Making Survival First: Part 17 - Lost in Darkness
In the psychedelic world there's something called a trip report. Basically, people take psychedelics, trip balls and write about it.
This Making Survival First series has basically been one large 16-part trip report. With some exception I've so far focused on the surface strategic and tactical stuff - the who's, how's, what’s and why’s of making the book.
But all journeys have layers. These next two parts of Making Survival First are about the journey within the journey. The real journey. As profound trips often do, sometimes things get worse before they get better.
That’s what happened to me.
In an energetic sense, Survival First is a journey to confront darkness in order to discover light. To write the book I needed to write I had to go that journey myself.
While writing the book I cooked up new ways to see business and people. Like any self respecting chef I tasted my own ideas and described what it was like.
The pattern went like this. Here's a new risk framework! How does it apply to me? Most of the time things went well. Going through my own exercises gave me me more security in my business.
But then I kept digging. Eventually reflections on my business became reflections on myself. Around this time I bought my house. This was relevant because it changed my time horizon. Instead of looking at my life in the short-to-medium term, I began looking long term.
It only took one simple question to trigger the avalanche. Could I imagine myself doing the same thing years into the future?
No, no I couldn't, I realized.
That turned into fuck now what. Suddenly, anxieties and doubts about myself I thought were dead revived with a vengeance.
Could I do anything else? Am I smart enough? Am I good enough? Did I just get lucky? Am I stuck? Do things just get worse from here?
Sure, these were first world problems. But what first world problems lack in survival necessity they more than make up for in psychic complexity.
Catastrophizing, is what my family who saw me during this time called it. They were right. The longer I forecasted the more I freaked out.
I spiraled into darkness. Between thinking about myself, my business, and my house I was having near-nightly anxiety attacks. I sunk into the kind of depression that was unimaginable a few weeks earlier. Making things worse, I got hit huge surprise tax bill and the news that I would need a new business license that would take months of work.
It only took this one question to shatter the carefully constructed psychic safety bubble I’d constructed over the last few years. In the span of a few weeks I emotionally deteriorated from everything-is-great to everything is fucked.
I overwhelmed myself. I lost sleep each night and woke up in anxious dread trying to untangle my Gordian knot of financial, professional and emotional problems. This new state was becoming my new normal with no end in sight.
I was lost in darkness.
That's when I knew I needed help. For the first time in my adult life I started therapy once every other week. Drinking my own risk Kool Aid showed me that I didn’t like where my path was taking me and that it was time to build a new one.
Building that new path started by forcing myself to stop catastrophizing into the future and return to the present. I settled into my house and began taking things little by little. One task a time. One day at a time.
I focused on the basics. I ate well, worked out most days, and spent a lot of time with my close friends. My house turned out to be better than I could have hoped. With therapy’s help I began slowly unraveling the many deeper issues that had recently surfaced. Slowly, I recovered and my life re-settled to a new normal.
This bad part of the trip was bad, but I’m grateful for it. I saw what I needed to see. I’m not totally out of the woods yet, but I’m much further along the new path I’ve set for myself.
More relevant to this series, venturing through darkness took my book to a surprising and beautiful place. As a result I created something better than I ever could have imagined.
As for myself, as the darkness began to fade I found a glimpse of a strange new light - faith.
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