life from Depression, but I’ve finally opened it up. “Unlocking” seems like a better word since I’ve struggled for months to break through a hard resistance to getting it done.

I was slow to grasp what was going on, but recently I had one of those no-duh moments. This is all about relapse, dude, so wake up and deal with it!

The problem started slowly, and for a long time I didn’t notice much. But doubts about my ability to do this and the value of the whole project soon crowded in. Anxiety, fear, perfectionism came on in full force, and I knew this was a lot more than the usual jitters about trying something new.

There’s nothing like taking on an ambitious project to test the skills of wellness I’ve been learning. Among the habits of depression, the constant undoing of self-esteem is one of the hardest to stop. I’ve gotten pretty good at shutting up the critical mental voice with all those self-bashing thoughts about what I’ve failed to do or can’t succeed in. But that’s only the conscious, thinking part of the problem.

The subtler side is a silent attack on self-esteem and the basic belief in who I am. This starts below awareness in whatever that pre-conscious part of the mind might be.

All went well at first. I planned things out and got to work, but soon strange things began to happen. I flipped backed and forth from low speed to high. When slowing down, urgent priorities of the new website didn’t seem so urgent. There were so many other thing that had to be taken care of.

Keeping up with the rest of my writing seemed to take all the brain power I had, and little was left to work on the new site. I was getting bogged down and started feeling inadequate because I wasn’t working faster and more efficiently. Words became heavy blocks that I had to lift and and put in place, then move again when I saw they didn’t fit together.

Repeatedly, I resolved to get it all done, but then slowed down again. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling such resistance. What was holding me back from something I wanted so much?

Doubts deepened. The idea didn’t look so great after all. I found many other sites that were already doing the same thing better than I could ever hope to do. And what if nobody liked it – who am I to imagine I could cover so much? I was fearful and nervous, and everything I did seemed wrong. As soon as I thought I was finished with one section, I’d take a second look and quickly decide it was unacceptable. I had to cut this, add that – no, just throw it out. Everyone will hate it. I have to do it over, but doing it over took such a long time. Nothing was ever good enough.

I felt like I was trying to move a huge boulder – hard pushing, no movement. With anxiety and shame increasing, delay on the project became a way of escaping those devastating feelings. Of course, delay didn’t work. I only felt worse.

Then I remembered something I’d learned in the books about mindfulness therapy I’d been reading, especially The Mindful Way through Depression. It was about the two modes of living we usually get into. One is the doing mode, the other the being mode.

Doing is all about goals and what you want in the future. There’s a discrepancy between the way things are and the way you want them to be. So you decide what you need to change and set to work. It’s a necessary mode when pursued in a balanced way, but I was anything but balanced. I was all goal, all future, all dissatisfaction, all self-criticism for never reaching the finish line.

The being mode is immersion in the present, with a sharpened perception of everything your mind and senses take in. There is no effort to think back to the past nor project into the future. Instead of seeing discrepancies between what’s in front of you and what you want all that to be, you focus on awareness of the here and now. I realized I needed to stop everything and try to stay in the present for a while in order to observe what I was doing to myself.

Then I could see so clearly that I had fallen into an old trap. I’d been there before and knew what shame was all about. A few years ago, I had made a fundamental shift and had experienced a new belief in my own worth as a human being. That had marked a decisive turn toward recovery, but suddenly I had found myself falling back into this grave for self-respect.

Shame, fear, delay, self-doubt, the need to be so perfect that I’d never meet self-imposed expectations – all that was so familiar. Old beliefs, old habits, old depression. It was relapse time, but I saw it plain as day and wouldn’t let it go any farther.

As soon as I had made this two plus two connection, the inner lock broke open. I couldn’t believe I’d been so blind – after all I’d been through, after dumping so many habits of depression. The amazing thing was that I only had to see the problem clearly to get rid of it. That’s what happens when I begin hearing “stinkin’ thinkin'” in my head. I hear those slurs and say no – I don’t believe in them anymore. This had been harder to detect because it had come on so gradually and at that level of feeling and belief that precedes any ideas in my mind that I can recognize.

So now I can open the site and let it be a work in progress. You’ll see it change, especially as you let me know what you’d like to have there. I’ll be learning as I go, and that’s all I can do.

I hope you’ll take part in making it work, pick up some ideas about dealing with depression and let us know your own story of moving toward recovery.

7 Responses to “Delay, Fear and Perfectionism Out – Recover Life Unlocked”

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  1. David says:

    Hi! Thanks for your great website I just found yesterday. I already learned alot from your writing. It is the way we can live with depression, without always searching for all the symptoms to disapear at once. Do with the depression, not just wait for it to go away all at once. Thanks, and I will be around to read what you post next.


    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, David –

      Thanks for your kind words. I hope you’re doing well in dealing with your depression.


  2. Donna says:

    Having just found this site, I can say it is helping me find a marker of sorts, a kind of buoy to let me know where the continental shelf falls away into deep ocean. I often find myself adrift here and there feeling that something solid is about to give way and become something that is difficult to plumb, something depthless and deathly in its immensity. As if I were being swallowed whole.

    I think this site is going to help simply because I can note the markers set by others, the buoys above the deep. The ones that say “no swimming here” or “dangerous riptides” or “beware of sharks!” I needed to read this post today because I have let myself be beset by nameless fears. I have been looking at the horizon and panicking to see how far I am from shore…when perhaps I need to practice mindfulness and simply turn my head and take a deep breath and keep on swimming. Keep moving in a direction that will bring me solid footing again, and stop bemoaning the fact I’m not where I want to be.

    • John says:

      Hi, Donna –

      Beautifully put – as always. I must have spent half my life in that panicked mode looking ahead to what I could never quite reach. I’m glad if the stories and comments here can mark those danger zones.

      All my best —


  3. Max says:

    I am struggling with the exact same issue in my work. exactly the same. But by you sharing your experience so eloquently and clearly you have helped me see the dynamic at work that is holding me back. Thanks so much.

    Your writing is so clear and you nail the issues so well. Thank you so much. You have helped me ‘pop the lock’ on my own progress in my work.

    A good example of what carl Rogers would say “is most personal is most general”…

  4. Wow! What an amazing article!

    I know the struggle you are going through, because I often have it just the same. The one thing that helps me is to just allow all those thoughts and feelings to be there, and keep working anyway. The progress may be slow, but having wasted so much time being perfectionistic, it’s better than letting those voices stop me completely.

    I can see that you have amassed an impressive amount of posts. The struggle was worth it.

    Keep up the amazing work.

    • John says:

      Thanks, HowToLiveHappily –

      I’m glad the post resonated with you. I agree with your idea – letting all the thoughts and feelings be there without letting them force your behavior. That’s tough to do, but I keep working at it.

      Thanks for your comment.


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