My top 10 life lessons learned from illness

My top 10 life lessons learned from illness

Last week I wrote about how to make sense of the life lessons learned from illness or injury. And I continue on that theme by writing about what those life lessons actually are.

The life lessons will of course differ from person to person as we are all different, have different illnesses or injuries and life circumstances. For a start I am focusing on the life lessons learned from illness I have experience with. 

To keep this post within a reasonable word count, because this could end up being a long post, I am focusing on 11 life lessons (it was 10 originally). But having a ‘top 11’ is in no way meant to turn this into some sort of cliché and devalue the topic. This is a big topic, and a very important one given the lessons learned often have a lifelong impact.

And when I talk about an illness or injury, it could be your own, a loved one’s, a relative, friend or colleague.

You often get life lessons in one fell swoop rather than over a lifetime

As I said last week, for most people, this is the kind of stuff you learn as you live your life. So when you get to age 50, 60, 70, 80 etc., you have this wisdom and a clearer sense of who you are. You have learned the life lessons gradually over time as you progressed through life’s various stages and milestones. As such, they were easier to digest.

You’ve been given a lot to consider all at once. And you didn’t even ask for it.

Picture of a man sitting at a table with a plate in front of him piled high with life lessons learned from illness or injury. He is saying, 'I didn't order this.' A serious illness can give you so much so quickly, such as life lessons, but you didn't ask for any of that.


What you end up having to consider

What is this illness or injury? – How do you manage it? Where do you get information? Where are the best doctors? Does your GP know anything about your illness/injury? What will recovery be like? Will you go back to the way you were pre-illness/injury? Will you die?

What you believe about yourself – Do you really have as much control over your body and life as you thought? How has the illness or injury impacted how you look after yourself and others (food, diet, exercise, mental health, self-care)? What can you still do? Or no longer do?

What you believe about other people. – The people whom you expected to be there to help you but weren’t. The people who were there for you.

The nature of the relationships you have with people. – How has the illness or injury impacted them? What roles are different? Can you still engage in all aspects of the spouse/partner role? Are your children having to take on more responsibility earlier than planned/desired? Which friends are no longer around?

And more…

What you consider important – How has the illness or injury impacted your attitude and approach to your job or career, to making money, your hobbies, exercise, creative pursuits, etc.?

How will you survive? – Can you still work? What if you are the breadwinner?

Your belief in God or another a higher being or your spirituality. – Are you being sent these trials to see how you cope? Why you? Why not you?

And still more

This is all big stuff. Existentialist type questions. It is no wonder it can feel like the metaphorical ground you have walked on your whole life feels like it is crumbling away.

A picture of a woman walking on ground that is cracking and developing holes. She is thinking, "The ground I am walking on isn[t firm anymore!" There are questions surrounding her like, "How do I manage it all? Who am I now? Can I work? My relationships are changing. Why me? Why not me?" When you are dealing with life lessons learned from illness, the metaphorical ground you are walking on may no longer feel firm.
When dealing with the life lessons learned from illness, the ground you are walking on may no longer feel firm.

When I reflected on all that and more, this is what I came up with. As you read this, note which life lessons resonate with you or not, and which ones are relevant for you but not here.

My top 10 11 life lessons learned from illness

1. You are responsible for your maintaining physical and mental health


When I apply this to myself, I figure it is my body I live in it every day, so it is up to me to maintain my physical and mental health. No one is going to do this for me. Not the doctors, my family or friends. Of course, they influence it. They may help me. But it is up to me to take primary responsibility for managing my physical and mental health.

Regarding managing the impact of my health issues, the doctors and other professionals can give me advice and support based on their expertise. It is up to me to do my research on my health issues, track my symptoms, find doctors and healthcare professionals whom I trust, prepare for appointments, ask my questions, implement advice, take my medication, do my physiotherapy, ask for help when I need it, etc.

It’s my body. My body helps me to live the life I want. So it’s my responsibility.

2. Just be yourself

As Joyce Williams (@JoyceWilliams_ on Twitter) wrote for a website, the ‘freedom to be you’ and not be ‘weighed down by others’ expectations of you anymore. (Joyce Williams writes about life at 80+ and I recommend you follow her blog. She’s very good.)

After your own or a loved one’s serious illness or injury, you’ve looked at your mortality. You know how precious life is. And you got through that experience. So the worry of what others think seems trivial in comparison. If they don’t care for what you do, wear, say, etc., screw it.

