There are some things that I think should be compulsory on the learning agenda of every child. It would contribute considerably to the chances of that child arriving at adulthood with their mental health intact. Of course, it’s easy for me to say. I don’t have children. Right now I don’t even have fur-kids, but I was a child, and I know that if I had learnt some things earlier on in life it might have helped me in establishing my self-esteem and my sense of having a right to be on this planet.
The last few months have been pretty difficult for me, for a number of unrelated reasons. My mental health has taken a dive, as I’ve told you on a number of occasions.
A big difficulty for me right now, as I explained in my last post (Back To Music (Therapy)) is that I don’t know who to trust. I don’t know who is really on my side and who will divulge my confidences to places I’d rather they didn’t go. That’s come about for a specific reason, and the big issue for me now is just re-learning about trusting my friends. I have good friends, who I can trust. It’s just that when someone has abused that trust it takes time to rebuild.
I’ve come to the conclusion that while I do that, I need to take a break from blogging. It really isn’t wise for me to be writing about a lot of the things going on in my life right now, and trying to write about anything else is hampered by the stress I am living with. I simply can’t focus to write. I know that I have already cut back how much I have blogged recently and I feel frustrated by that (and in turn the stress level goes up further).
Last time I took a break from blogging it actually turned out to be for just a short while, and maybe that will happen this time too. For now, I just need to give myself a break.
I will still be writing for A Canvas Of The Minds, and will reblog here, the posts I make.
Sometimes it’s really difficult to know what is the right thing for me. There is a voice inside of me that gets expressed through blogging, and no doubt that voice will want it’s say. I simply need to identify for myself what is safe for me to write about, and what is better left unsaid. That kind of goes against the grain, but I’m going to give it a go for now.
Take care everyone.
“Do the other kids make fun of you? For how you talk?’
‘So why don’t you do something about it? You could learn
to talk differently, you know.’
But this is my voice. How would you be able to tell when I was talking?”
― Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall
Today I turned back to music, because I was losing my grip and I know (when I remember) that when that’s happening the best thing for me is to turn back to music, my favourite kind of therapy.
In many years past, back in what must have been another life, music was my world and playing in an orchestra or singing in a choir was a way to guarantee that feel good factor. It was a long time ago, but music still works if I give it a chance. And so today I pulled out a movie soundtrack from the 1980′s. It’s one that others have told me they find depressing, but for me it’s the opposite. It lifts my spirits every time… and gives me some peace. I don’t imagine that you’ll click on it, and that’s ok. The music is for me, and if anyone else gets something from it, then that is a bonus.
It has been a really hard week, and while many times, I have sat down to write, the part of me that withdraws when I’m struggling pulled me back from writing. I realise at the other end of the week that while friends tell me to reach out and ask for help, I simply don’t know how. Does that sound crazy?
Logically I know it’s three words “I need help” but actually those words are so hard to say, especially when you’re used to being independent. I’ve attempted it in different places a number of times but have come away silenced by my fears and insecurities. I need to be very clear that I silenced myself, rather than anyone doing or saying anything to silence me.
For a number of reasons, right now I am struggling to know who to trust, even to know who is real. I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly lately, and while the good still outweighs the rest, the worst of it colours my picture of the world and leaves me scared, even paranoid of who is really there for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I have some wonderful friends who have done their best to be here for me, but it’s me that keeps pushing them away because I simply don’t know who, if anyone, is trustworthy now.
I want to trust people again. I want to know that people are good. I want to believe that I’m not alone. I need to know that the world is a good place, and that the good and pure-hearted will win out against the bad and the ugly.
This week I have been rapidly running out of hope. That’s right, I’ve been running out of hope. It’s been hard to see the point anymore. Yesterday a dear friend offered to hold onto my hope for me, and that is exactly what I needed. We agreed to hold onto hope for each other, and somehow that seems so much easier than doing it alone. I am very lucky to have her gift.
So I keep going. The overwhelming urge is to run to under the covers of my bed. There it feels safe. There it feels that the bad and the ugly can’t get to me there. There I have no need for the paranoia and the anxiety. There is peace. I know I can’t stay there 24/7 but just sometimes it’s the best place to be.
