From insecurities to disability & growth -

___From insecurities to disability & growth

From insecurities to disability & growth -
My story is not unusual, I feel, or maybe that just highlights my message! My insecurities are doing the talking! I find it hard to distinguish between a free, active choice or the necessity to please and conform; be accepted; make everyone comfortable! I think the pattern is so habitual that I find it surprising I have achieved anything of real note with my life so far. As a child, I wanted to please. I needed a companion to give me courage else, I pretended I just didn't want to! I even convinced myself of this truth!

I'm not coming forward from a place of horror, neglect (except maybe of self), or abuse. My parents did their best, were loving and available as far as they knew how to be. Neither did I ever know hardship as so many do. I am ordinary. Unremarkable. This in itself gives rise to my self-doubt, though! I have no reason to feel like I do! However, in the main, it is true that self-doubt, lack of confidence and social insecurities have often been my inhibitors growing up.

In my adult-life, I have become more self-aware, attempting to compensate so as not to share these unhelpful patterns with my kids. I wanted to enable their pathways in this difficult, complicated, but beautiful world, not shut them down. My lovely husband is also very self-aware and has eventually managed to draw me into the world of self-care and reflection—a world I resisted for so long. Self-reflection is never easy and I balk at potentially 'delving' into my depths!

I fear I may have lost you already, using three paragraphs to 'introduce' myself, but I beg your forbearance as this background is relevant to my most recent trauma, the reason for me writing this story. I would not have been able to cope with the hand dealt to me so unexpectedly if I hadn't started off on this journey.

So, let's get to the point! In September 2018, I had a sudden brain haemorrhage due to the rupture of an AVM. It was a month past my 51st birthday. This affected most acutely my cerebellum, which is responsible, amongst other things, for 'fine tuning' and balance. I am not writing today to regale you of my near-death experience and the prolonged path of rehabilitation (still ongoing), but to try to articulate the personal struggle that illness and resulting disability have placed on my life. And add to that menopause! On the other hand, it has also presented some unexpected gifts. It has heightened my insecurities in spades, from body awareness, social acceptability and sheer functional ability, whilst challenging my thinking fundamentally.

I am by no means at the end of my journey. My life switched from able-bodied to disabled in the blink of an eye, taking with it my business, self-esteem and identity. I was dependent for a long while, immobile, reclusive, and ashamed of my physical presence. I have had days where things are all black; so unfair! But in the long run, where does that get me? The focus on physical function, while necessary initially, takes every waking moment to progress, relearn, and become whole! Eventually, though, this is not enough! Purely physical goals ignored my mental well-being. My true recovery has occurred (and still is) since letting this fact into my life and changing the focus. What enables me to be ME?

I still apologise for being me! A habit that's hard to break! I apologise for my walking pole, my inability to be independently mobile, my need to involve others in order to complete a task, my right-sided weakness and unpredictability. I try to be scientific, to explain. It is so frustrating! I am, however, learning gradually that my worth is in more than my physicality. It's a 'long and winding road' as the song says, and coming to terms with my new body, its shape, appearance and function takes constant work. I can be easily discouraged, but also wonderfully surprised in the depths of its resilience. Although shy, tentative even, I hope to grasp the opportunities that have unfolded as a result, reaching eventually that confident wholeness of body and mind.

Someone recently asked me if this had changed me. I had to say 'Yes, most definitely.' When I continued by adding that two of the biggest learning points have been patience and compassion, there was a stunned silence. I wish these qualities were more valued in the world. Perhaps the paths through illness would then be more palatable for many. Although, I was not referring to the external expression of these sentiments alone, but to their application to myself as well. If I don't apply them, who else will?