I cringe every time I hear that. It’s not just that I’m scared of the water, which I am. It’s the very idea of it. Letting go and giving yourself over to whatever happens after you leave the ground, that’s terrifying to me.
I’d much rather stick my toe in, test things out a while. Make sure everything seems ok, then sit there on the edge kicking my feet around in the water for a bit. If that feels all right then maybe I’ll start walking down the steps, you know, to where the water might come to my waist. Then after another while, if I’m really feeling good about things, I might drop into the water up to my chest. But that’s about as good as you’re going to get from me.
Pretty painful, isn’t it? Not only is that how I approach the water in a real swimming pool, it’s also a very accurate representation of the way I’ve approached my life for most of my forty-two years.
In fact, I can only think of two times, and both of them have been relatively recent, that I’ve made the conscious decision to just jump in and do something.
The first one happened last summer when I quit my job of seventeen years. I had worked in retail management. Largely a leadership and customer service position. Absolutely perfect for the shy, introverted, confidence-lacking person I was.
For years and years, I pushed myself through being uncomfortable and unsure in pursuit of a good paycheck. I learned how to do all the tasks I needed to perform in order to be successful. When it came to leadership, I learned how to play a quiet second-in-command to a strong boss. Customer service was always a struggle, always second-guessing and doubting myself.
I made a couple of attempts at being the man in charge, and failed miserably both times. I didn’t possess the confidence or the people skills needed to do the job well. Trying to deal with anxiety and depression didn’t help matters.
After my second failure, I was placed in an assistant’s role at a location that already had an assistant. I never got comfortable with sharing the job and my anxiety was reaching new heights. I missed a lot of work because of my anxiety and depression and I was causing a lot of problems in doing so. After a conversation with my boss about my missed time, I decided that I just couldn’t keep putting myself through the uncomfortable struggle anymore and I quit on the spot.
I haven’t regretted that decision once since that day. It’s put my family in a difficult spot financially, but we’re finding our way through. I look at that day as the day I finally decided to start taking care of myself.
The second time I made a decision by jumping right in came just a couple of months ago. I was very depressed and very anxious. I had been dealing with this depression and anxiety for quite some time and I was suicidal.
The suicidal thoughts I was experiencing were quickly growing in intensity and frequency. They were becoming impulsive. I was on shaky ground. That’s when a suicidal impulse hit me at the worst time. I was holding a saw, a means to take action, in my hands when the impulse struck. Thankfully, I didn’t act.
I was frightened beyond words. Shaken and stunned, I took myself to my wife’s office to talk to her and make my next jumping-in decision. I couldn’t count on my medication and therapy to protect me anymore. I decided I needed in-patient treatment to help me cope with the anxiety and depression.
So we went to the emergency room and did what was necessary to get transferred to a full-time treatment center. By late that night, I was safely in a bed in a psychiatric hospital.
I needed that time and attention away from the world. I needed a reboot. I needed a fresh perspective. I quickly got that during my time in the hospital. Going from worst person I knew in my own life to being an easy patient to deal with brought about the perspective change I required. People I met in the hospital had far worse problems than I did.
I gained some valuable education on what’s really important in life. I learned that I had to put myself before my family and in turn put my family before my job. I had always said that before, but I hadn’t lived it.
Now I’m not saying that we should live life by blindly jumping from one thing to the other. But I do feel that trusting yourself enough to be able to take those leaps when you need to is important.
I went a long time where I couldn’t say that about myself. These two times when I finally did jump all-in on a decision have so far proven to be good. It’s strange to look at in this way: how many people could say that quitting a high-paying job was a good thing? Or, how many people could look back and say wanting to kill themselves was a good thing?
These bad situations ended up turning into the right decisions to make because I was making the decision to be a happier and healthier person. I tried to put an end to my suffering and made improvement my new goal.
The next time I have to make a big decision, I’m likely going to still be cautious. But I’ll be less fearful of making that decision because I’ve learned the lessons from jumping in, and in the end, the water was just fine.
Jason has suffered from depression and anxiety for over twenty years. He can be contacted at:https://www.facebook.com/jason.large.12?fref=nf