“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
Twenty years ago this weekend, I dived off the platform into the murky waters of mental illness. Twenty years! It does seem like a long time ago, but twenty years? That is a good chunk of my life down in those muddy waters, trying to hold my breath and not drown. I celebrate that I didn’t drown, but twenty years?
I had won a weekend holiday in Queenstown (a tourist trap for kiwis and plenty of overseas tourists). My boyfriend, D and I chose this particular weekend to take the trip because it had been my birthday during the past week, we had just got engaged the weekend before, and we both needed a break. Over the past couple of months I had Glandular Fever (mononucleosis) and was still feeling pretty fatigued. A weekend away (from Auckland where we were living then) was just what was needed.
The weekend started okay. We flew to Queenstown and picked up a rental car. We were feeling pretty lucky to have won this weekend because money was tight and it’s not something we could have afforded. I had been off work for about six weeks and was only back part-time.
But life was pretty good. I was a career girl in a job I loved, I had shifted to Auckland the year before and so had finally escaped the stalkers who had plagued my life. I had good friends. I owned my own home, I was a committed Christian who was at church twice on Sundays, and most of all I loved the lifestyle I had. But wow! How life can change? Twenty years on and I am a completely different person.
Back to our weekend away, I wasn’t really aware of anything but at one point D said to me that I had been really negative all day. It wasn’t about anything specific, just everything. I hadn’t realised but now that he mentioned it, I started to realise he was right. So I stopped talking. That seemed like the best way (at the time) to fix the problem but by the end of the day everything had got too much and we were back in our hotel room, me bawling on the bed. For hours. Once I started, I couldn’t stop.
D had no idea what was wrong, or even why I was crying. Neither did I, really. I just knew my life had crashed somehow and I couldn’t stop crying. The glass in the mirror had shattered, and somehow I knew I couldn’t put it back together again.
And so began 20 years of mental illness. It seemed my mental health had got on a plane to Queenstown, but didn’t come back. First, I was diagnosed with Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Next, those two triggered Anorexia and that became a whole different ball game as not only my mental health but my physical health was under fire. Much later came the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Adult Attachment Disorder. It seemed like once it started, there was no stopping it.
As I said earlier, up until that weekend it seemed like I had life together. Sure, bad things had happened in my life but I had held myself together and survived. The thought that I would dive into the mental illness pond was the furthest thing from my mind. It wasn’t anything anyone else seemed to expect for me either. My parents had only recently given me a birthday card which said “for the woman who has everything“. I never thought of myself that way, but life was pretty good at that stage. I assumed it would just go on that way.
But life has a way of surprising us, doesn’t it? Really, I had a lot of things go wrong in my life and my strategy was to hold it all together, rather than deal with it. The years of stalking had a price to pay, and now I know that when the trauma ends, that is the time the effects of it really hit. Until then you’re just fighting for survival. But I could finally relax. Perhaps it was finally safe to let go and cry. But then I couldn’t stop.
I remember in the early days reading a book about a woman who had depression for two years. I was appalled by the idea of two years of this hell. I couldn’t consider I might be depressed for months, let alone years.
Contrary to popular opinion I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. I also don’t believe that, as I was taught as a child, I should be thankful for all things. What I do believe though is that I can learn from all things. I have learnt many things across that twenty years. I have learnt that kindness and compassion extend to all people, regardless of who or what they are.
I’ve learnt a lot of things I’d rather not have learnt too. But that’s how life goes. We don’t always get to pick and choose. I’ve seen a lot of things I’d rather not have seen. I wouldn’t choose this route. I would never choose mental illness over health and life, but having gone down that route I choose to let it be.
I finish with this thought. For a (very) long time I wished for my life back. I wished for a return to the ‘old days’. I know that’s not going to happen now. This is my life as it is. That old life is gone and wouldn’t be relevant to me now anyway. I went to Queenstown as one person, and came back as another. If twenty years of mental illness has taught me one thing it’s to live one day at a time and accept what I have. I won’t always have the answers to why, but I can just let it be.
