As I’ve said before, my mother died very quickly from advanced breast cancer at the age of 44 – leaving my little sister and I orphans at the ages of 16 and 11. From that moment, she and I stuck together like glue in order to survive the emotional roller coaster ride that we’d inadvertently boarded. We also quickly learned many classic ‘survivor’ traits; hiding our pain, forcing our smiles, and doing all we could to fit in and be ‘normal’ in a world that was suddenly frightening and alien. It’s been a long battle since then – for both of us – and I’m hugely proud to say that so far as I’m concerned, we’ve both grown up to be healthy successful people. But of course it’s also fair to say that that kind of start in life has taken its toll on both of us. There are still moments where we both look back together at what happened and do our best to make sense of things. Those moments are never easy, and we rarely find any more answers – but even just acknowledging that we were both facing the turmoil together in the past, somehow facilitates a deeper sense of peace in the present.
Friday, therefore, was not only an ordeal for me but for my sister as well. Over the previous days and weeks, she and I had shared many emotional conversations. Sometimes we would talk about what was happening for me, and discuss our shared experiences to do with cancer. Other times we would talk about seemingly non-related issues… but always the underlying threat of fear and hurt was there. Sometimes we would laugh. Sometimes we would cry. Each time, though, I would come away feeling even more connected to the little sister I’ve loved even since before the day she was born.
After Mum’s death you see, we were thrown in to an environment where we learned early on that it was not ok to show or discuss our feelings. Instead we were told we must be grateful for the ‘care’ we were receiving. We must be respectful, do everything we could to help, and never ever complain. But where we lived was emotionally sterile, and we retreated in to our shells – burying our feelings in order to survive.
That is why I became so determined to find another way to approach life. That is why since those times I have been focused on making a difference. That is why I dedicated my professional life to coaching people so that they can realize their potential.
That is also why, ironically, I believe I became a target for a sociopath. Because I’d fought so hard, and had succeeded in finding a positive pathway out of a difficult situation. I guess I must have offered a glittering toy box of new skills and techniques that could be copied and used for his personal benefit.
A decade after meeting and falling in love with him, I was given the opportunity to put all of my skills – and more – in to practice in order to free myself from the living nightmare. Ironically again, I believe that my encounter with him – whilst giving me a good few doses of heartbreak, desperation and total destruction – has ultimately allowed me to grow even more. So therefore I remain thankful for the experience because it’s made me who I am today. And who I am today is someone who is choosing to face this very real threat of illness full on, face on, and with my head held high. No hiding from the truth any more.
Today, right now, right in the middle of it all I can hold up my hand and say out loud that yes I’m scared. I can say that I feel beaten up and tired from the fight. On top of the unknown, I’m still dealing with a nasty bout of bronchitis and laryngitis. So I can say that I have moments where I burst in to tears for no apparent reason. I can say that sometimes I am unable to sleep. That sometimes I feel overwhelmed by thoughts of “what if”…..
And you know why I’m choosing to regard this as a positive? Because for so many years – both as an orphaned child and also as the wife of a sociopath – I learned to put on a brave face, keep a stiff upper lip and carry on regardless. I didn’t cry. I didn’t share my fears. I wouldn’t open up and express my loneliness and isolation. Nope, instead I carried on.
Now, I’m not saying that is a bad thing – in fact it is many of those survival techniques that have brought me through many a rough period in my life. What I am saying, though, is that I’ve discovered that consciously allowing myself to feel and acknowledge the fear, the pain, the hurt (whatever the ‘bad stuff’ is) in the moment that it’s happening…. At the same time as implementing methods to keep on keeping on…. Well now that’sgrowth and progress.
There’s Always Something Good
And that is where I feel I am today. Acknowledging to myself and to others around me that I’m not in the best physical place right now. Saying out loud that I am most certainly feeling the fear… and also recognizing the huge amount of love that is surrounding me. And that in itself is scary! Not for any other reason other than old childhood experiences of deep loss, and the newer scars left from my marriage that still leave their traces in my present life.
As Susan Jeffers so rightly says – “we can accept fear simply as a fact of life rather than a barrier to success. We can unlearn the thinking that keeps us a prisoner in our own insecurities” I’m continuing to ‘unlearn’ old habits and choose new supportive behaviours. So this latest challenge, for me, is about re-flexing my focus muscles and determining to increase the “yes” approach to life. It’s about asking “let’s see what good will come from this situation” and seeking the value in the experience.
I’ve been receiving countless messages of support and encouragement, and feel truly blessed to be surrounded by such kindness. Now it’s another chance to open up more, let down more barriers, and accept more love – even though it feels scary. Well, that’s the way I’m taking it in any case. So once again I am grateful for what is happening – because it’s another opportunity for further expansion and conscious choice. To feel the fear, acknowledge its’ existence, and to move through it to greater love and peace.
It ain’t easy – but heck, I reckon it’s worth it!