We all know life can change in an instant. We just never think it can happen to us.
Last year, my life was on an upward swing. My three kids and I had relocated to a new city. We were all happy and healthy. I had just launched my dream business as a life coach and met a wonderful man. Life was perfect!
Then one morning I woke up to find myself in the emergency room. I couldn’t believe what the doctor was telling me. They were saying I was here because I’d had a stroke. A stroke? I was a healthy person – a marathon runner, vegetarian and a non-smoker. I was not a person who had a stroke.
Life storms happen to our neighbor or the stranger on the street. They don’t happen to us. Storms by their nature typically arrive without warning. We are rarely prepared when they hit. This was my storm. When I came home from the hospital, I struggled to reclaim my old life. I felt weak, vulnerable and fragile. Overnight I had gone from being happy and healthy to living in a place of darkness.
The fear of having another stroke consumed me. My world became very small as I learned to adapt to vertigo and memory loss. I focused on processing these challenges and dealing with chronic pain. Fear can paralyze you – if you let it. And I let it. The limitations of the stroke coupled with my fear of having another one, robbed me of doing the things I loved most.
I stopped coaching, seeing my friends, writing, and paddle boarding. I struggled to get through each day instead of thriving and enjoying my life. Being in this dark place was very hard to admit because as a life coach I help other people get unstuck. I encourage and support people to take action in their lives. Yet, I couldn’t move myself forward. I told very few people about my stroke. Even fewer knew I was struggling to get through each day.
One day a good friend told me I needed to stop the pity party. She was tired of hearing only about the stroke. She wanted to hear what else was going on in my life. The sad thing was I didn’t have anything else to share.
This was my AHA! moment. I knew I had to make a choice and quick. I could either keep sinking deeper into darkness or do something different to move myself through this storm. I had to change my story. I began to reclaim my life when I began to change how I looked at this experience,
My first action was to step back. I examined the role I played in bringing my life to this point. It was easy to say the stroke just happened. The doctors all said it was just “one of those things.” But looking back, I saw that over the last twenty years I had neglected my own self-care. I had neglected to nourish my mind, body and spirit. I sacrificed sleep and my own needs far too often for others. I pushed myself with too many hours at work and too many commitments. While at the same time, I never managed the stress in my life.
Then I had to ask, “Why?”
I see now how mixed up my thinking was. I thought being that busy increased my self-worth. I thought doing more, being more, having more, made me more valuable, more important, and a better person. I thought being busy made me more loveable.
Now as I look back, I see how being busy was just like any other addiction. I was using being busy to avoid dealing with things in my life that were causing me unhappiness- an abusive marriage, an unfulfilling job, feelings of loneliness.
I couldn’t slow down on my own. So the stroke showed up, slowed me down, and made me dig deep into my life. Over the past year, I have succeeded in making positive changes because of the stroke. I now work less and play more. When I get tired I go to bed early instead of pushing through. I can now say “no, thank you” to events that aren’t in alignment with the life I desire.
I manage stress by making time to meditate and to do conscious breathing throughout my day. I focus on the gifts in my life with a daily gratitude practice. The stroke taught me that taking care of my own needs has to be a priority. I can’t take care of my loved ones if I’m not healthy.
I also learned by not doing because I couldn’t do, that I am enough. I came to realize by having a stroke that I am valuable, worthy and loveable, just as I am. This was an important lesson to learn and one I want to share with other women.
We are enough. Each one of us is valuable and perfect right now in this moment without doing more or striving to be more.
Every storm we experience teaches us something. My storm taught me that how we react to the storms we encounter creates our life. We can be a victim and sink into darkness or we can learn from our experience and catapult ourselves to a life more incredible than we ever dreamed of. The choice is ours.