“An infinite question is often destroyed by finite answers…To define everything is to annihilate much that gives us laughter and joy…If I try self consciously to become a person, I will never be one. The most real people, those who are able to forget their selfish selves, who have true compassion, are usually the most distinct individuals”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet
When someone takes the chance, and shows us their silly side, we are indeed honoured. We all have silly in us, but it’s not that easy to let it out, especially when we’ve been hurt badly in the past. When we feel vulnerable in other aspects of our lives we become even more vulnerable to let someone in and see silly.
Silly is not about immaturity. Actually I think the people who ‘do’ silly the best are usually very mature people who see the value in letting go of those inhibitions once in a while and being silly. That said, I know very mature people who would never be seen dead doing silly, but I am sure that they would be better off if they tried it once in a while.
Dictionaries tend to define silly as foolish, lacking common sense, frivolous, stupid or childish… but that’s not what I am talking about. Silly is not a negative thing in my mind, but rather something that is very good for our mental health. It’s about letting out that child inside of us to have fun. Silly is a little bit crazy, but in a good way.
The Urban Dictionary provides a multitude of definitions but I like this one:
“The most awesome compliment you can give a person! It is cooler than cool or even ice-cold. Silly is the epitome of greatness, and a term used only to describe the greatest human beings on the planet”
I can be silly with two (almost three) year old L. It’s easy to be silly with a two-year old. To let go of adult inhibitions and answer her toy mobile phone as I would my own real phone, drink pretend cups of tea, not to mention lots of other interactions which I probably wouldn’t have with most adults.
But it’s good to know who you can be silly with as an adult. Those people really matter, because they are the people with whom you can be yourself. If you can be yourself in silly moments with them, you also know you can be yourself in the moments when you are struggling. And for those of us with mental illnesses, it’s good to know who those people are in advance.
I really value the people around me who I know I can be silly with, mostly because I know they accept me for exactly who I am. I also feel extremely honoured when others feel they can be silly with me, because it tells me they trust me.
Recently someone in my life stomped fiercely on my silliness. Actually it wasn’t the only thing they stomped on, but the silly Cate is the matter for today. It’s interesting because the stomping on the silly me is perhaps the most hurtful of all, and I keep surprising myself with that one. I literally cringe when I stop to think about it, because I know how vulnerable I was in letting that person see that side of me. I’m not talking about the fun, silly but the most sensitive two-year old who dares to let you into their world. Who dares to let you into their imagination and fantasy. Who trusts you to show you the real them.
Having that stomped on hurt like hell, but it reminds me to value moments of silliness with people in my life. It reminds me to honour that part of them, by not only enjoying it, but by treasuring it. I can tell you, and you probably can too, once silliness is stomped on it’s almost impossible to win that trust back.
If nothing else makes sense in what I have said today, remember that. And honour silly. Value the trust being placed in your heart.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey
Going back a few years, I remember having to sing hymns in high school Assemblies, three times a week. The hymn that springs to my mind right now is this one (well, this is the first verse):
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
I knew it was a hymn often related to the Navy, and I knew it was old (written in 1861) but I really had little idea of what the words we were singing meant. Wikipedia tells me it is something related to Psalm 107 about those being shipwrecked and calling for God’s mercy.
My thinking is that those in peril on the sea had no hope, and the issue of being no hope (sometimes) has been weighing heavily on my mind this week.
It was two and a half years ago that a man collapsed in my house and I had to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on him in an effort to save his life. I did CPR for 20 minutes. If you’ve ever had to do it, you will know that it is an extremely physical procedure and in that time I completely exhausted myself. But I had no thought that there was no hope, and so I kept on. At one stage I heard a rib crack, and I thought ‘Dad is going to be really sore tomorrow with his cracked ribs I’ve just given him‘. Still, I believed there must be hope… and so continued.
Eventually paramedics arrived and took over. They continued to perform CPR for another 20 minutes before telling me (and my mother who was watching all this) that there was no hope. He had gone. My Dad had died.
What was I hoping for? I guess that the treatment I (and then the paramedics) were giving him, would revive his heart and bring him back to the person I knew. To bring recovery. I wanted him to be saved from his ‘peril on the sea’.