Life is short. Live it. Be yourself.

Picture of the quote, "Self-love is not selfish. You cannot truly love another until you know how to love yourself." Source is unknown. This is important life lesson from illness. Self-love helps you to just be yourself.

3. Do what is meaningful to you and gives you joy

See above. Life is short. Live it.

4. Do what you really want to do but are scared to

Again, life is short. Go out and live it.

I don’t want to be on my death bed regretting things I did not do but wanted to. So I ask myself this question, ‘Is not doing this activity something I would regret on my deathbed?’

Also, I know how my body has changed due to just one episode of Transverse Myelitis. The doctors said it was most likely a one-off attack but I know people they have said that to who have had another. So if I had another episode of TM and lost more functionality, I’d be upset with myself for not taking chances I am capable of doing now. This has been one of the top life lessons learned from illness for me.

5. When trying something new, not doing it well is not failure. It takes practice for something to become a habit. And we will get it wrong. There’s learning in that.

Remember, we weren’t born knowing how to walk. We started crawling and fell flat on our faces. We started walking and fell down a lot. And people clapped for us! Happily clapped for us! They clapped for the fact that we were having a go, that we were striving towards something. We intuitively adjusted and eventually we learned to walk. Then run, then skip and hop.

6. Better developed perspective

Again, as Joyce Williams wrote, you have ‘a stronger sense of perspective’ due to your life experiences. Provided of course you have reflected on what you’ve learned from them and how they have shaped you as a person.

You have a much greater sense of what is important to you, what isn’t, when to worry and get upset and when to let things go.

7. Self-compassion isn’t being indulgent. It’s necessary. Every day.

This is a life skill. When you are dealing with the impact of a health trauma, your compassion for yourself will carry you through the difficulties. It is a way of telling yourself that you are worth it, that you are deserving of compassion and kindness, that it is ok to slow down and not produce or achieve as much because your body has changed. It’s ok to adjust your expectations of yourself and of others.

Self-compassion enhances your ability to adapt and be flexible which is often necessary to have a quality of life when living with the impact of a serious illness, chronic illness or injury.

Self-compassion enhances your ability to adapt and be flexible which is often necessary to have a quality of life when living with the impact of a #seriousillness #chronicillness or #seriousinjury Click To Tweet

8. Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness

It’s you recognising what you are good at and what you aren’t as good at and/or don’t know how to do. By getting help, you can get to where you want to be that little bit faster.

We are all inter-dependent anyway. We all need each other.

9. Graciously accepting compliments and positive feedback is not self-indulgent. Nor is letting yourself be happy with them. It’s necessary.

It feeds your self-worth. So watch for when you discount yourself and your abilities when someone gives you a compliment or positive feedback. That is you playing small and that doesn’t help you or anyone around you.

Bathe in the compliments and positive feedback you receive. Spend time with them and let them infuse your heart and soul.

Graciously accepting compliments and positive feedback is not self-indulgent. Nor is letting yourself be happy with them. It’s necessary. It helps to restore your self-esteem and sense of self-worth after a #health #trauma Click To Tweet

10. You are stronger than you think you are

You may not have had a choice in that, you had to be strong. But you did it. You got through that health trauma and possibly other traumas in your life.

You are dealing well enough with learning to live in a changed body or helping a loved one learn to live in their changed body. You probably returned to work or found new work. You may have redefined what ‘work’ means for you. You may have found an emotional balance again or are working towards that.

Whatever you have done, you got this far.

I often ask myself and others the question, ‘What enabled you to get this far?’

It’s a valuable reminder of your strengths and skills, of your resilience, of the people who matter most to you.

A picture of an original quote by Return to Wellness: "You've made it this far. What is it about you that has enabled you to do that? This is an important question to consider when thinking about the life lessons learned from illness or injury.

11. Be proud of the life lessons learned from illness or injury and how far you’ve come

You have every right to be proud of yourself for getting back to work after a serious illness or injury.

You have every right to be proud of yourself for reinventing yourself after your organ transplant.

You have every right to be proud of yourself for finding an emotional balance again after the health trauma you experienced.

You have every right to be proud of yourself for getting through gruelling cancer treatment and beyond.

You have every right to be proud of being the best carer you could for someone until the day they died.

You have every right for being proud of being a good enough parent to a child with a disability.

You get the idea.

It’s ok to be proud of yourself in whichever way suits you. Please don’t let people take that away from you.

