Part of my personal evolution and what brought me into the coaching field is a number of health challenges that gave me the opportunity to look very differently at my life ….and the way I was operating within it.
Four years ago I was a yoga loving, gym junkie who barely had a moment free between social activities and my busy creative consulting and styling business. I thrived on piling as much into my day as possible. I loved my ‘to do’ list and got high on the sense of achievement of getting through it all. I thought I was doing so well. Busy feels good. Busy feels like you’re getting somewhere – especially the places I thought I wanted to go and the expensive things I needed to prove I was getting there… Thoughts around success looked like this:
The busier you are – the more successful you are.
The more events you attend – the more successful you are/and will be from all the networking.
The more you cram into a day and can do independently – the more you are succeeding at life.
The thinner you are… the fitter you are… relationship status… friends… the nicer your shoes and handbag… the holidays you take… the restaurants you eat at…. You get the idea.
And then I got sick. Everything hurt. A lot. I could hardly walk and when I did it was excruciating. I started to get exhausted – before I’d even opened my eyes each day. What followed was a year of tests, hospital, doctor, specialist visits and lots of disbelief from all sides (including myself), that made me wonder if I was going mad or as I sometimes felt (from both myself and others as they got fatigue from hearing about my fatigue) …. that I was just being a bit lazy or making it all up. Finally, and a lot of time and money later – I got some answers.
A cluster of auto-immune diseases… Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Endometriosis, Adenomyosis and Chronic Fatigue were the diagnosis. Operations, more operations, infertility, pills and poor life quality was the best medical professionals could offer. So medications were duly taken – and 30 kilos weight gain was another insult to the mounting injury. The world was unfair and no one was listening. My body, my business, my favourite clothes and shoes, my lifestyle, my finances, people and relationships dropped away as I was unable to maintain the persona I had held so dear. No longer the party girl. No longer the ‘do it all and have it all’ person. No longer independent. No longer energetic. No longer fun loving. No longer ‘me’.
As my life crumbled around me I hit a wall. Several walls. Hard. And I really struggled to make sense of everything. Those of us that have faced challenges in our early lives and childhood (which is probably nearly all of us in one way or another), but do not have tools to deal with it – tend to not feel very safe. We don’t realise (you don’t know, what you don’t know – right?), but for varying reasons our sense of security in the world is low.
Such a small sentence with massive impact. Without that sense of safety we lack the tools and abilities to deal with complex situations. What we do instead is the best we can with what we have. With our limited knowledge (and unconsciously), we create rigid ‘life rules’ in order to make life easier to understand and navigate … black/white …. good/bad… right/wrong ….scary/safe. We also tend to first turn those rules inward, berating and judging ourselves, and then eventually the rest of the world for not meeting the exacting criteria of ‘life rules’ that we are largely unaware of creating in the first place. Ever wonder why some people are so angry all the time? Why they seem to go off on every little thing and appear powerless to stop life and everyone they know from pissing them off constantly?? It’s because their rules for life are so tight. Their need for safety requires that people (including themselves) adhere to the rules in their head. Though it happens constantly, to not adhere is confounding. Its unsafe… and therefore unacceptable. And most of the time we have no idea this scenario is playing out in our unconscious mind hundreds of times a day.
As I found help for the emotional impact my health challenges were causing, I realised I had held myself hostage to my own set of ‘life rules’ via a freight train of manipulation, perfectionism and self-judgement. The train cleverly appeared to be manned by other people – so I couldn’t recognise who was really driving. I thought it was others who were judging me all the time, making me feel bad, driving me to achieve and create situations where I was good enough to ensure their approval. Additionally over the years my natural intuition had gotten twisted and I had become overly empathic and ‘hyper vigilant’. A state where you are not only super aware of others emotions, but responsible for them. Without realising it, I was constantly uncomfortable in an ocean of other people’s emotions I had mistaken for and included with, my own.
Furthermore from a young age I discovered being outwardly angry would not achieve approval (which gave me the sense of safety I so badly needed), so unconsciously I manipulated myself and situations to achieve the outcome I needed to feel safe – while not appearing to need it to be so. I cannot explain to you the amount of effort this requires on a daily basis over a period of years and years, but suffice to say and I can now easily see how it created the dynamics for illness to occur – and how I lacked the ability to deal with it when it did.
