Communication. Engagement. What's the... - Mental Health Sup...

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Communication. Engagement. What's the risk?


I have gained some confidence recently and made the effort to get out for an evening to my local climbing wall last week. It was a real achievement for me as it has been a couple of years since I last went out with friends to do something that i used to take for granted.

I enjoy climbing. The physical nature is great and it has social aspects; you cannot really do it safely on your own and trips to the pub often follow a climbing session, whether indoors or outdoors. The whole experience is fun and challenging.

I have avoided going climbing and contacting the friends I climb with because of a different challenge. Not because of any concern over any risks form climbing or the fear of getting hurt, but the social side.

Anxiety and a panic attack in a small room of 50 people put me off.

My concern over what I would talk about with friends and acquaintances that did not know about depression and what I had been up to was a major worry.

It has been easier not to go at all and i had almost forgot the reason I used to do it so much was it was fun.

Last week I felt positive and decided to go. I need to reconnect with people. Depression and anxiety have been so isolating for me and I have to have some conversation or all I will be left with is my own irrational and negative thinking.

I checked that a couple of people I know would be there and then just turned up. We said a brief hello then I paired up with another old acquaintance. I didn't have to talk much as we took turns alternating climbing and holding the rope for each other. I really enjoyed it and was one of the last to leave.

The pub was the greater challenge. Around a table with about 8 people to chat to was scary and has been unfamiliar to me recently.

In my head I was thinking about isolation, anxiety and all the stuff that keeps me from engaging with others. The need to retire to bed just to get rid of unwelcome thoughts. Endless negativity and catastrophising. Either being emotionally numb or overwhelmed.

What I actually talked about was the weather. Dogs and puppies. How different children are doing at school. Homework. What people climbed last summer.

How i got out climbing with my son but didn't do anything else.

Nothing about my emotional state. Nothing revealing about my condition. Nothing about all the demons that had been fighting me in my head.

I enjoyed a pint and went home. With an invite to do it again this week. "Nice to see you again, lets do it again soon."

My experience of overcoming my challenge and fear of engagement, together with the memory of such simple conversations, reminded me of a communication model I use in training sometimes.

Eric Berne, who came up with Transactional Analysis, said we choose to communicate with people at different levels.

Everyone starts with ritual and cliche. A handshake and "How are you?" No one really expects honesty, just "I'm fine. And you?"

As we get to know people we exchange more facts about work, family, holiday destinations and sport.

Only when we spend more time with people, get to know them and trust a bit more do we exchange opinions and beliefs and what is going on for us emotionally.

We all know to avoid talking about sex, politics, religion and illnesses with strangers. Too intense to start off any conversation.

Except I had forgotten that.

I spend so much time in my own head exploring dilemmas and losing perspective, dealing with overwhelming emotions, struggling with my demons, that I forget I don't have to talk about them with relative strangers or even old friends.

The next time i head out looking for conversation I will be ready to discuss the trivia of live that i have missed, the day to day stuff that most take for granted and exchange at the school gate, over a beer or at the shops.

And I will remember that I will not be exposed and frightened. I will seek engagement and risk conversation

And my demons will be smaller and quieter and drowned out by the voices of other people in my life.

And after sharing other conversations on this site I thought I could risk sharing my little epiphany here too.

I will head off to go climbing tomorrow feeling excited rather than scared and look forward to a chat in the pub.

10 Replies

How true. Very eloquently put too. The sentence that struck me is:

"And my demons will be smaller and quieter and drowned out by the voices of other people in my life."

So much so I want to ask if I can quote please, if so anonymously or as David196 please? No worries if can't I understand. 💗


David196 in reply to Annunnaki

Thanks for your comments.

i am happy to let you share but I am tempted to stay anonymous.

Aren't the usernames on here pretty anonymous anyway?


Annunnaki in reply to David196

Yes, username are anonymous. Didn't know if you wanted your username used. I'll quote as anonymous. Thanks. 💗



Well done David that's great. Too many with depression seem to think that the only way to help it is to talk about it to exhaustion. Often it is much better just to chat about more trivial things and that helps you to feel more connected as you have found. x


David I notice you never lock your posts to community only. Did you know they can end up anywhere on the net otherwise? The terminalology they use is 'going viral' x

David196 in reply to Hidden

Thanks Bev. I'll watch for that. I thought i was risking a little and it maybe is risking a bit more!

Hidden in reply to David196

Well it's up to you of course David, I just wasn't sure you knew! bev x

Wow you have literally faced your wall in more than one way....

I love how you reached into another part of your life and used the Transactional Analysis,, ....We often have our own little magic wand to use and dont even know it

An inspirational post x


Congratulations on challenging yourself to get back out there climbing, as well as facing the figurative scree that is large-scale social interaction. It seems like you have a good head for analysing yourself and such social situations.


Well done David

Enjoy being with people who have your same interests, keep conversation light and uncomplicated, remember if conversations are to heavy you could drive people away.

Just enjoy the moment and you can never go wrong

Good Luck


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