Cutting Ropes and Sailing Free


I’ve been working my way through a depression over the last few weeks. Maybe “underneath” is a better word… Sometimes the journey to freedom feels easy and the truth is crystal clear. Risks don’t feel so risky. There is a strong pull forward. It somehow feels simple to make decisions based on what I know is true. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt a pull downward, a pull to just stop where I am and hibernate for awhile. Some relationships in my life have become more distant and I have felt so afraid. I think the fear of being alone, of being rejected, is one of the most powerful fears we face in our lives. I found myself listening to old voices (much clearer this time around) that said, “See, you just can’t do this. You don’t have what it takes. If people abandon you, you will die. If you are rejected, you really MUST be messed up. You can’t survive on your own…”

I’ve learned this fear comes to revisit me in varying degrees along the journey of healing (I used to believe that if I had dealt with it once, I shouldn’t have to face it ever again.) I know this depression has some very real reasons behind it. In becoming whole, some things must fall away and others will grow stronger. In my survival, I was a ship that had attached myself to many many other ships around me. One rope here, another there, spread out like a giant spider web. These ropes felt like my lifelines. I sent out distress calls and survived by interpreting the feedback I got from the other ships. As I become whole, those ropes gradually get cut or fall away. Some just shrivel up and die. Others have to get snipped more intentionally. And I don’t mean that these ropes are only connected to “people”. Some of them were attached to old belief systems that kept me stuck. Some were religious, some were cultural “norms”, some were family belief systems. But one by one, I have freed myself… I became free to focus on my own ship and start listening to what it was all about, where it wanted to go.

Some people love freedom when they first taste it. For myself, freedom has not been an easy experience (yet!) Living so long with my ropes tied to other ships, I had so little sense of my own direction, of where my own sails wanted to take me. Cutting those ropes has sometimes felt absolutely terrifying. How will I know where to go? How will I know that I’m going the right way? What if I cut these ropes and sail off to sea all by myself? Will I ever be close to others again? How can I be close to others if we aren’t tied together?… My depression was a way of coping with these fears. If I could just turn the voices down, or just fall back into the old belief that all of my pain really is my own fault, maybe this would feel easier… Maybe I could go back to coasting alongside someone else… or just hole up in the harbor again, or maybe find some isolated island to call my permanent home…

Deep within my own ship is a lantern, burning with the truth about who I am, with the life and the unique journey that is mine to take. Throughout this depression, I have felt its presence. As loud as those old voices and fears have been, my own presence has been loud too. I know that it is there. But I have felt such angst, running back up to the main deck, peering at the ships I used to be tied to, fearing my “aloneness”, fearing that the lantern with my own light isn’t bright enough to trust, isn’t good enough (now I ask, good enough for who?) It’s the most life squishing lie of all time.

My soul won’t give up. As tempted as I have felt over the last few weeks, the light inside wants to win. To keep walking forward into what feels terrifying is what my whole self wants so much more than to fade away back to the place that feels deceptively safe and familiar (it’s not the same back there anyways). I have always wanted the open sea. Facing old fears is part of learning to sail well, and I am on my way.

11 response to "Cutting Ropes and Sailing Free"

  1. By: J Posted: 6th September

    ” But I have felt such angst, running back up to the main deck, peering at the ships I used to be tied to, fearing my “aloneness”, fearing that the lantern with my own light isn’t bright enough to trust, isn’t good enough (now I ask, good enough for who?) It’s the most life squishing lie of all time.”

    Yup, I understand this completely.

  2. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 17th June

    So true Susan! I believe we were born with wings and the chains are given to us by others who didn’t learn to fly themselves… As we take flight, we find we don’t need those chains anymore (to keep us earthbound). Thanks for sharing this beautiful thought. Hugs to you, Carla

  3. By: Susan Posted: 16th June

    I’ve always called the “ropes” my chains. We were given wings and chains in our lives and if we can unfetter our wings we can fly.

  4. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 16th June

    Ligeia, thank you for sharing. I hesitated to share so honestly because sometimes I put pressure on myself, thinking that writing on a mental health blog should mean I don’t struggle anymore! (there’s a faulty belief exposed…) It’s just not true. The big difference between struggling now and struggling then is that now I can work to uncover what the real truth is, and this helps me find freedom rather than going around in circles despairing. You can find this same freedom too. I hope you have a chance to read Darlene’s recent post- it is so encouraging and empowering. Love and hugs to you Ligeia.

  5. By: Ligeia Posted: 16th June

    Carla, I think it’s great that you share this with your readers, because some of us are having some issues with depression, myself included.

    Though I have not really figured out how to talk about it (odd considering I blog). But it’s complicated right now. Today I have read two bloggers who are talking about depression and I think I needed to hear it just because …it’s been a rugged few months and I think it’s catching up on me.

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. By: Lisa Posted: 15th June

    You have once again hit my struggle right on the head with your post. Beautifully written and ringing so true. I have not yet cut all those ropes and I’m not sure I’m ready to…although I know a better time will not just “appear”. I too am very uncomfortable with freedom, and still hide from it back in that familiar and comfortable depression, which gets less comfortable every time I break out a little and go back to it. I know it’s destroying me. Would I really rather be unhappy than break free? It’s hard not to blame myself!! Thanks again for your powerful post.

    • By: Carla Dippel Posted: 15th June

      Lisa, thank you for your comments. It really is a process, a journey… There are some ropes that I can cut today that I was not ready to cut three years ago, even three months ago! The more we nourish the belief in our true value and just keep getting used to the good freedom feelings, the more free we become to get rid of those ropes at the right time (for us!) Big hugs to you as you keep on your journey Lisa. It sounds like you are really working it through, even though that back and forth part can be so painful. And sometimes just being aware of exactly where we are at helps us heal, even if we’re standing still for awhile. Thank you for sharing your journey here. Love, Carla

  7. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 15th June

    Thanks Debbie! I like how you put that~ a “beautifully unique lantern.” Thank you for sharing…

    Patricia, I like your idea of the depression really being a grieving… That rings true. There really is an active process going on underneath it all, a process of letting go, seeing things more clearly (which is both painful and freeing at the same time), choosing to believe the truth… I love your phrase~ “full sails set running through the winds of change”. And I also love your suggestion of exploring islands along the way! Harbors are necessary pit stops on the journey. Thanks for being here Patricia. Love and hugs to you too.


  8. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 14th June

    Carla, I know those fears so well. I was 38 years old when I began my journey through recovery and set sail on a ship of my own looking to find myself. Because of the incest, I had lost the me that I was supposed to be. When I started accessing the feelings and going through the memories, I felt such overwhelming grief, sadness and hurt. I went to a psychiatrist and asked if I was depressed and if I needed to be on medication. I didn’t know. He told me that what I was feeling was normal for the abuse that I had survived. He said I was doing well and didn’t need medication.

    Grieving is part of the journey. Sometimes it feels like depression. It takes time to come out of it and you will when the time is right. Today even though I have recently gone through my own bout with heavy grief, it still isn’t like what I carried around most of my childhood and early adulthood before I started working on my issues and letting go of all of those fault beliefs.

    I have to wonder if you aren’t where I was at the beginning of my journey. Wherever you are right is right where you are supposed to be and you will get through it. You will wake up and find yourself back on course with full sails set running in front of the winds of change. It is okay to take breaks and explore the islands along the way. Love to you on your journey.

  9. By: Debbie Posted: 14th June

    I had to read this over a couple of times to get the full picture. It is so well written. I love the idea of the lantern within the ship… your beautifully unique lantern.

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