The Quicksand of Self Doubt

If you’ve ever seen a Tarzan movie or even Gilligan’s Island, you probably know what happens when a fictional character steps into quicksand. They immediately sink in up to their midsection, flail around wildly, and, if not rescued, are swallowed up, never to be seen again.

While played for laughs by Gilligan, it’s not so funny when the quicksand appears in your own life. I learned this the hard way recently when self doubt threatened to swallow me whole. You see, my family has a history of Alzheimer’s disease. I’m the point person for my mother’s care, coordinating doctor appointments and that sort of thing. The vibrant, creative woman who raised me is slowly slipping away, replaced by a confused doppelganger who can’t remember what she told me minutes before.

If that wasn’t sad and overwhelming enough, I’m constantly seeing “symptoms” in myself. Every piece of misplaced paperwork or name that escapes me, every time I misjudge or make a mistake, I’m further convinced that I have Alzheimer’s too. It no time at all, I find myself up to my neck in quicksand, flailing wildly, drowning in fear and self doubt.

The last time this happened, I finally confessed all to a dear friend. I was convinced that she was going to tell me that she had noticed the same thing in me, that I definitely showed signs of Alzheimer’s disease. I was wrong. She told me that making mistakes was proof that I’m human, that we all forget, especially when we’re under stress, that I’m normal. She calmed me down and got me to stop flailing, to stop dragging myself down with self doubt. In jungle movie terms, she threw me a rope and pulled me out of the quicksand. She saved me from myself.

I am lucky to have such a wise friend. And I learned a valuable lesson–even if there’s not someone right there to throw me a rope, I can save myself. Want to know how?

  1. Stop flailing. When self doubt is swirling all around, find your center. Stop. Take a deep breath. Let it out very slowly. Repeat.
  2. Throw yourself a rope and gently make your way to solid ground. What grounds you may be different than what grounds me. Yoga, meditation, or simply petting my dog all help me get my footing. What works for you?
  3. Find your way back to civilization. Even if you couldn’t reach a friend earlier, find one now. Humans are social creatures. Share your pain so that those dearest to you can comfort and reassure you.

My mother won’t ever get better and I still haven’t found that expired passport and that’s okay. I’ve escaped my own personal quicksand.

What about you? How do you break free of what’s dragging you down?





  1. Hi Julie: Thanks for being so transparent and vulnerable in this post. We do not have any Alzheimers in my family but my hubby Kris is having real problems with his memory and though he doesn’t share much, I know it frustrates him. This has helped me to see that I need to be that lifeline for him when he needs it.

    For me, what drags me down is my eating. I have always struggled with my weight and wanting to eat what I want when I want! I have lost 60 pounds in the last 1 and 1/2 years but have gained a little back and struggle with staying on a healthy food plan when it was so easy before. I “flail” a lot I think. What helps me is to share about it with someone who knows what its like and who I can be accountable to. I take it one day at a time and know that not every day will be totally healthy eating. There will be times that I will eat a piece of cake but I can’t beat myself up about it. I pick it up where I left off and move forward. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Julie Corron says:

      Paula Jo,
      Great job! Not just with the weight loss but with learning what works for you. That kind of self-knowledge will be very useful if you do need to become that lifeline for your husband. There are many things that affect memory, and while it can be scary, investigating the possibilities not only gives you knowledge but also options. And options are empowering! I wish you both the best on your journey.

  2. Julie, I like the quicksand metaphor and your reference to well known movie and t.v. scenarios.

    Several days ago, I passed the 9-month mark of living with my 94-year-old father who has Alzheimer’s. I am his primary caregiver. I have streamlined everything I have noticed that I could streamline – and I am open to discovering more strategies. Even so, the responsibility here makes the stress in my previous life (in my own home) seem fairly minor.

    In January, I was inspired to add another piece to the period between my father arising from his afternoon nap and having dinner. Previously, this was a time for us to each drink a glass of water while listening to music, exploring a 100-piece jigaw puzzle, or me nudging him to draw. Our current evening ritual is to dance around the kitchen, most often to an assortment of hits from Peggy Lee. And drink water. And laugh. Free form dancing is something that rejuvenates me – and, now, it is something Daddy and I share together. He knows almost all the songs and enjoys singing along.

    Thank you for your beautiful writing, Julie.

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