Tag Archives: #10

My magical number – the consistent number that keeps coming up in reflection of past actions – days, months or years

Connection is Crucial

One of the things I never expected to lose whilst dealing with auto immune dis-ease was friends.

Not acquaintances or people I had known for a couple of years. But friendships I had developed since my “I’ll travel the world in 18 months and be back”…6 years later. People that I would call if I needed to vent, or needed to go out for a drink….my wing women.

To be clear, it’s not like they all stopped ringing because I was “sick.” In fact, it was quite the opposite. In the early days of diagnosis, the phone would continuously tweet and ring. There was no doubt, that for an emotionally constipated individual, I had clearly had some success maintaining interpersonal relationships.

But as the days become weeks, and weeks become months.

Interest wanes and life resumes for all, except the “sick”

The first 10 weeks of my diagnosis were hell and they were the weeks where I kept to myself the most. My then-partner (now husband) Lee, would answer the phone, respond to friends’ concerns and questions and speak to my mum, who needed an update every 3 hours.

I felt like I was imploding and I didn’t want anyone to see it or for anyone else to have to clean up the mess. It was my long held party trick – hold on and let it all go once no one can see you. I’m pretty sure it also contributed to the rusting of my trusty bucket, the vessel that keeps me together.

I then started to question myself, “Do they even want to hear from me?” “I’ve been a slack friend” or “I don’t want to talk about being sick.”

It’s the same awkward feeling you have when you’re in high school and you’ve started a chat with one of the cool kids, you feel like you’ve made a connection…but of course, no one has witnessed it, and now they’re with their harem of mates….you may as well forget it.

It’s human nature, the need to connect. Researchers at Harvard just released their findings from a 75-year longitudinal study on unearthing the secrets to a happy and purposeful life.

A good friend is a connection to life - a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world  _ Lois Wyse
A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world
_ Lois Wyse

It appears that connection is crucial. George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who directed the study from 1972 to 2004 and wrote a book about it confirmed “the more areas in your life you can make connection, the better.”

The study followed 268 Harvard graduates from 1938-1940, ironically they were all male students. And I suspect in a post Depression era, guys weren’t so keen to chat about their feelings. But it appears the connection with other human beings is the strongest predictor of life satisfaction.

So yesterday I dropped an old friend a text, “Hey Stephen, hope you’re doing well. Has been a while but would be great to catch up when you’re next in town. Catch up soon.”

And today, the phone rang.

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And this is where it starts…

The last six months of 2012 were life changing.

My life was turned upside down; and I was shaken, not stirred.

Shaken so very hard I didn’t know where I would land. What abyss would I face?

I was hanging onto a final thread, desperate to not let go of what was familiar, despite the fact that it would most likely kill me.

It was like a out take from the Lord of the Rings.

Perhaps Frodo should have let go as well?

I’m a slow learner you see, I’ve learnt that 10 is my magic number. It took me 10 years from the time I could speak, before I could find the words to leak my childhood secret. And at least 10 therapists since then to keep me sane, assuring me that my responses, behaviours and thoughts were ‘normal.’

10 days before by 35th birthday, I experienced debilitating fatigue before my body collapsed into a heap. 10 days after my 35th birthday to accept that something was wrong, and I could no longer push through. 10 weeks to hit absolute rock bottom, wondering if it was all worth it. And just as long to let go, if only just one finger, off that ledge peering into the abyss.

Bottom of well_canstock

How did I get here? God knows. I am the overachiever, type-A personality. I suffered childhood trauma, that has never really been resolved. Is it meant to? I’ve learnt to stay under the radar, work hard and people will notice your efforts. Mistake #1, of volume 10.

I’m not very good at asserting myself. At the back of my mind I don’t think my opinion is of any value. Again, childhood conditioning contributed to this.

I avoid conflict. I don’t think I was ever taught how to disagree without taking it personally or fearing I will hurt the other person. Whether it’s a debate over the dinner table about refugees and their right to seek asylum or whether I should tell my mum, 4 calls a day to check on my welfare, is a little over the top.

So I either avoid conflict, a difference in opinions, or if I’m really worked up…it usually ends with me in angry tears, feeling uber-tense and/or infuriated or leaving the recipient/s bamboozled. Not quite conducive to interpersonal relationships. This also explains why I was single for so long.

As you can see, I’m pretty au fait with my weaknesses. I just don’t know how to turn them around. And you can be as enlightened as possible, but without the ability to transform…it’s just a choose your own adventure book with only one option.

I’ve now been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lupus and Hashimoto disease is rearing its head.

No point asking how I got here.

The question is: how can I move from understanding my emotionally constipated state to adding some fibre?