You may look successful on the outside, BUT is it an allusion?
Are you nailing it by day at the office, but at home it’s a different story? Is your private life crumbling and is it about to invade your corporate life or maybe your reputation. Are you struggling alone?
To the outside world looking in, so many people appear to be highly successful yet behind closed doors sadly their world is falling apart. You might be lying awake at night wondering ‘how long can I keep the balls juggling in the air. How long can I keep the façade up before my corporate life comes crashing down’.
Or are you a class act balancer? Keeping appearances propped up at almost any cost.
What do they look like anyway. Everyone’s definition is different. For some blinded by the shiny reels of social media and the expectations weighing down heavily upon them, one might think success looks like earning a lot of money, beautiful people, a wonderful house, the perfect children, holidays all over the world, nice clothes and a fancy car. OR DOES IT?
Sure there is absolutely nothing wrong with pursuing the pleasures of life that come along with working hard for what you earn, as long as it doesn’t come at the cost of the things that you hold the dearest in your heart. In the never ending search for fulfilment, in a society that says we should have everything NOW, things are not always as they seem. When I talk to business owners about their staffs mental health, many reply, ‘I’m not coping myself. I don’t how long I can keep going like this. My staff are relying on me. I’m the one who is meant to keep it all together. ‘ Sounds like a lot of pressure, doesn’t it?
THE BALANCING ACT
I Have met so many people in my many years in the twelve step rooms where outside the rooms people mistakingly believe they have it all together. They are deemed successful because they are being judged on outward appearances Yet, inside they are crushed. If you talked to them yourself, they would say their life was a total failure and that money does NOT bring happiness. In every case, alcohol, drugs, gambling, work, food, sex, shopping and other addictions stripped them away from their loved ones. Many had it all and lost it all only to say that in the end, they came to realise that it’s the RELATIONSHIPS in their life that meant the most.
THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE
If you are struggling with any kind of addiction or just with the pressures of life itself, GET HELP before it’s too late. Don’t let pride kill you and don’t let shame be the reason you didn’t find the right support. There is always HOPE. The relief of spilling all to someone you trust just could be lifesaving. As the saying goes, a problem shared, is a problem halved. And it really is. In my many years working as a recovery counsellor I have seen so many people hit rock bottom because of the secrets they had been holding onto. To see the relief they experience after they become honest about their situation and talk it out, is like the weight of the world has been lifted off their shoulders.
And lastly, realise this ‘you are not the only one’. Imagine being in a room and realising that at least half the people in that room were also struggling only you were ALL DOING IT ALONE. How amazing would it be to be able to support one another in your greatest time of need.
I’m sure many of you have heard this poem written by John Whittier. I hope you are encouraged greatly as you read it.
“When things go wrong as they sometimes will, and the road you’re trudging seems all up hill, the funds are low and the debts are high, and you want to smile but you have to sigh. When care is pressing you down a bit, rest if you must but don’t you quit.
Life is strange with its’s twists and turns as every one of us sometimes learns. Many a failure comes about when you might have won had you stuck it out. Success is failure turned inside out, the silver tint of the clouds of doubt. And you never can tell just how close you are, It may be near when it seems so far. So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit, It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit”.
Finding joy through adversity was what we heard all about at last months event as Dean and Sharlene (pictured below) shared their phenomenal stories of triumphing over hard times. Dean who was born with the debilitating disease ‘EB’ Epidermolysis Bullosa is one of the world’s oldest survivors at age 41. He considers himself to be very positive and is always looking forward with anticipation. The age expectancy of someone with EB is not usually beyond two years old. Dean who was born with the worst form of EB has outlived all those battling this disease in Australia. His zest for life despite his pain and the arduous routine which takes around four hours preparation just to get out the front door each morning, something many of us take for granted, is written all over his face when you see him smile.
Sharlene who shared her moving story of recovery described what life was like living as a hopeless helpless alcoholic. When you look at her, you could be forgiven for thinking that she looks nothing like an alcoholic. The same has often been said to me in my many years of sobriety but we are the faces of alcoholism. We appear in all forms shapes and sizes. The well-dressed corporate CEO, someone on a park bench, or as in Sharlene’s case, the mum of four next door. Finding Joy Through Adversity comes in all shapes, sizes and demographics.
Dark Days always come before we can find ourselves Finding Joy Through Adversity
Sharlene’s alcoholism took her to the darkest and most desperate place. Into the hands of violence, arrests, psych wards, and emergency departments. A Myriad of horrendous twists and turns, heartbreak and hysteria. Rock bottom eventually struck with the fatal blow, having her young children taken away in the family court system. For Dean ‘it was around three years ago when for no reason his body started shutting down. He said, ‘It was a frightening time but I never let go of hope’.
INCLUSION BRINGS JOY
For Dean, JOY came through finding a purpose and people who loved, accepted and included him despite his outward appearance. People who were drawn to the gold on the inside and saw him for the person he was underneath his coat of damaged skin.