Then I started thinking about hope and how it applies to mental illness. It’s something I talk about regularly because I believe that having hope is what makes the difference to me getting through my mental illnesses. For me, there is hope of treatment, both pharmacological and psychotherapeutic. My main diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a little tricky because as it forms part of who I am (my personality) it can’t just be removed. For me, management of the symptoms of BPD is what I hope for, and right now I am pretty much achieving.
But is there that hope for all mental illnesses? Most of us at least have hope of management of symptoms , if not complete recovery but it’s occurred to me recently that actually that hope is not there for all illnesses. What if there is no medication known to treat the illness, and what if therapy is not known to be particularly effective? What if most sufferers actually aren’t motivated to seek treatment, even if it was available? While again, I need to emphasise that I am not qualified in psychology or psychiatry, and so I am speaking of my personal thoughts rather than proven fact, it does seem that there is little hope for those people. And I’m talking about four in every hundred people.
This fills me with sadness because it is hard enough to live with mental illness when at least someone can see hope. It also fills me with sadness because people close to me are in that number and I desperately want hope for them. My heart is also filled with sadness because these people perhaps struggle against the stigma of mental illness the most. I haven’t named the illness purposely, because as a society there tends to be little, to no compassion for these people. They’re hardly even treated as people. But what if it were us?
It’s not my role, or my desire, to be dictating who we should, and shouldn’t feel compassion for but I will tell you my own way of looking at this. Sometimes even people with mental illnesses (like me) do things that aren’t nice, aren’t acceptable and aren’t what healthy human beings would choose to do. I don’t like their behaviours one little bit. I don’t like it when innocent people get hurt. There needs to be appropriate punishment when crimes are committed.
But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the people with mental illnesses who did these things are human beings. Look at it another way. We were all once innocent babies, who needed and deserved the best care in the world. For a million reasons things can go wrong, but we all still need and deserve care and compassion. They’re not monsters, but babies. That’s my way of looking at it anyway.
I don’t write this post today because it’s a good topic to debate, but rather because it is something weighing very heavily on my mind right now… because of my personal experience. I can’t quite get my head around there being no hope for someone’s mental health, mostly because I had to cling onto my own hope (and others’ hope for me) for so long (and still). Maybe someone will tell me it doesn’t matter because the person probably isn’t motivated toward treatment anyway, but we all have families. While they might not always be perfect families, at least some of them would want hope for us. Some of them would not want us to be at ‘peril on the sea’. And I just can’t accept that these people should simply be left at peril.
“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
― John Bradford (1510–1555)
“It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars.”
― Richard Evans
I’m really happy to tell you that I have joined a great group of writers at A Canvas Of The Minds, a site used to write about mental health, through different voices and different perspectives. I’m going to use my voice to share one more perspective.
I will be writing different material for my Canvas posts, but will share with you the link when I do, so that you have the opportunity to read it too.
My first post (posted today), is about why I choose to blog using my real name rather than a pseudonym. I know that’s quite different than a lot of bloggers. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting and… You’ll find it here.
“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
- Hide and Seek (acanvasoftheminds.com)
I need to start this post by reminding you that I know nothing of what I’m writing about. I do not have any academic qualifications in psychology, or psychiatry. I simply write about what I observe, and as such you should take no notice of my words at all.
Having that out of the way… the past few weeks have seen me isolating, a lot. Mostly it has been to tend my wounds and allow for healing to begin. Contact with some people in the past while, has been more than a little painful, so time out is welcome. I am an introvert too, and while I enjoy the company of people, I also know that I gain my strength (and healing) through time alone. This isolating won’t last for ever, but for now it’s what I have needed.
I haven’t even been out to see L and her family. I miss her a lot but trying to explain to a two-year old, just how I feel is more than a little difficult. Nor am I able to go there and pretend my heart hasn’t been broken. No doubt a few hours with L would do me good, and I will do it soon.
Meanwhile there has been lots of reading, lots of sleeping, plenty of music and while I expected lots of writing (for myself) it hasn’t come, because I’ve simply found it too hard to put down the words. Oh, and lots of time with Ted.
The title of this post is ‘Four Types Before Me‘ because I have recently observed around me four types of people. Don’t worry, I’m not about to name names, simply to share what I have noticed.