But why do you have this right to be proud of yourself? Isn’t that kind of looked down upon in some cultures? (Like in the UK.)

When you are proud of yourself, it’s a recognition of your skills, strengths and passions. It’s a way of affirming yourself for what you got through. That feeds your self-worth. And you need your self-worth to get you through the rest of your life.

A picture of a woman hugging her heart and in her heart is written 'self-worth'. She is thinking, "That was an awful ordeal. Really tough. And I made it this far. I learned so much. Well done to me!" The caption reads: It's important to appreciation what it is about you that has enabled you to deal with your health issue. Self-appreciation feeds your self-worth. The life lessons learned from illness or injury contribute to this.

What’s it like for you?

What life lessons learned from illness or injury would be on your list? How do they differ from above? 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 serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to figure out what you are learning from a serious health issue and how to apply that in your life, 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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How to make sense of the life lessons a health trauma gives you

How to make sense of the life lessons a health trauma gives you

A health trauma, whether your own or a loved one’s, brings with it a whole lot of life lessons very quickly. They’re yours for the learning if you so choose.

But I can understand why you may not want to. You’ve been given them in one fell swoop. That along with the trauma is a lot to hold. They can feel so big and as you are dealing with day-to-day impact of the trauma itself, you may be thinking, ‘Who has time for life lessons?”

And you’re right. Your focus is on dealing with the immediate impact of the trauma.

I’ve been there myself dealing with recovery from a serious illness, grieving for the death of a friend, grieving for my other half and I not being able to have our own children, dealing with the challenges that brought to our relationship, and dealing with challenges at work. All at the same time. I did not have time for life lessons. They came later.

Somehow the life lessons in store for you have a way of hanging around waiting to be seen and used. And because it can feel like a HUGE task to sift through them let alone extract the learning, here I share ideas and tips to help you make sense of it all.

Acknowledge how tough it is to be given so much so quickly

For most people, this is the kind of stuff you learn as you live your life. So when you get to age 50, 60, 70, 80 etc., you have this wisdom and a clearer sense of who you are. You have learned the life lessons gradually over time as you progressed through life’s various stages and milestones. As such, they were easier to digest.

You’ve been given a lot to consider all at once. And you didn’t even ask for it.

Acknowledge the toughness and unfairness of it all with people you trust and who support you.

Picture of a man sitting at a table with a plate in front of him piled high with life lessons from a health trauma. He is saying, 'I didn't order this.' A serious illness can give you so much so quickly, such as life lessons, but you didn't ask for any of that.

It’s ok for the life lessons to wait their turn

If you feel like you don’t have the energy, that’s ok. Like I said, they are good at hanging around and will be there when you are ready.

The life lessons don’t always magically appear before you in crystal clear format

They are very good at hiding in and amongst the rubble of your trauma.

Life lessons are very good at hiding in and amongst the rubble of your #health #trauma. #seriousillness #bereavement Tell a Friend

So how do you start finding these life lessons?

Write down all the questions and frustrations you have and what you’ve learned already about your experience

You’ve been holding on to all this in your head and heart. By writing it down, you put them somewhere else. You let the paper hold it for you. This can free up some of your energy to focus on things you need and want to be focusing on in your day-to-day life. Because as you know, life continues to happen.

You can visit this piece of paper as and when you have the energy to. You can add to it and subtract from it. And you can start answering the questions as imperfectly as you wish.

Writing down your questions and frustrations regarding a #health #trauma you experienced allows you to off load them from your head and heart onto that piece of paper. That way you no longer have to carry them and that frees up… Tell a Friend

You don’t have to deal with these questions and frustrations all at once

You can deal with them one at a time at a rate that feels right for you and your circumstances. You’ve been dealing with a lot so deal with this in a gentle manner with loads of self-compassion.

Picture of a woman holding a very large glass of self-compassion. She is about to take a large dose of self-compassion and she is hoping it tastes ok. On the glass is written, 'I am enough.' You need to show self-compassion to yourself when processing the life lessons you've learned from your own or a loved one's health trauma.

Talking to someone can help you uncover the life lessons and how to apply them in your life

Talking to someone you trust and who supports you can help you uncover the life lessons. Sometimes a third party, whether we know them well or not, can see things we cannot. They can help you find those life lessons a little more quickly than if you did it by yourself.

Another benefit of talking to someone is they can help you hold everything. You are not holding it all by yourself. You know you have dedicated time to talk about your issues in a supportive environment. So the rest of your time can be spent on living.