One of those people who made a huge contribution to Deans life was NRL player Shane Webcke. He along with some of the other NRL players such as Brad Thorn from his much-loved football team the Brisbane Broncos gave Dean a sense of belonging. Rejection is heartbreaking for someone who is already struggling and Inclusion can make all the difference. For Dean a make it was!
MOMENTS OF JOY
Since that day Sharlene put down the alcohol, she has found so many moments of joy. In fact the day her children were returned to her was one of the most joyous days of her life and was the very thing that motivated her to keep sober one day at a time. It was the goal that kept propelling her forward.
Other moments of joy she said were ‘the day I paid cash for my car. ‘It’s and old car and nothing fancy but it means the world to me. ‘Its something I finally own’, and the day she enrolled at university to become a midwife’. These are the ‘moments of joy and celebration in her life that have kept her going through the days, weeks and months of adversity.
For both Dean and Sharlene, gratitude for the small things have helped them the most in Finding Joy Through Adversity. Just when life seemed the hardest, a moment of joy shone through and showed them that life truly is for living. Tangible proof that even greater moments await in the future if they don’t give up.
GRATITUDE BRINGS JOY
For Dean it was the day he set a goal to bench press 150kgs and achieved it! What an amazing accomplishment for a person where even a bump to the skin can set off a cascade of catastrophic and damaging effects and even threaten to end his life.
Next time you think you are having a hard day; I encourage you to think about Dean and Sharlene and take some inspiration from their lives. The way they have risen from absolute devastation and continue to walk forward each and every day with gratitude even through adversity is remarkable. They are living proof that even though life is not perfect we can find perfect moments in every day. To read more remarkable stories of everyday inspirational people visit https://storiesofhope.com.au/product/stories-of-hope-australia-books/
LEADING THE WAY
Leading the way has not been something that has come easily to me nor was it something I sought. It all started when I intentionally allowed myself as hard as it was to become vulnerable. The harsh events of life cause a vulnerability in so many that is raw and uncomfortable, but for me it was intolerable and unbearable. The feeling and fear of being vulnerable was something that in former days caused me to numb myself out on alcohol and prescription. Anything but face life and pain in its true form. But not today.
I was so afraid that if people really found out who I was on the inside, I would be rejected. I did everything I could to mask the true me because i literally hated myself. As hard as I tried, I could never hide because I wore a veil of shame. The shame of growing up in an alcoholic home and the secrets I felt I had to keep to protect not only me but those around me. The social anxiety and the intense loneliness I felt on the inside, caused me to wear masks and many of them. I didn’t want people to know how desperate I really felt. The only problem with wearing masks was that when I was with a group of people, i had no idea of how to act. Because I wore a different mask for different people, i would render myself silent for fear of being found out.
I literally started becoming clean in every sense of the word, the day I got sober in a twelve step recovery meeting. Night after night i was asked to share my story, my struggles and about my sobriety. I felt humiliated unveiling the layers of shame publicly and public humiliation was the very thing I feared the most. But, I knew my recovery depended on it. Besides I was in a safe environment and one where everyone else in the room were also sharing their deepest darkest pain but maybe like me, not ALL their secrets. I still had one I rarely talked about. One where every time it would even enter my mind I became angry and one where even the thought of saying the words made me feel so shattered and so ashamed.
SILENT NO MORE
I remember the day so clearly that I finally came to terms with being raped at 17 years of age. When it happened all those years ago, I told no one. After all I had been molested by a pedophile when I was nine and there was no justice. So I figured there would be no justice if I did tell. What we ‘KEEP IN THE DARKNESS CAN NEVER BE DEALT WITH. IT IS ONLY WHEN WE BRING SOMETHING OUT INTO THE LIGHT THAT WE CAN FINALLY BEGIN TO HEAL’. I realised that the shame was not mine to carry any longer. That was the day I found the keys to freedom. The day I decided I would be SILENT NO MORE! When I finally became vulnerable enough to talk about this publicly, i realised there was no longer anything to hide and nothing holding me back. The fear of rejection no longer has a hold on me. Today I share all my stories so that other people my know that they too can recover from trauma. I can be a voice of HOPE for all those who are still suffering in silence and I can truly connect with people because I am prepared to be vulnerable.
A GREAT PRACTICE FOR A ‘MENTALLY HEALTHY LIFE’ | Living One Day at a Time
Do you ever feel like you can barely get through today, let alone tomorrow or the day after that? Well, the reality is, thinking this way will only produce anxiety and fear of the future. And sometimes we need to bring it down to one moment at a time.
We were never meant to worry about tomorrow. Look forward to, yes but not worry about or dread.
While ever we are looking forward we are not living in the now. We are literally missing out on the many things that are going on around us in this present moment. Most of us miss what is going on NOW!
I remember an exercise my 4th class English teacher, had us do. I didn’t know it then, but it was an exercise in mindfulness.
She asked us to be very still, and listen for the many different sounds we could hear for that next two minutes. I still practice this today. Sometimes when I sit on my back deck and purposefully listen, I can hear several different birds singing, the sound of cars, rustling leaves, my heartbeat, and the wind. It really brings me right back to the here and now and brings with it such a sense of peace and serenity.