The first type is perhaps what we might call ‘normal’, for want of a better term. Apparently that is a setting on a washing machine, although I checked today and my washing machine doesn’t have such a setting. Doesn’t that just say it all?
The normal person (for this discussion) is the person who has compassion for those around them but can balance it. They can balance their own needs against those they see suffering (animals and humans). They can feel for someone in pain, but they don’t allow it to consume them. Is that fair to call them normal? I’m not sure. I don’t even know what proportion of the population would fit this category, although in not knowing what I’m talking about academically, I can only assume that most people would fit this.
I have people in my life who very definitely fit this type. I admit I sometimes envy them. It must make life so much easier to deal with. It would provide balance and limits. It would allow perspective. Actually it helps to have them in my life because sometimes I need the reminder, even if I don’t personally manage balance, limits and perspective.
The next type of person I see at the moment is one that has me puzzled. This is where the psychology degree might help, because I’m one of those people who just has to understand what is going on behind that smile. The type I’m talking about is the person who shows every sign of being able to have compassion for others, but is seemingly completely unable to express it. They come across as very cold, indifferent and uncaring but I suspect that somewhere beyond that cold, almost vacant stare is the feeling. I have no idea what label gets attached to these people, but then what do labels really matter? All I can imagine is that something must have gone very wrong for those people at some time, and because of that, their ability to express feelings has gone… or at least is locked tightly away.
I admit I feel a combination of sad for them, as well as being frustrated to be on the receiving end of this. I’m guessing (but they couldn’t tell me) that it is an incredibly hard way to live, but I know too, that it is hard to live around. No one wins.
The third type in front of me at the moment is the person who simply has no compassion for anyone. Not human, or animal. It just isn’t there. If I can see compassion in that person it is highly likely that it is all a multitude of lies. They also seem to lack the ability to really love. It is so far removed from my own reality that it is really difficult to understand too.
There are labels for these people, but again, what do those labels really matter? These are people who are lacking a core ingredient of being human. It is incredibly painful to have these types of people in your life too, particularly if you’re not ‘in’ on the secret that all they offer is a lie. Again, no one really wins, and what life can it really be to have no regard for others.
Finally is the fourth type. A type that I suspect more, and more that I come under. I’ve heard lots of labels from empaths to highly sensitive people (HSP’s) and I’m sure if I had that psychology degree I’d know so much better how to label these people.
They are the people whose heart is overflowing with compassion. Every piece of evil in the world, almost literally stabs these people in the heart. We frequent places like change.org and the like, trying desperately to change the world, to stop the hurt and pain we see around us.
The pain we see in the world can make us physically sick, because we simply can’t bear the intensity of suffering around us. Having fibromyalgia is certainly not helped by this.
Let me explain that on the weekend I heard some news that I found very distressing. It wasn’t about me, or anyone known to me personally. It was something that had happened to some completely strangers. But it tore me into pieces. After stressing about it for several hours I had worked my way to a massive headache, which wiped out the rest of the day.
I know there was no perspective, no balance. I just saw people hurting and felt almost as if it was happening to myself. Since then I have purposely tried not to think about it, although being the type of person I am that is difficult in itself. But I know that for my own sanity, and my own health I have to find that perspective and balance.
Now can you see why I have been isolating?
There are of course, many other types of people but sometimes it simply blows my mind how different we are as humans. I not only have to deal with the reality of my own overload of compassion, but also relate to those others around me who are so different from me.
PS. I don’t often reblog other posts but I would recommend Summer Solstice Girl’s latest post on A Canvas of the Minds. We write on a similar issue although from a different perspective. I think she really is my long lost twin.
“At that moment I remembered something Cal had told me: that there is beauty in darkness in everything. Sorrow in joy, life and death, thorns on the rose. I knew then that I could not escape pain and torment any more than I could give up joy and beauty”
― Cate Tiernan, Awakening
- As the earth turns (acanvasoftheminds.com)
Today is the first day of spring down here in New Zealand, although the weather in Christchurch has been pretty good lately so I have been thinking it was already spring. Anyway, I have my daffodils in a vase, and outside my kitchen window there are birds frantically building a nest in a tree which used to be the domain of my cat, Penny. She’s probably looking down from heaven horrified that I’m letting this happen. After all that was HER tree. But I’m fascinated watching the progress.