There are so many truths and tools I’ve learnt in the last few years that are required to heal from, and deal with either physical or emotional challenges. Some days the only thing that kept me on path was the flat refusal to give up …because I simply could not accept things as they were. The following advice and mindsets have been my biggest friends in the voyage so far…
It’s a big fat lie and a word that should stop existing. Shame is a useless emotion that robs you of your happy and your rightful place in the world… and with shame in the way, it’s nearly impossible to own your rightful place. Do not buy into it. And don’t believe for a second that it will serve you in any way. Make more positive choices next time. Change the choices you have made previously. Apologise for bad choices and make amends where necessary – then move on. Don’t waste your life being ashamed. And don’t believe that you – a beautiful soul doing the best you can with what you have, needs to dwell in shame. Shame builds facades (lies to please others because you’re ashamed of the real you). Shame leads to despair and shame gets you nowhere. There’s way too many people ashamed out there – for no good reason. Be you. Be glorious. Kick shame to the kerb.
- Honesty and integrity
Be honest with yourself about where you’re at. It’s ok – you’re not going to be there forever… but you can’t map a route out of a location until you acknowledge where you are. Get your GPS accurate and then look at programming yourself a way towards your desired location.
Where I am now is the result of choices I’ve made. Where I go from here is also. It’s all mine to forgive, move through and determine.
Never, never, never, NEVER give up.
- Be kind to yourself
On the days you want to give up… take a day off. Capitulate. For that day/week/fortnight… let it go and feed your soul whatever it needs. Have. a. rest. Then – get up. Recruit help. Get back on track, more determined than ever.
- You are enough
No façade or pretense to make you more acceptable is needed. If it is – you’re in the wrong place and you need to make plans to leave (see numbers 1 & 2).
- Show vulnerability
Ask for help…. and let yourself receive it. People want to help more than you think …. just be sure you’re in a safe place when you ask for help with people who are equipped to do so.
Some of the above may sound simple and obvious….. but it requires a level of trust in others and security within myself that did not come easily to me for the longest time. We don’t live in a society that encourages learning these tools, and from a young age many of us experience at least one – if not more situations that leave us insecure, afraid and emotionally unsure of the world around us.
In my health journey and as I explored my ‘life rules’ and the mental environment I had created for myself, there were definitely some dark days.. weeks… months and years. But, I flatly refused to believe that I had to settle for that reality. I looked everywhere and tried everything… only to discover the place I needed to look most was me … and to those around me. I have learnt like never before to be vulnerable and ask for help. That everyone’s façade fools no one – it’s just that we’re all too polite to tell one another that we know and see a mile away that you don’t have things sorted. We go along with each other’s facades, because we know how hard we’ve worked on our own façade ….and how naked we’d feel if ever we were called on it… but eventually for many of us there comes a time when you have to drop the façade and ask for help.
So I did.
How is my thought process now?
I care about my needs, thoughts and emotions. I don’t put others first, because I recognise that all things start with me. Which means when it comes to others, I have so much more space to allow compassion for them… And I have no need to ‘fix’ them – because they don’t need fixing. What they may need is some of the tools I’ve learnt, and I’m happy to share them.
I don’t need to rush through a million things to get a sense of achievement. I work out the important things … and let the rest work themselves out. They usually do.
I recognise what’s important to me …. And what’s important to my wellbeing. Additionally I’m able to recognise when I’m feeding ‘needs’ that are façade driven.. basically when I’m doing things to look good to others, rather than for the good of me. Being able to recognise when this is happening gives me space to work out why. When I know why I can to heal the part of me that is still feeling the need to build a facade. OR sometimes I allow it – some things take time to let go of ….or need to stay in place until we’ve removed the need for the pretense. We build our walls and facades for a reason – unless you deal with reason, the facades and walls will grow back like strong little protective weeds. Sometimes we need the protection of a façade until we’ve created a safer space to be.
I’m imperfect. I’m vulnerable…. I’m challenged.. I’m a constant work in progress.. I recognise that I have no need to manipulate and pretend and judge, but its ok that out of fear and old programming – sometimes I do. Life is not black/white, good/bad, right/wrong …….. its very very very grey …..and yet…
Better than ever in fact.
Wishing you love and wellness