Monday, 25 April 2016

The Choices We Make.

My sister and I were having a conversation about life, the universe etc... We have a lot in common at the moment for many different reasons and agreed that when we're feeling down it's hard to remember a time when we felt happy in the same way that it's hard to remember what it's like to be well when we're feeling physically ill. Most people reading this will recognise one if not both situations and again, many of you will have encountered and recovered from one or the other in your lifetime. Some of you will have re-visited these scenarios more times than you care to remember until illness, both mentally and physically, becomes the status- quo and the concept of being happy is relegated to distant unattainable memory.

I have personally spent a considerable amount of time in both of these houses, so much so that when a friend posted this picture on Facebook I had to look at it several times so moved was I by the artist, Celeste Roberge's , depiction of what grief feels like.

Because that's what we're talking about here: INTERNALISED GRIEF.
 The kind of grief which has the ability to debilitate, twist and cripple our poor selves beyond recognition.

Grief can affect us all in many different ways and it's not necessarily always about the death of a loved one in the physical sense. Loss of any kind can and does impact our lives more than we realise until sometimes, the burden is just too great. 

Here's a few examples of different types of loss:

  • Self-respect, Integrity, Self-esteem, Self-worth
  • Loss of identity
  • Unexpressed love, Un-lived moments, Wasted time, Denied capability
  • Impossible expectations
  • Loss of dreams, loss of lifestyle
  • Loss of professional identity/job, loss of reputation, loss of independence
  • Body image, health, accident, surgery, illness, loss of function/control
The loss of function (speech) resonates for me in particular but I could check the box for all of them as I'm sure you could too whilst adding more examples of your own. My speech has returned but I sound very different to my old self, a phenomenon which still gives me cause for daily concern and brings our discussion on to:


For me, it's about being afraid to speak for fear of how I will be perceived but we can also equate fear as being a close relative of grief and loss in all their forms. 
  • Fear I've wasted the best years of my life.
  • Fear I'll never find a way to get back on my feet.
  • Fear I'll never fully achieve my true potential 
  • Fear I won't ever feel at home in my own body again.
  • Fear I won't have the confidence or ability to enter the world again.
  • Fear that I will enter the world again only to be rejected by my countrymen because of their perception of who I am.
  • I'm frightened now writing this, wondering how it will be received yet knowing I have something to say which might benefit somebody who happens by because what I've learned is this: 

We have a CHOICE. All of us. No exceptions.

I've been on my knees for so long - sometimes it feels like my whole life - crushed by the weight of grief, pain and such a deep sense of loss to the point where there no longer seemed to be any point to anything, any more. All those individual stones in the sculpture had cemented into one large bolder. I was stuck in the whirlpool of grief with no way out. Even the breathing exercises I had been set by the psychologist were beyond me. Instead of helping they merely served as a reminder of yet another example of where I fell short. 

It wasn't until I started swimming again that I found my stroke and my breath. Perhaps this was the turning point, I don't know because change has been gradual. It must have helped though because I was faced with a financial dilemma a few weeks ago which offended my sense of justice so greatly I turned my back and chose the harder path knowing it was the right path. How do I know? Peace of mind. I recognised the existence of one of those stones weighing me down as the decision I needed to make. The difference between looking over my shoulder or going it alone. I already feel alone so I removed that particular stone, examined it for what it was and then I discarded it. It wasn't easy and it is only one stone, one pebble amongst the many but I felt better the moment it was gone. I realised I had both loved and loathed the pain that was keeping me where I was.

In deciding to have nothing, I found I had gained everything. 

That decision was a tiny pin prick of light of me taking back some kind of control over what happens: a conscious choice between continuing to drift or taking up the oars and beginning to row. Soon there will be another pin prick and another until they begin to join together and a stream of light will force itself through.

If I had to describe my posture now in comparison to the sculpture in the picture, I would say that outwardly not much has changed except now I have one foot planted firmly on the ground and a foothold is all you need.

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