The search for the new you after you experience a serious illness or injury and are living with the ongoing impact can feel so very hard. In some ways, you know you are still the person you were before. But in other ways, you’re not and you don’t recognise yourself. And you really don’t know how to conduct this search.

A picture of a woman looking at her reflection in the mirror, which she doesn't recognise and is very surprised. She is saying, 'So much has changed! Who am I now?' The reflection in the mirror is a Picasso-like reflection of the woman with her eyes, ears, nose and mouth being in the wrong locations. The caption reads, 'A challenging health issue can change so much.' All this change can make it hard for a person to search for the new you as they are understandably focused on getting back to who they were and the change they have experienced.

Many people I’ve spoken to feel this way. You’re not alone. It’s normal. So I want to give you six hints and tips as you conduct this search. To lessen the difficulty and frustration associated with it. To make it a bit easier. But this isn’t an exhaustive list.

The search for the new you does not result in an end destination

The new you isn’t out there just waiting to be discovered in a ‘ta da’ type of moment.

This search for the new you is a journey. How long that will take you I cannot predict. It’s different for every person. But I know this. You will get to a place where you feel comfortable in yourself and your life again. Here’s an example.

After my other half was diagnosed with type 2 insulin-dependent diabetes and we were busy making lifestyle changes regarding food and drink, he was frustrated and wondering how he could cope for the long haul.

Five years on, I reminded him of that question in the acute phase of his illness and asked him how he found things now. He was ok with things. Of course he wouldn’t have chosen this path for himself, but he didn’t have that choice. Despite that he got to a place where he was comfortable with his diet and how he was controlling the diabetes. He was ok with his new life.

The search for the new you requires you to go out and live your life

You need to get back out there and re-engage with life. To learn how to use your body again and become more comfortable in doing that, keep up with friends and/or make new friends, return to work and/or volunteering, to have hobbies, to love, to feel confidence again, to do errands, pay bills and the other mundane but necessary things we do in life, to enjoy your life.

The new you will unfold as you go out and live your life, try new things, experiment, fail, learn, try again and succeed.

A picture of a woman walking along a path. Behind her is a solid locked gate which is lock. On it says: Your old life. The old you. At a junction on the path there is a sign which has 'Your life' written on it and pointing which direction to go. On the sign is an owl pointing the way and saying, 'Stay on this path.' The woman is saying, 'I guess I go this way. But will I find me?' Ahead along the path are two qualities sitting down waiting for the woman to find them. One is resilience sitting under a tree. Resilience is saying about the woman, 'She is so going to love me being a part of her.' Another quality Adaptability is sitting near a rock and saying, 'We're going to be a good match.' The caption reads: The re-newed you will unfold as you live your life. The meaning is as you live your life, you acquire more skills and qualities which help you and shape you as a person. That in turn helps you to discover who you are now.

The search for the new you doesn’t happen in a vacuum

You can end up struggling trying to do it all by yourself. Hence why re-engaging with life and others is crucial. Also, you are continually shaped by your experiences and relationships and you contribute towards the shaping of others in turn.

Many people I’ve spoken to have felt alone in their illness or injury because many people around them don’t have it and not everyone will understand or have empathy. So you have to go out there and find people like you, who are or have been in a similar place to you. There is often times bucket loads of understanding and empathy in these communities. You have to find your tribe.

Being part of a community we value gives us significance because we know we matter to others in that community. (From Esther Perel’s newsletter of 5th August 2019.) And they know they matter to you.

A picture of a woman walking into a room where the Return to Wellness Support Group is being held. Two women are there. One is saying, 'Hi! Come on in! Have a seat.' And she's pointing to an empty seat. There are buckets of support, understanding and empathy standing around the room. The caption reads: The search for the new you doesn't happen in a vacuum. Finding people in a similar situation to you can help.

Don’t forget it’s ok to ask for help

As I wrote about previously, becoming more accustomed to asking for and receiving help and support from others helps too.

Being intentional can help

This is about being intentional in your decisions, relationships, activities and more. After experiencing a life-changing health issue, you know the fragility of life.

So there is something about leaving behind worries over things which now feel small and unimportant. And focusing your energy on being the person you want to be, being with the people who lift you up, doing things that matter to you, and making a contribution to your corner of the world in the way you wish to.

How to be intentional

Each morning, consider your intention for the day – What will you give to your day so you can look back and feel, ‘That was a good enough day.’?.

If we focus on what we give to ourselves, our life, other people, our job, etc., we increase our chances of getting what we have been hoping for.

The search for the new you requires loads of self-compassion

This pic says it all. Shower yourself with self-compassion regularly.

Think of it as a meal. You have to feed yourself with compassion regularly and make sure you don’t go hungry or starve yourself.

Picture of a woman showering herself with self-compassion. The woman's 'self-compassionate self' is holding a watering can labeled 'self-compassion'. She is pouring hearts over the version of herself sitting down (having the self-compassion shower). The woman showering herself is saying, 'It's time for your self-compassion shower! Oh, and I put your self-criticism in the rubbish.' Off to the side there is a rubbish bin with self-criticism in it. It is important to shower yourself with self-compassion during the search for the new you after illness or injury.

Your new you is inside you

Waiting for you to let her out.

By actively re-engaging with your life and living it, you help her find the path to express herself.

When you’re intentional and purposeful, you shape her as she emerges and lives.

The search for the new you is actually a process of discovery.

Picture of an original inspirational quote by Return to Wellness: "When searching for your new you after illness or injury, remember that she isn't somewhere out there. She's inside of you. By going out and living your life, you help her find the path to express herself." The search for the new you is actually a self-discovery process.

What’s it like for you?

How is the search for the new you been going since the onset of your illness or injury? What are you finding difficult? And what have you found easier than expected? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

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