Author opens up about her own personal fight against adversity
By Cathy McCarthy
We all face challenges as we continue to navigate through life. I was presented with a very unexpected challenge which came completely out of the blue while in the process of writing my book.
Initially, I felt that I could handle it but as time went on I was very low in spirit and faced a wall of adversity. There were days I found extremely difficult. I felt so alone, isolated, abandoned and was in a complete fog.
My mind was awash with thoughts. I tried not to dwell upon these thoughts, because they were not serving me well. My thoughts were like dark clouds blocking the light. The straight path vanished and every role that defined me was lost.
I knew my thinking was completely darkening my world, but often I just had no control over it. I found the mornings extremely difficult, and for that split second when I awoke all was well, until I realised that I had this enormous hole in my heart.
I was gripped with anxiety. I forced myself to get up as lying in bed only made it more acute. Often I went out for a walk as I found that was beneficial to shift my energy. Moping around the house is the most destructive thing you can do.
It completely exacerbates the situation and does nothing to lift your darkness. I had to gently explore how I would navigate this critical passage in my life. I realised that fear is the mind’s greatest roadblock.
I had to decide how I would move on and step into new choices. There were days that I just did not have the heart to do anything. I found it extremely difficult to write as I just could not concentrate, I felt low in self- esteem, and even questioned if I were the problem?
I realised as time went on that this was not the case. I felt guilty as I had so much going for me, and yet this weight was just dragging me down and breaking my spirit. I was very emotional and extremely fragile.
I can remember talking one day to my son, Jack. I was telling him how I was finding it so difficult to write. I won’t use the words he actually used, but he told me, Come on, Mum, you can do this, prove them wrong. Let this be your incentive to keep going; I knew he was right. Every time I felt I was sabotaged I thought of Jack’s words and they moved me to bounce forward.
It was not all plain sailing, but whenever I hit that wall, I pushed myself to keep going. I knew I wanted to write my book, as it was a very important life project for me at that time.
I can’t go into any details of what happened; it would be completely inappropriate and I do not wish to hurt anyone. The story is not important anyway, everyone has a story. The sole reason I am writing this is in the hope that I can help someone else, to articulate how I coped, and what helped to move me through the pain. It is strange but it was a completely different challenge to my cancer journey.
They were both difficult, but very diverse in nature. I think when you are mentally and emotionally torn and your mind is tormented, it is the worst pain of all. It is so much more difficult to fix. It can take you over and can almost destroy you, but you can’t allow that.
I tried to avoid dialogue with myself because of the fear of self-defeating chatter. Our many encounters with defeat and disappointment can take us to the depths of despair. It is very important to acknowledge your pain and to sit with it. This is extremely difficult as the sadness can be overwhelming.
I had to dig deep and I mean deep. Just remember that healing takes time. It is definitely a process. You often take two steps forward and four steps backwards. There are many twists and turns, often ones you don’t expect, but accept that this is a normal part of what is going on and that you sometimes just have to trust; hand this over and go with what is happening.
I do believe that everything happens for a reason, no matter how painful it is at the time. I love the phrase, This too will pass. When you are going through it, it is extremely difficult to see how there will be any positive outcome. Life has no script and you have to trust your heart’s compass to guide you.
I can remember reading a book at this particular time and it talked about being grateful for our struggles because they can be our best teachers. Just because you can’t see the blessings of struggle, does not mean that they are not there.
If you are wondering as you read this, where in God’s name is this coming from, I completely understand. Apparently every struggle that comes our way is to teach us a lesson, to experience new growth. We become enemies of our own growth unless we have the wisdom to see the hidden blessings as a gift.
The blessings in the struggle only become obvious and are brought into the light when you have time to reflect. I remember reading Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Speech where he talks about joining up the dots through events in our lives.
Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path and that will make all the difference. Steve Jobs
You will experience joy again. You will recover from your despair. The path to recovery can be slow and it is only when you look back that you can notice a pattern of gradual resurrection. You will realise that the things that colour your days are not all consumed with your adversity experience.
You will see that your struggle to survive will diminish in time. As you pull your life back together with courage and hope, you may discover a new passion for life.
Maybe you will use the difficult changes in your outer life to make changes within. Use any gems of wisdom you may have learned.
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the self-same well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. Kahlil Gibran
One of the things I had to make peace with was that you cannot expect people to do as you do. Your view of a situation is not necessarily another person’s view. You have to accept people as they are, not as you would like them to be. That can be a very difficult pill to swallow.
It is extraordinary how people can view a situation so differently. But you have to remember that we are all living out of our own life story and often do not know what another person’s may be. Our past experiences, both good and bad, shape our lives. Our decisions are also based on what is happening in our lives at a particular moment.
We all live in a different reality. People will sometimes disappoint you.
Shane Martin, Psychologist, suggests the following: Tips for moving on from hurtful experiences
1. Acknowledge the hurt that you feel. Don’t put a lid on your emotions.
2. Embrace yourself with compassion realising that during hurtful periods you need to mind yourself not hammer yourself.
3. Reach out to others for support and soak up all the companionship offered.
4. If you feel that you need to make a decision as a consequence of the hurtful experience – press the pause button. Seek advice and talk it through with others. We often make the wrong decisions at the wrong times.
5. Remind yourself that you have an innate capacity to heal and move on. We eventually look back on all crises.
6. You have the right to the best possible life no matter what has happened or what may happen in the future. It’s your previous life and you only live it once. Don’t let the past throw a shadow over the rest of your life.
What helped me
Gratitude – reaching out, helping others, doing little acts of kindness
Getting out of the house
Avoiding negative news
Shifting your energy
Living in the moment
Listening to music
I fill myself with love, and I send that out into the world.
How others treat me is their path: How I react is mine. Dr Wayne Dyer
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Tony Robbins
When you feel you have been cheated, betrayed or hurt by someone you can understandably feel a victim. When you reflect on how you feel, you are ultimately letting somebody dictate your emotions and take control of you. You are locked in the prison of your mind and you are giving away your power.
When you are full of bitterness, you are relinquishing your happiness and your bitterness changes who you are. I am not saying that you should let the person off the hook, but I have read somewhere that it is good to forgive and bad to forget. I may forgive someone but I don’t forget what he/she did because I don’t want to be stupid enough to let it happen again.
When you forgive, the person you set free is yourself. Forgiveness is a conscious choice. You tell yourself, he/she is not worthy of any more of my energy and thoughts. I now wish to invest more fully in the people I love and care about. I am now going to take back control of my thoughts and my life and I am not going to let that person ruin my day.
When you forgive someone, the other person does not have to know about your decision. This is not about the other person, it is all about you. You are aiming to cast off your unhappiness and the negative energy that is weighing you down.
Forgiveness is a gift to yourself. This is not easy; if it were, we would all be very different people. Just remember also that forgiveness takes time, weeks, months, even years – it is a long process, so be kind to yourself. When someone does you an injustice, it says more about them, it is not at all about you. Hurt people hurt people.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.