If talking to someone is not your thing, you can spend time figuring out the life lessons when you walk your dog, when you go running or swimming, knit, bake, draw, paint or play music. You can engage with your questions and feelings during many types of activities.

Life lessons can arrive wrapped in ugly wrapping paper

They’re gifts you didn’t even know were on its way to you. They don’t look particularly inviting in their ugly wrapping paper. And it may not be as enjoyable taking that wrapping paper off. Or it may feel like a relief to get it off.

But when you unwrap the gifts, you find they are the type that can sustain you in a healthy way throughout your life.

Two pictures of a man at a table. In the first, he is looking at an ugly package on the table and saying, 'This is an ugly gift. Who sent it?' In the next picture he has unwrapped the gift and discovers that inside there is a lovely kintsugi bowl. Life lessons from a serious health issue often come wrapped in ugly paper. But there can be a beautiful gift on the inside.

What’s it like for you?

What or who helped you to figure out what you’ve learned from a difficult experience? 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 serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to figure out what you are learning from a difficult experience and how to apply that in your life, 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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Why is speaking your truth about your illness important?

Why is speaking your truth about your illness important?

I feel that speaking your truth about your illness or injury (or a loved one’s) is important. But I appreciate you may not want to talk about how you are affected. You may think this would be burdening others with your problems, or you would be seen as a moaner. But chances are there may be people you know well who would be very willing to listen.

Or maybe you just have no desire to talk about it as when you’re with others, it can be an escape from daily reality. That’s ok.

I’m not advocating speaking your truth about your illness or injury is something you have to do, nor do you do it to everyone all of the time. And if you choose to, here are two benefits.

A woman with a megaphone saying, 'This is how people like me are affected.' On the megaphone is written 'society listen'. Speaking your truth about your illness is important as a benefit is it increases awareness to others. That awareness is necessary so support can be available to meet this population's needs.

Benefit 1 – Speaking your truth about your illness normalises the experience. It makes it a more accepted part of life.

What I mean by using the words ‘normalises’ and ‘accepted’ is that illness and injury do happen and can be life-changing for those directly affected and those around them. On the whole, they are not rare events. But the life-changing aspect can be really hard for people so it is understandable that as a society we don’t like to talk about it much.

But not talking about it can have an unhelpful impact, i.e. lack of awareness means people affected don’t get the support they need. This is why I appreciated when Billy Connolly recently spoke of his illness and ageing experience.

During episode 2 of a recent two-part programme about Billy Connolly, he shared how he honestly felt about being where he is at in his life – aged 76 and living with Parkinson’s.

(According to Parkinson’s UK, ‘Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition’, which ‘causes problems in the brain and gets worse over time’.)

Billy Connolly said,

‘I’m near the end. I’m a damn sight nearer the end than I am the beginning. But it doesn’t frighten me, it’s an adventure and it is quite interesting to see myself slipping away…As bits slip off and leave me, talents leave and attributes leave. I don’t have the balance I used to have, I don’t have the energy I used to have. I can’t hear the way I used to hear, I can’t see as good as I used to. I can’t remember the way I used to remember.’

Billy Connolly’s honesty was courageous

It touched me. I appreciated it. It helps people to realise one person’s truth about the impact of a life-changing illness or injury, ageing and death. He shared his reality – the good, what we feel may be the not good, and everything in between.

Speaking your truth makes the experience of your illness, injury and even ageing more normal within our society. If these experiences are normalised in our society, we are in a better position to meet this population’s needs regarding employment, social care, the accessibility of the built environment, society’s attitudes and more.

Speaking your truth makes the experience of your #illness or #injury more normal within our society. If these experiences are normalised in our society, we are in a better position to meet this population’s needs. Tell a Friend

But you cannot control how other people receive what you have to say

It looks like part of Billy Connolly’s fan base was ‘depressed’ by his honest account of where he is in his life according to this BBC article. The article featured a tweet his wife posted the day after the tv show aired of Billy Connolly playing his banjo and saying, ‘Not dying, not dead, not slipping away.’ He also apologised and said he should have phrased it better.

I don’t think he needed to apologise to his fans for them feeling depressed about his comments. I loved how he gave an honest account using language that was meaningful to him.

When I looked at the replies, I didn’t get a sense of people being ‘depressed’ by what Billy Connolly said. Sad, yes. He is a much-loved cultural icon in the UK. People have received so much from his work.