I don’t know about you but I used to live life for many years as if I was riding a rollercoaster.
I would get so excited about the good things that were coming up tomorrow or next week or in the future and being a natural optimist my expectations were so high they were almost through the roof and often extremely unrealistic. Most of the time after the event or what I had been looking forward to I felt LET DOWN. Then I would dive into the depths of despair or depression over unmet expectations.
These days I don’t get overly excited about things beforehand and try and stay on an even keel. Then whatever great things happen are a bonus. This is good practice for my mental health.
Then there is the big one!
LIVING IN THE PAST.
While ever we do this, we will be stuck… We really can’t go anywhere… If you are constantly living in yesterday you might as well be walking in quicksand.. Until you get out, you will never be free to enjoy today…
After counselling so many people and having endured myself I have come to realise that most of the traumas people face are in the ‘recollection of the suffering of the past’… We tend to bring it into the here and now with us when it has no place to be there. It is not part of our unless we make it so, so today and every day is a new day of its own.
Often we base our perception on what we ‘think’ we are able to cope with into the future based on our past experiences. It’s never a good prescription for success or happiness because today we are stronger than yesterday having overcome the challenges we have faced. With it we possess a new capacity as a result, so what we are able to do tomorrow will be greater than yesterday if we are able to look at it in this positive light.
True happiness lies in living for today. Living for today equals balance. Today is a gift. Don’t miss it. If we didn’t have the bad moments we would never appreciate the good ones. No day is perfect, but as I always say, ‘there are perfect moments in every day’. And the moments that aren’t so perfect, are opportunities for growth and compassion. So, live your life today with gratitude for whatever you can find to be grateful for.
I am so grateful I heard this saying, ‘ONE DAY AT A TIME’ all those years ago when I became clean and sober.
Back then to go one day through life without drinking seemed like an absolute impossibility. To think that I could go years without it back then was unfathomable but has proved to be possible one day at a time. For someone like me who needed alcohol and pills every single day to get through life, I know this to be so true,
Anything is possible one day at a time.
I have come across many people over the years, who have opened up and shared about some of the pain in their lives. When I ask them if they have sought help, the answer is all too familiar. For many professionals, men, in particular, seeking help can be seen as a sign of weakness amongst their peers. They are told to ‘man up’ men don’t share their feelings and so they go on and on stuffing their pain down again and again with many ending up with PTSD and turning to alcohol substances or medication to cope.
Having grown up in therapy from the age of 10 after a breakdown, bearing my soul was the only option for survival.
I guess what I did next came naturally. I didn’t choose to be a counsellor, life strategist, therapist, call it what you may, it chose me.
My dream and desire as a little girl were to be a famous jazz musician or an actress. Two fields I was born gifted in, but it wasn’t to be. Listening to people’s stories and helping them change the course of their life for better was what I literally fell into. Being the girl growing up in a home with 2 alcoholic parents who carried the extra kilos, had a face full of pimples, and home cut hair, I knew what loneliness was like only too well. It seemed natural as my life went on, after my own battle with prescription medication and alcohol addiction, to try and comfort others in their pain. There wasn’t too much I personally hadn’t been through by the age of 18.
What has been for some time now a taboo subject, counselling is now starting to be thought upon as an EMPOWERING experience. It is not for the weak of faint hearted but for the bold and the strong, the courageous and the humble, to admit that they can’t do it on their own.
Everyone needs someone. Other than addictions, a large contributing factor to our increasing suicide rate is a lack of connectedness and a terrible sense of loneliness.
Many who have come to me for help, have been so racked with shame for the things they have done, often under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that they don’t feel there is a soul in the world they can share their darkest secrets with, but a trusted stranger like myself who has walked down a similar path.
I create an atmosphere of total confidentiality and non-judgemental. For clients in the professional world particularly suffering from the effects of addiction confidentiality is of optimum concern as there is a fear that if found out, they could lose their positions or their reputation in society could be tarnished. This is also the case for husbands or wives of prominent business people as they fear to damage their loved ones reputation in the community. There is also a lot of shame attached. It’s really sad to see someone at the top of their game who has been high profile in their community to spiral downwards and fall into despair.
If we are honest, we are all on a journey and there have been many times in all of our lives where we have stuffed up, or fallen short in one way or another and lived with regret for certain things.
I guess some see it as a type of confession. Where they bear their darkest secrets with a longing to know that despite what they have done, they will still be loved and accepted. Everyone has the right to be forgiven, to forgive others to forgive oneself and move forward.
At the end of the day, the driving force for me is to help change a life. To be a listening ear. A sounding board as such. It gives me such a deep sense of fulfilment and satisfaction, to see someone comes to me in utter despair and let’s face it by the time most people see a therapist they have already hit rock bottom or are close to it and See them walk out with HOPE in their heart knowing that their life can be better, and with a huge weight lifted off their shoulders. Knowing that after all, they are just human and not some alien on a solo journey. I hope this insight brings counselling out of the box. Young, old, rich, poor everyone comes to a point where they just need someone to sit and listen and to do this for someone is my greatest passion.