The day my greatest fear became my greatest gift.
For as far back as I can remember there has always been an element of fear in my life. Despite growing up in a very loving and caring family with many close family friends and relatives bestowing these gifts on me too. There has always been an element of trying to be the ‘good girl’ and an underlying fear of failure if I didn’t live up to the expectations set by others and society. My father’s parents died from cancer when I was in my early twenties, my uncle died suddenly when he was in his forties and an element of uncertainty and distrust of the body, the precarious nature of our health and life generally was depicted all around.
A few years ago when my dad was diagnosed and subsequently died of cancer I was triggered by such strong emotions a fear was ignited in me to a level that was almost unbearable. I began to hate life and was struggling to understand it. I was asking myself some big questions – What’s it all for? Why must there be pain and suffering? Is there a purpose to it all? What is life really about? I didn’t have the answers and I didn’t know where to find them but I was willing to start an exploration, something had to change.
What followed was a chance webinar and an opportunity to explore some new concepts, ideals and deep personal reflection. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was actually training for the biggest challenge of my life that was only a few months away.
The 2nd May 2015, three days prior to my 45th birthday started typically like any other. I woke, relaxed/meditated, exercised, ate breakfast, did some laundry and got my children organised before heading to work. However, the events of this day, although beginning very mundanely, would become the biggest life lessons thus far.
Whilst standing at work I very abruptly, yet unobtrusively, found myself in darkness as my eyesight slipped away. There was no pain, no headache, no warnings. I then noticed my right arm had gone limp and I was no longer able to stand so I slid myself down onto the floor. I was very fit, healthy and relatively young and despite having no precursors to such a condition, I somehow knew I was having a stroke.
An ambulance was called as was my husband who happened to be in the area. I was communicating and able to get to the stretcher with aid at that stage. It was a much different story when my husband was to see me an hour later in the hospital. The last thing I remember of that ambulance ride was the ambulance officer saying “she’s deteriorating..” before waking at the hospital to my husband’s voice full of fear searching for answers from the medical team about my lost eyesight, drooping face and slurred speech.
Reflecting now I recognise it was at that point I connected with something more than myself, my gut instinct perhaps, something beyond me and I just knew I was going to be alright. It’s difficult to explain and yet it was so real, so strong in me. From that moment forward I knew I had to show my husband and all my loved ones that was the case, despite numerous tests verifying I had indeed had a major stroke.
Herein lies the first signs of my transformation, instead of my usual fright response I was acting from trust in both my own body’s ability to heal and in life itself. What was to come was weeks in hospital and months of rehabilitation but unlike my pre-stroke self my default wasn’t to act from fear and it wasn’t to play the victim. I began relaxing and meditating at every opportunity. The more I did the better I felt, physically, emotionally and mentally. A complete trust and belief grew in me that everything was as it was meant to be. The training I had started months early I now needed to put fully into practice and it was to be my saviour.
It became apparent to me that I needed to nurture that belief in my loved ones too, not just for them but for me. Their reactions were like holding a mirror to me and I wanted that reflection to be a positive one. It occurred to me that I was in the spotlight so I wanted only to shine!
Although I wouldn’t say it was a fully conscious decision at the time, I sought to turn every fearful, alarmed and despairing face that entered my hospital room around. I wanted my visitors to be transformed so that when they left they were feeling not just relief and comfort but inspired.
I had a strong desire for them to have an appreciation for their own lives, their own health, for life itself like I now did. I wanted them to find joy in the ordinary, in the everyday. I wanted them to slow down, to really see the magic all around. But mostly I wanted them to love and to care for themselves, one another and for life.
I saw how my attitude, my actions, my energy was so influential to others, as I lifted them, they lifted me. We were echoing each other. It was all part of my healing. If all who came into my room left feeling I was ok, that added more hope, more belief and energy to that idea.
I resolved to try to uplift anyone whom I came into contact with. Anyone from fellow patients, Cleaners, Catering Staff, Doctors and Nurses. I offered genuine compliments here, gratitude there, I showed others I noticed them, their work, their care. I took the focus from me and focused it outward and it was healing for us all.
With my outward focus I began to notice the demeanours, comments and challenges faced by many of the other patients. They displayed so much fear, pain and anguish not unlike a version of me from not so long ago. As I reflected on this I became aware of just how far I had come since starting my inner journey and exploration of life’s big questions some months before, it was really evident now. Notably, I knew had I not taken the steps to understand myself better I would have been reacting in exactly the same way – from fear.
This realisation was the catalyst for a strong desire in me to help. Despite being aware the other patients were receiving expert medical care and I certainly didn’t have a magic bullet, I did have something that was working for me and I wanted to share it. I'd learned, practiced and consistently succeeded in getting myself out of such states through relaxation and meditation.
I made enquiries with hospital staff if there was an opportunity for me to share this knowledge with the other patients in a voluntary capacity and so began the next level of my healing. As the positive feedback came from patients and hospital staff alike the idea of building this into something more developed. It felt right and I wanted more.
The effects of the stroke had slowed me down significantly but instead of this having a detrimental impact on my life I discovered quite the opposite. I was now noticing the ‘breadcrumbs’ of life, all the simple everyday little things, showing me the way. What was even better was I was now willing to follow them.
My life vision had gone from having a lens of fear, to being visually impaired to now having crystal clarity. My eyes were now wide open to see the synchronicities that appeared and without hesitation I began to act on them. One thing led to another and a new business was conceived. This business has an ever evolving framework with many different facets but at its core has been my desire to share healing, connection and love.
I’d discovered that when I improved my relationship with myself to be more caring, my relationship with others improved. When I became more loving toward myself I experienced more love. What I thought before to be loving and caring to my body I’ve realised was actually pushing, punishing and trying to conform with ideals set by others. I wasn’t listening to my body, I was listening to everyone else. I know now the most important relationship is with myself and I wasn’t giving that relationship any value, time or authority.
I’m also beginning to see life as benign, it’s neither good nor bad, it just is. All that happens is here to assist us even when we can’t see it or understand it. It is often upon reflection, maybe years down the track, that the challenges are revealed as invaluable lessons. I’ve learnt that letting go of my need to know and control, of my perception of how life should be and simply allowing and accepting offers such freedom. I still don’t have all the answers but I’m ok with that. The exploration is ongoing and I’m enjoying the adventure.
My stroke of luck has taught me so much about myself, about life and about love. I hope by sharing my experience I instil in others a desire to discover self-care, self-love and to experience the true joys and love of life and to start their own exploration.