The thought of him no longer being around so people can’t continue to receive what he has to offer, except via his previous material, is sad. That sentiment came through clearly in the replies to Pamela Stephenson’s tweet and even in a reply to my tweet.

Benefit 2 – You may actually inspire people by speaking your truth about your illness

Another theme in the replies to Pamela Stephenson’s tweet was how inspiring people found what Billy had to say. This was a dominant theme. It reminded me that although we can’t totally control how people receive and understand our message, people can find it inspiring when you speak your truth. They may find it helps them cope with their own difficulties in a new and helpful way.

You can end up inspiring and helping people in a positive way when you speak your truth about your #illness or #injury Tell a Friend

When we speak our truth, we can be displaying our vulnerability in a healthy way. You are showing people this is your reality and it’s ok to talk about it. You are normalising your experience. People can then think, ‘Oh, I had something similarly difficult. It’s ok.’ This is similar to what I wrote last week about how when you let yourself be your best, you give people the permission to be their best version of themselves too. When you speak your truth, you enable others to do it too.

But also, when you speak your truth, when you acknowledge the good, the downright ugly and everything in between, you acknowledge and recognise your experience. Which is a psychologically healthy thing to do. Acknowledgement raises your self-awareness. Self-awareness gives you choices to do something different. Choices means you have freedom to choose.

Picture of a man saying 'this is what my injury has been like, it's not easy but here is what I've learned.' He is acknowledging his experience both the good and the bad. Then he realises something and that increases his self-awareness. He then says he has some options. Speaking your truth about your illness is important because it's acknowledging your experience, which raises your self-awareness which in turn gives you choices.

What’s it like for you?

Is speaking your truth about your illness or injury something you find difficult or easy to do? What do you think are the benefits? When may it not be appropriate? 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 serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to enhance the quality of your life, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.


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Know of someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

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How to transform your deepest fear into positive action

How to transform your deepest fear into positive action

What is your deepest fear about the changes you want to make this year? Even if you don’t set new year’s resolutions. You may set intentions to change, goals or objectives at another point in the year.

Whenever you set an intention for something to be different, to make a change, a fear about it may still be there. And whilst I think it’s important to get to know our fear, I love the sentiment around the nature of fear in the poem ‘Our Deepest Fear’ by Marianne Williamson.

Read about how to transform your deepest fear about the changes you want to make this year into positive action #seriousillness #chronicillness Tell a friend

Are you actually afraid of your greatness?

Her premise is that our deepest fear is of our own greatness, our power, our light. And I get that. A lot of my clients are surprised to learn how much they focus on their inadequacy or what is wrong rather than what is going well in their lives and how good they feel about something positive which has happened.

We have ended up being hard wired to focus on the negative (and this helped our ancestors survive). Yet what if we developed our abilities to focus on the positive? This could balance things out a bit. I’ve seen the positive difference it has made with clients.

And that is very much needed when you are living with a challenging health issue be it an illness or injury where your life may have changed a lot and it feels like that all you’ve been dealing with is negativity. It can help you to make the changes you want for yourself.

A picture of woman saying she would love to study so she can change her job, but... and she doesn't say anything else. She is depicted as being wrapped in fear. Our deepest fear can stop change from happening.

So what I’ve done is taken Marianne Williamson’s poem ‘Our Deepest Fear’, which is in italics throughout this blog, and added in questions and thoughts on each stanza for you to reflect on. To help you develop your self-appreciation muscle for the year ahead.

Our Deepest Fear

You can find this poem in Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

You may think, ‘What power do I have? My body is broken/changed! I can’t do what I used to do!’

Yes, your body has changed. You have changed. But I challenge that the change means you are devoid of power, adequacy, and light.

I encourage you to think about the personal power you do have, what you are good-enough at, and all the lovely qualities that make you uniquely you.

What is your personal power like? Where do you feel your power and adequacy in your body? In your chest, belly, legs, arms, back, all over? What are these sensations like?

What are your strengths, passions and talents? You still have all that. You may need to adapt how you manifest them and you may have developed new ones.

Who are you not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not be?
You are a child of God.

Are you holding a belief that you can no longer be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous whilst dealing with the impact of a challenging health issue?

Are you holding a belief that you can no longer be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous whilst dealing with the impact of a challenging #health issue? #seriousillness #seriousinjury Tell a friend

Sometimes we assume we can only be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous if we have the kind of health we had before our health issue. Or we equate being brilliant, gorgeous, etc with being perfect.

