There tends to be a question that often arises once I build a friendship with another person;
“How in the hell do you stay so positive with everything you’ve gone through?”
My typical response will be “I don’t know, I just seem to.”
I have come to realize there is a far deeper explanation than this. Previously I had not put a great deal of thought into the true answer. I simply account it to moving on. As you can imagine, it is not as simple as this. Often during times of difficulty with an illness I do go into a different state of mind as I’m sure all of us do. Our daily routine of life is disrupted, depending on the circumstance this disruption will vary from mild to severe. Either way, what seemed most pressing in our lives suddenly moved down our list of importance.
I have read articles and attended presentations on “visualization of where you see yourself”. This sounds pretty straight forward, think about what you want to do, or where you want to be and go for it. The other night, while I was laying in bed thinking of a potential new employment opportunity, something clicked. As I was “visualizing myself” active in a new job, I suddenly realized what I was doing. Until that moment I had not put the pieces together. My entire life I have layed in bed at night imagining different scenarios and what it would feel like to have them come to fruition. Even after the articles and presentations I did not marry the two together. I simply forgot this was a common process, so common I didn’t realize I was actually doing it.
I know that may sound weird, missing this connection. For me, the word “visualization” was over thought in my mind. The fact is, as far back as grade school, I would think ahead to an upcoming test. I would see myself either failing or passing and how each would feel. I would think about an upcoming trip. What would I do during the car ride? What would I be doing when I get to the destination? Would I argue with my sisters???? My whole life as far as I can remember, I lay in bed most nights just thinking of the future.
At the most trying of times, this practice comes back. Once settled into a hospital room for example, when the lights go out and the nurses are gone, all I am left with is my own thoughts. In the hospital weeks before having my Ileostomy, I would think about worst case scenarios of my new life with a pouch. I would imagine what it would feel like accomplishing day to day mundane tasks and how the pouch may get in the way. I would think of how I would look, how I would be forced to adapt aspects of my life. How would it effect my physical relationship, having a pouch on my abdomen that collects my faeces. It was hard to think about anything positive at the time. Then certain aspects would enter my mind. The pain would be gone, I won’t have to worry of ongoing medications, I will be out of the hospital!! At the time just thinking of these few things, truly put a smile on my face at night.
Once released from the hospital after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I was laying in bed with my fiancé, I broke down yelling
“WHY?!!!!, I’ve been through enough shit already! What did I do to deserve this?!!”
Shortly after I made a conscious choice that I would not become a victim of my circumstance. My Ileostomy did not make me a victim so why should Multiple Sclerosis?
In short, there is not a magic trick involved in remaining positive through adversity. In my experience, it comes from denying the negatives in life, from guiding your life. I could have shut down after my Ileostomy, allowed it to define the course of my life. Forgotten about the dreams I had, the professional aspirations I desired, simply stopped. I made a choice then that I have not backed away from. To live a happy life, because c’mon, we only have this one.
One maneuver I discovered during a recent presentation while at a workshop, facilitated by my Life Coach and her peers, has really stuck with me. This requires an open mind and a self willingness to invest your thoughts into this practice. When I am experiencing negative self, I literally look upwards, place these thoughts into a dark cloud and watch the cloud drift backwards over my head, disappearing behind me. A recent example of this would be, driving my daughter to school in the morning a few weeks ago. That morning I had woken up in a distasteful mood. I was short tempered, still tired, just in a grumpy mood all around. I was stopped at a red light, a thought entered my head of “I need to get myself out of this or it’s going to be a long ass day”
With my two children in the backseat, I took my negative self talk, the thoughts of being upset all day, not being motivated to accomplish things I wanted to that day and just being in a negative mindset all around. I put these into my dark cloud and instantaneously tilted my head back, literally not figuratively, and watched the cloud slowly blow away behind me. I then turned on some good music, began to sing which my kids did not appreciate as usual, then realized my mindset was changed. The remainder of that day, I was positive, upbeat and able to accomplish the things I wanted to that day.
Over the years, through challenges with my Ileostomy, Multiple Sclerosis & Pyoderma Gangrenosum, I have allowed myself to go down the path of negative thoughts, negative emotions and thoughts of worst case scenarios. If I don’t allow myself to “think”, which I discovered truly means “visualize”, the possible or inevitable outcomes of a life changing experience, I would not get pissed off and refuse to allow the negatives to become a new reality.