In early 2017, I found myself in a new-city, new-life panic. Worried a little that my depression was lurking ever closer, I found a bouldering group on Meetup and began climbing.
I changed jobs, settled into Leeds, and bouldered hard.
August came around and in a hungover, tired state, I slipped off a fairly easy bouldering problem at Shipley Glen and snapped my ankle in half.
5 hours after falling and being in complete denial that anything was wrong, I finally relented and found myself in A&E, eventually to be told I’d had the most devastating break I could have, and that the bone would probably die within several months.
The bone didn’t die. It wasn’t – isn’t – as dramatic as it all seemed (yet, anyway). Life carried on with crutches, working from home, a new partner who climbed, and physio. I began climbing again as soon as I could.
But both bouldering and roped climbing didn’t fill me with the enjoyment it used to.
I had met somebody perfect for me, somebody that made me happy but, still, I felt little. I felt not enough. My depression didn’t creep up on me in the same, dark, numbing way it had before. Instead, it had started scratching at me.
I didn’t stick a move? I wasn’t good enough. It took me 4 times as long to get a route? I was inferior. Climbing started to become unpleasant for me, for both of us, as I began to feel more and more frustrated with myself and my penchant for ‘failure’.
I didn’t stick a move? I wasn’t good enough.
No matter that I was actually a relatively new climber, as well as being a climber with an injury that had left my ankle totally smashed up. All I could think is that I wasn’t enough. That I wasn’t good enough.
It’s six months on.
It’s taken me a while to realise that the devastation I feel when I can’t send something hasn’t really got anything to do with my climbing. This doubt and constant self-deprecation has been ever-present throughout my life: ruining endeavours, destroying projects and ideas that might have actually been pretty awesome. And now, it had begun to creep into my climbing life.
The devastation I feel when I can’t send something hasn’t really got anything to do with my climbing.
This realisation is relatively new. So, I’ve now began reflecting on the concept of dropping my ego and since beginning this project, and my own business, since spending time working on myself and expressing a little more, my climbing has actually had a wash of calm fall over it.
I have started thinking about my breathing. Weird thing to say, maybe, but I never, ever thought about my breathing pattern that much before. I’ve now started looking at the holds – I mean, really looking – at my fingers at they flex and reach. I breathe, and climb, and breathe, and climb.
When frustration begins to bubble, I remind myself that however I do on this route, it doesn’t define me. Failure doesn’t define me, in the same way that success isn’t a reflection of who I actually am. How I feel is who I am, how I behave is who I am. Sending, or not sending, will pass.