It’s not about that. It’s about you being your own good-enough version of brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous with where you are now in your life.

What do you need to think, do and feel to fully stand in your brilliance and own it?

Your deepest fear is making you shrink

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

In the context of this stanza, ‘playing small’ comes across as playing small in a way that is not helpful to you. For example, putting other people’s needs ahead of your own, not asking for what you need, not asking for help when you know you really could use it, or not having a small go at something you really would like to do for yourself.

‘Playing small’ in a way that serves you well is absolutely fine. Paradoxically, It’s a way of ‘playing large’ in your life even whilst you are dealing with the challenges of your or our loved one’s health issue.

What would it be like for you to play large in your life?

If this feels scary, remember that taking small actions is absolutely fine and recommended because they are more achievable. ‘Playing large’ isn’t about doing big things on a grand scale. You define what ‘playing large’ looks, sounds and feels like to you.

Picture of a woman sitting down looking at her tablet about a course at a university. It is an online flexible programme which seems flexible. She says that if she studies, she won't be able to help her cousin with her theatre project. She is making a choice to move through her deepest fear and put herself first so she can shine.

So play with ‘playing large’. Use your imagination. If you were playing large in your life, what would we see you do and hear you say?

Notice what it’s like in your body to play large in your life. Spend time with what it feels like to get to know these feelings. Do this often. That makes these feelings habitual. Feelings you can return to again and again.

You are meant to shine

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; 
It’s in everyone. It’s in everyone.

If the word ‘God’ bothers you, think of God as your inner greatness. And if society’s traditional definition of God works for you, by all means use it.

What is your inner greatness like? If you drew a picture of your inner greatness, what would it look like?

How do you want to manifest your greatness this year? It doesn’t have to be in any big or grand way. It can be of a size and quality that is just right for you.

How do you want to manifest your greatness this year? It doesn’t have to be in any big or grand way. It can be of a size and quality that is just right for you #seriousillness #seriousinjury Tell a friend

When you liberate yourself from your deepest fear, you end up liberating others

And as we let our own light shine, 
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Imagine what it would be like to let your own light shine and do what you really want to do despite your deepest fear. How liberated would you feel?

I think when we want to do something we are very keen to do, we have to feel the fear we hold about it. We have to sit with our fear and feel our way through it. Society often teaches us the opposite, to quash the fear, to put a lid on it. But by getting to know our fear and the need resting underneath it, we liberate ourselves from our fear. We sit alongside it rather than have it wrapped around us keeping us stuck.

Pic of a person looking to jump off a cliff, through their deepest fear into their sea of dreams.
This picture was drawn by Charlotte Reed of May The Thoughts Be With You – www.maythethoughtsbewithyou.com

By doing that, you role model for others how liberating oneself from fear is done. By them seeing it, that makes it a lot easier for them to change. So you end up giving a gift to others.

What’s it like for you?

How do you want to share your brilliance, greatness and talents this year? What will enable you to do that?  And if you have been doing it already, let us know what you’ve done. 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 serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to make changes this year, 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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How to identify what your illness taught you this year

How to identify what your illness taught you this year

You may not like reading ‘what your illness taught you’. As if you have something to learn. As if the illness is the teacher, the one in control, and you the pupil, the one who has to listen and do what the teacher says.

Living with a challenging health issue can feel like that. You being at the mercy of the illness or injury, dancing to its tune, being obliging, feeling like you are not in control.

That is not my aim here. You didn’t ask for the illness or injury to happen, yet you have to live with its impact. My aim is to help you proactively identify what your illness taught you this past year and therefore what changes you may wish to make next year. You doing this puts you in control.

This blog outlines five questions to help you do that.

I also write this for those of you in a caring/supporting role because you too are impacted by your loved one’s health issue. And when I say illness, I also mean injury or any kind of health issue you find challenging.

Picture of a man holding a large open blank book which has the titles ‘Your 2018’ and ‘Your Learning’ on the pages. There is the question ‘What have you learned from your illness or injury this past year?’

What your illness taught you – The good stuff

What was one good thing which came out of you or a loved one having the illness, injury or another type of health challenge?

Good things can come out of not-so-good and downright bad situations. It may take some work to find those good things. But looking for the good balances out the sad and bad things about a health challenge. And that is the aim of this question.

