/ ARTICLE: Coming Back
My fingers feel frozen but sweat beads on my forehead as I battle the waves of anxiety; I need to focus on the task at hand but my scattered brain seeks distractions and retreat. I'm not halfway up a route but sitting in an office chair in front of my computer in Spain, trying to make some sense of how I feel, and put it into words.
Taba Easton writes about living, climbing and writing with anxiety and fear of failure.
Nice article, thank you for sharing.
I hope you get back on rock soon.
Well it's no small accomplishment to overcome your anxiety enough to put writing on this website, thus opening it up to the possibility of torrents of unhelpful comments, which often litter these forums. Well done for that.
You write well, and I was dissapointed that the piece ended just as I was getting into it. Climbing media these days is all too often filled with vacuous self promoting rubbish, and it is always refreshing to see someone writing about something a little deeper. Write about your experience, and you'll always have a contented audience in me.
Personally, the combination of climbing, and then writing about my experiences and motivations to have them after the fact, has been central to finding an intrinsically oriented approach to life, and thus a reduction of an anxiety which was also once rather crippling. When my motivations come from within, anxiety has little power over me, but when my motivation comes from out with, anxiety always has a stronger hold.
Finally, I'm not sure if you use it, but after writing and climbing, the single best thing I have done to tackle my anxiety is to quit social media. Some people see this as avoiding the problem, but I can only speak from my experience, and my life is far better without it. I've not looked back for a second.
Well I thought that was an excellent piece of writing, well done. And I think it’s a fascinating subject matter too, one that, perhaps ironically, you seem to have a really good understanding of. To that end, I can’t offer you any advice, the questions you pose in the article are followed by the answers that I would have provided.
All I can do really is share a part of my own story. I feel like I’m emerging from a ten year coma. For the best part of a decade I’ve battled with muscle imbalances, with constant pain and discomfort, and felt completely lost because of it. My identity as a climber, as an athlete, as someone who thrives on physical work, disappeared. And as a result, I retreated within myself. I talked to people less and less, and became more insular. I tried to find solutions to the problem through physio but it’s only been in the last two years that any progress has been made. And it was so microscopic that it didn’t really change my day to day outlook. And then a few months ago, I had a major breakthrough and almost overnight regained the body I used to have. The effect that this has had, and continues to have, on my attitude surprises me daily.
I find myself engaging naturally with complete strangers, colleagues, family and friends in a way I haven’t for a long, long time. Without any real thought, I’m doing things in the hills that I couldn’t even have contemplated before, and I’m returning home from long days of training and work feeling energised and wide awake. And funnily enough, I feel more now than ever I could walk away from climbing because it would be my choice. It’s not being forced upon me. But that’s my story. I don’t know what will work for you, but it sounds like you’re on your way to figuring it out. I wish you luck. And keep up the writing.
what was it that gave you your breakthrough with your imbalances and pain?
From a fellow sufferer.
I can empathise very strongly with this - I'm very familiar with the feeling of enthusiasm that deteriorates to dread the closer you get to the rock, the anxiety that sabotages your enjoyment of the climbing... particularly on 'famous' routes like Left Wall or the like.
I practically gave it up for a year or two because of this and am slowly coming to terms with it, mostly by sticking to safer routes, mixing climbing with hill running and channeling obsessiveness into training... but it's hard.
Thank you for sharing.
Sorry to hear you’ve got similar issues. My breakthrough was a result of seeing a physio called Scott MacAulay at Glasgow City Physiotherapy in 2017. It was total chance that I happened to pick his physio practice, after years of seeing a whole heap of specialists (NHS and private). I was there to see him about imbalances in my chest and upper back (starting in 2014 with shoulder winging), which had come about because of imbalances in my lower back (2010), which had originated from a serious loss of dorsiflexion in my left ankle (2003-07).
In addition to targeting my chest/upper back, Scott gave me a few exercises that targeted my lower back - he’d noticed that I couldn’t really bend to my left side. I had been given countless exercises for my lower back by others but none of them ever had any effect. But three months after doing these particular exercises (the main one being greyhound stretches) something gave in my lower back and for the first time in 7 years I was able to sleep without pain. My lower back was still sore during the day but it no longer affected my sleep. I kept doing the stretches every day and after a further year and a half (winter 2018-19), I just woke up one morning and was able to suddenly bend to my left side as much as my right. The muscles tried to lock up again over the next three weeks or so but never offered much resistance, and then didn’t offer any resistance after that. There is still a slight tightness in my lower back, so I’m keeping up the stretching but it’s so tiny that I’m not even aware of it now 99% of the time.
I hope that’s been of some help (or at least comfort). In my case it essentially boiled down to seeing the right person. All the best with it, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need any more information or want to have a chat.
Thank you so much to everyone who has read and commented on this. I did tell myself I wouldn't get involved in the forum posts as I realise my style probably isn't for everyone, and I was braced for some tough love, but so far it has all been very kind. It has given me a slightly overwhelming feeling to first see something I have written "in print" and second to hear that it resonated with some people and they enjoyed it.
I actually wrote this quite a long time ago, and actually kind of gave up on it being published, I didn't hear anything for several months and then suddenly it was up! I haven't managed to establish myself as living in a van and climbing tons as yet, I had one false start where the van I converted died 2 weeks in and my second van is progressing more slowly due to various developments, one of which is a wonderful new relationship, so I certainly cant complain.
Again thank you so much to readers, commenters and of course UKC.
> Finally, I'm not sure if you use it, but after writing and climbing, the single best thing I have done to tackle my anxiety is to quit social media. Some people see this as avoiding the problem, but I can only speak from my experience, and my life is far better without it. I've not looked back for a second.
Seconded, and more people seem to be realising this. I binned Facebook about three years ago, and never looked back. I wouldn't say I had depression, but had bouts of feeling pretty low. Binning social media, and general digital consumption, seemed to help me a lot. Once you've got rid of it, you forget it ever existed.
This was a great read. I've been struggling with the anxiety front for a few months now, and it's comforting to know it can get better. Thanks for this great piece!
Well done for sharing with us - that takes some courage. It's a really good description of how you feel. And best of luck in your quest to get out more.
Also well done to everyone for the positive responses. UKC at it's best.
Taba, if you've got any more articles as well-written as this one, I - and a lot of other people - would enjoy reading them. Well done, and best wishes for the future.
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