Monday 16 September 2019

In which I tell the whole truth about what really happened last week

No slacking:Gemma Fullam.. Photo: Gerry Mooney
No slacking:Gemma Fullam.. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Gemma Fullam

I have a confession to make: I wasn't entirely honest last week. So the following is in the interests of full disclosure.

Some backstory: at 16, I had never heard of depression. I thought the profound despair I was feeling was an intrinsic part of my make-up; just as my eyes were blue and my hair was straight, the darkness inside was also me. I felt worthless, ergo I was worthless. I felt wretched, so I was wretchedness personified. Such was my logic. My teenage mind wasn't sophisticated enough to separate the self from the sadness and I didn't confide in anyone, so the depression became my dark secret.

Things imploded when I went to college. People sensed my melancholy and give it a wide berth. At that point in my life, desperately in need of help, I was sent to see a respected medical professional, who told me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me beyond being a selfish brat.

But I wasn't waving, I was drowning. I left that doctor's office devoid of hope, having had my deepest fear validated by officialdom: I was a Bad Person.

I was 18 years old.

I'm sure you're wondering what all of this has to do with slacklining. I've never felt comfortable giving other people advice, because I have no answers. This feature is all about change and change being possible.

Well, I am no longer that teenager who cannot cope, who thinks she has no worth. I changed. I changed because I found a way to be compassionate with myself - and with compassion, everything becomes possible.

Last week, I was feeling down and that's why I didn't walk the line. The fear comes and it paralyses me. I cope better now.

But last week, I didn't cope. I hid. Hid from the world, from life, from myself - although I know well there is no escape from the self.

This week, I remembered my own rule of thumb, which is, "Would you talk to a small child like that?" (No) and stopped the negative internal monologue. No good, no good, no good. And I went out and walked the line and was kind to myself. I fell off but I got back up. I did the best I could and that was okay. I found joy in the doing and I forgave myself for not being perfect.

This I know: change is possible. But only if accompanied by a large dose of compassion.

TIP: Henry James said it best: "Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind."

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