The good thing may be about you as a person, the people around you, or your life circumstances. You may have learnt who is super supportive, strengths you have, and even abilities you didn’t know you had. You may have learnt to take more time for yourself. Or that living your life at a slower pace is better for you. Or taking care of your needs is not selfish but absolutely necessary.

Were there any other good things? You don’t have to limit it to just one. Find as many as you can.

How can you build on these good things next year?

This is about building on the good things you learned with intention to make sure they stick around in your life.

For example, have you discovered an ability you didn’t know you had? Like a high level of resilience? An artistic talent? Something else? How can you exercise this ability more next year?

Or did you make new friendships? How can you be in contact with these people more often?

Or did you and your partner discover how supportive you are to each other?

What your illness taught you – The bad stuff

What has been the worst thing about having to deal with the illness or injury this year?

I don’t mean to be a downer here. Or open the door for endless moaning. The purpose of this question is to acknowledge the hard bits. To give them their place in the narrative of your (or your loved one’s) health issue and life. By doing that, you put them in their place so they don’t run riot in your life. That way you can move forward from it.

This may be about symptoms that are not easy to manage. Dealing with the uncertainty of fluctuating symptoms and/or relapse of the health issue, the loss of friends who seemed to have vanished when your illness arrived, a loss of a bit of your health and sense of control, confidence, or something else. It can be things that you miss. Or dealing with difficult feelings.

List them. And ensure to spend an equal amount of time on the first question too. Remember, this is about keeping as much of a balance as you can. And I don’t want you to unpack and live in this question, i.e. only focus on the bad stuff.

What are you learning from these not-so-good things?

Identifying what you are learning from the bad bits makes having gone thru them a little more worthwhile. You come out of it with something useful to you to help you move forward.

It’s akin to the saying, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ You didn’t choose for you or your loved one to have a challenging health issue, so how can you extract some goodness from it.

Picture of a woman holding lemons asking ‘What am I going to do with all these lemons?’ A man responds, ‘Make lemonade! We like lemonade.’ The caption reads making something good from your Illness or injury.

The learning can be about your preferences for the future, things you need to learn, what you may need to let go of or something else.

For example, by losing some friends, you may have learned what qualities are important to you in a friendship.

You may have identified you need to learn how to manage some symptoms differently like fatigue or chronic pain to have a better quality of life.

Learning how to deal with the difficult feelings so they don’t feel like they are dominating your life may be higher on your agenda.

You may have learned that you need to let go of achieving things to feed your sense of self-worth.

Finally, what is it about you that has enabled you to get this far?

This is a favourite question of mine. I ask it a lot. The purpose of this question is to remind you of your strengths and abilities. Of all the good qualities about yourself that you really value. Because you have many. Sit with these qualities, strengths, passions and abilities and cherish them. And ask yourself this question again from time to time.

What your illness taught you this year, you can take into next year – what to do more of, what to continue doing, what to stop and start doing.

I am actually writing this blog in New York City. I arrived yesterday for my holidays. So this blog will be the last one for this year. I am aiming to publish 2019’s first blog on 9th January. In the meantime, have a lovely holiday season however you are celebrating it and a very happy new year!

What’s it like for you?

What has been the most important thing you learned from your or your loved one’s health challenge this year? Are there any changes you plan to make next year as a result? 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 serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

Know of someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

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How to make the most of life after illness

How to make the most of life after illness

Make the most of life after illness – This was one of the biggest things I learned from having a serious illness and being a carer. Life is fragile. And short. Much shorter than we expected or intended.

For me, one way to make the most of life after illness has been to work for myself so I can work flexibly, create work that genuinely helps people and brings something good into our world. I often think about it as making my corner of the world a better place.

But then I discovered something.

 

To make the most of life after illness in the way I want to, I need to ‘put myself out there’

 

I need to put my head above the parapet.

If I am to grow the work I want to do, I need to get the word out there and show people what I am really about.

 

I need to make myself (even more) vulnerable

 

Picture of a woman putting her ahead above the parapet. It's about making yourself vulnerable to make the most of life after illness.

 

And here I thought life was going to be easy! I know what’s important to me, my strengths, passions and my work caters to all that. I thought I had it sorted and that I had been making myself vulnerable.

But I’m not quite there yet. And may never be if I’m honest. Having it ‘all sorted’ is a pipe dream destination. I have to remind myself that ‘good enough’ is great. But I digress.

I started to wonder why am I worried about making myself even more vulnerable?

