Remembering That Progress Is Not Linear

Photograph courtesy of Stewart Scott-Curran, CNN

Note to self: there will always be hiccups and speed bumps along the way. Sometimes the only way to figure out the right way is by first going the wrong way. It’s just how it goes.

Far too often I find myself stressing over where I’m at, why I haven’t reached certain milestones, dwelling on the illusion that I’m in reverse. I have to remind myself to zoom out and remember how I felt 3 months, 6 months, a year ago, to get a truthful view of things.

I still suffer with agoraphobia, and yes it’s extremely frustrating not to be able to do some of the most simple, taken-for-granted tasks like seeing friends, going to the shops, or basically anything that involves travelling more than a few miles from home.

But just 9 months ago I was heavily addicted to benzodiazepines and my life was miserable. I was convinced I couldn’t live without a constant supply of medication, and felt like I was perpetually walking a tightrope over shark infested waters. Just 6 months ago I was in the throws of benzo withdrawal and in a constant state of physical and mental anxiety, unable to think and constantly slipping up and relapsing.

It’s now been 3 months completely clean. I’ve completely given up drugs and drinking (for now at least), I meditate for far longer periods than I ever could, every day, I eat well and exercise, and slowly but surely my panic attacks are shrinking and the tunnel of agoraphobia now has a (very tiny) light at the end.

The light at the end of the dark tunnel

Journaling is a great way of reminding myself of the progress I’m making. I don’t do it often enough but just reading a few notes from 6 months ago was almost like reading the thoughts of a different person. Even flicking through old notes on my iPhone was like being shaken out of a trance of self doubt and gave me a fresh optimistic perspective of my future.

I may have been over ambitious about my goals and where I expected to be at this point in time. I didn’t account for the inevitable sprinkling of roadblocks and wrong turns that populate all journeys. But I’m making solid, constant progress over time, growing in ways I hadn’t anticipated, and feeling confident things will turn out just right.

Pretty cheesy analogy incoming: being in the moment is great, and keeping an eye on the destination is important. But also the odd glance in the rear view every now and then to remind yourself where you’ve come from might be just what you need.

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