 

Vulnerability can hold you back from making the most of your life after illness

 

I think it’s because how we interpret ‘vulnerability’ as a society. The English Oxford dictionary defines vulnerability as:

The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

You read that and think, ‘Whoa! Who wants to put themselves in that position?!’ That is something we actively avoid.

If you’ve been seriously ill or injured or in a caring role, you’ve already experienced enough physical and/or emotional ‘harm’. (I am using the word ‘harm’ loosely here although some of you may have felt genuinely harmed by your or your loved one’s illness or injury.) So why would you put yourself potentially through more?

 

And yet, making yourself vulnerable may enable you to make the most of life after illness

 

It will of course depend on what making the most of your life means to you now. And what you need to do and be to make that happen. Different things will be required for different people.

For me, making myself (even more) vulnerable is what I need to do.

 

Picture of a woman holding a winning ticket from the proactive vulnerability lottery and there is a bucket of resources behind her in which you can see courage. It will take courage for the woman to display her vulnerability, but by doing that she will make the most of life after illness

 

On some level, I knew this. I’ve known that doing my own thing for work was very much about ‘putting myself out there’. Yet, intentionally making myself even more vulnerable as I ‘put myself out there’ has been reinforced in a different way through conversations I’ve had recently.

One conversation was with two women I’ve been working with. The second is with my therapist when we discussed perpetrator and victim dynamics in my family system.

In both conversations, we discussed the pros and cons of vulnerability. This is what vulnerability now means to me.

 

There are two kinds of vulnerability

 

It’s like two sides of the same coin.

The vulnerability of being a victim where you are (or feel you are) being on the receiving end of something not very nice from another person or event (like an illness or injury).

The other side of vulnerability is proactively expressing what we need or want to and sharing with others.

They have very different energies.

 

The vulnerability of being the victim can be a passive energy

 

When you place yourself in the victim role, you are not truly seen by others. Although this may feel like a safe place and/or meet a need of yours, others may be less aware of your needs and forget about you.

In this case, it is harder for you to get your needs met. You may have to do things by yourself to get your needs met. That can also be a lonely place at times. I know. I lived a good portion my life in that place of passivity.

 

When you express what you need or want to others or share something important, you are expressing a vulnerability, but the energy behind it is active

 

You are taking proactive action to meet your needs, wants or desires. It takes courage to display vulnerability in this way. Especially because whoever you are expressing your vulnerability to can say no. They may not be able to help you, to support you, to love you back in the way you want to be loved, or whatever it is you want.

I don’t think the English Oxford dictionary above fully recognises this proactive form of vulnerability. But the work of Brene Brown does. She defines vulnerability as ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure’.

In her book Daring Greatly, she talks about “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper or more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings.” (pg. 33)

 

Picture of a coin and it demonstrates there are two sides to vulnerability. Victim vulnerability which is a passive energy and proactive vulnerability which is an active energy. Proactive vulnerability requires courage and it can help you make the most of life after illness.

 

This proactive form of vulnerability requires us to display more of who we are, not just the edited bits we show to the world. That is where the ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure’ come in. Yet being and showing more of who we are is often required to make the most of life after illness.

 

You can sense check what form of vulnerability you’re displaying

 

The Empowerment Triangle (Karpman, 1968) is the flip side of the Drama Triangle (which I won’t go into today) and both are about power, responsibility and vulnerability. This model displays the proactive form of vulnerability.

 

 

For this form of proactive vulnerability to work well, you need the powerful and responsible aspects too.

 

So I’ll display my vulnerability (proactively)

 

I entered the UK Blog Awards as a way to share my thoughts, ideas and stories about rebuilding and renewing your life after a serious health issue more widely in the world. And to increase my and Return to Wellness’s visibility.

This is very much about me being proactive and putting myself and my work out there. I am putting my head above the parapet waiting for feedback whatever form that feedback takes.

This leads me to an ask I have. If you have enjoyed this blog (and maybe even others I have written), vote for Return to Wellness here.

Thank you.

 

Picture of Vote for my blog! Return to Wellness #UKBA19 UK Blog Awards

 

What about you?

 

What do you need to do to make the most of life after illness? To what degree do you need to be vulnerable (as described here) to do that? Feel free to share below in the comments. Alternatively, you can use the contact form in the sidebar to email me direct.

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to find non-medical ways to improve your sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Pass it forward

 

Know of someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas? Click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

References

Karpman, S. (1968). Fairy tales and script drama analysis. Transactional Analysis Bulletin, 7(26), 39-43.

 

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