Today is also Father’s Day in New Zealand, and I admit I find that a little more troublesome. I loved my father dearly and used to enjoy having a day for him, but now that he’s gone I feel a bit like being at a party where the guest of honour was a no-show. It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t seem right.
In the past week I have seen lots of advertising telling me to buy everything from socks to chainsaws for my father. It is all wasted on me. It was anyway, as my family never went in for the commercialisation of Father’s Day (and Mother’s Day). A card, a hug and a family dinner was it. And it was enough. My father was never going to appreciate a chainsaw anyway.
Actually when I think about it, he would have. In his last years he had a bee in his bonnet over a neighbour’s tree hanging over my property. The neighbour refused to do anything and Dad refused to let it go. Had I given him a chainsaw he would have found his way over the fence (the mind boggles at the thought) and chopped it down himself. Then all hell would really have set loose.
The thing is that I was lucky with my father. I might not have him around now, and I continue to miss him every day. But I had a father who loved me, was there for me and made sure I had my physical and emotional needs met as I grew up, and long into adulthood. I know that there are too many people who don’t, or haven’t had fathers like that. How do you handle Father’s Day when your memories, or even your current reality is either no father, or an abusive, neglectful or unloving father? It’s pretty tough to be grateful for a father like that and I think the commercialisation of such an occasion only succeeds in rubbing dirt in the wounds even more.
The truth is that not all fathers are good fathers. I wonder how we acknowledge that, in a way that doesn’t exclude people who have this reality? It seems to me that as a society, when Fathers Day hits (and Mothers Day for that matter) we forget that reality.
As I mention Mothers Day, I think this is an even bigger issue because some how society paints a picture of the wonderful, loving mother who provides for our every need. We get a picture from the media of mothers who would do anything for their children. And sure, that is an accurate picture for many, but not for all. For many the abusive, neglectful or unloving mother is a reality.
For many, mothers weren’t there for their children and failed to provide for their physical and emotional needs. Mothers can be as abusive as fathers, but I’m inclined to think that society hides from that truth. Somehow it’s easier not to think of women in that way.
Again, Mothers Day as we know it simply serves to isolate those who have had less than ideal relationships with their mothers, almost more than it isolates those who have poor or no relationships with their fathers.
Unfortunately I’m not sure there is an easy answer, except I know that it is terribly hard to live with the reality of poor parental relationships anyway. It is simply made more isolating and difficult when as a society we paint such rosy pictures of the traditional nuclear family.
I miss my father today. I will probably go and put some daffodils on his grave later, but mostly I will simply be thankful that my father loved me, and perhaps even more so, believed in me. I know I am so fortunate.
This one’s for Dad…
“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.”
― Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
- DANCING WITH DAD (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- WHAT DAD TAUGHT ME ABOUT SHOES (PASSIONS PROFILE CHALLENGE #4) (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
I constantly see articles, blog posts, quotations and books telling me to trust my gut instinct. But what happens when my gut instinct gets it wrong? Yes, that’s right. Wrong. Everything told me I was on the right path, my heart was completely at peace with the direction my life was heading in. I had big plans, that felt completely right. Not a doubt.
Some years ago I worked in jobs where relying on my gut instinct was sometimes the only way to know that what I was doing was right. The job focused around people in need of money and food. I had to be able to spot inconsistencies in the story clients were putting to me, and I got pretty good at it. But very often it came down to gut instinct. Did I believe what this client was telling me? Was the need they were putting across to me genuine? Over the years I got pretty good at it, and I learnt to trust my instincts. No doubt there were occasions when I got it wrong, but mostly I was right on the mark.
A few years on and I was in another job. I had a man in his fifties working for me. He was the nicest person. Everyone thought so, and he did an excellent job both with clients and with helping other staff. My gut instinct told me that this was a good person and he became someone who I trusted to look after the department when I wasn’t there.
I was eventually made redundant from that position and so left the company, but some years on it was discovered that this lovely person had been systematically defrauding the company while he was working for me. I never suspected a thing. No one did. He’s now serving out his time in prison. My gut instinct didn’t pick it up. Okay, so I’m human like the rest of us, but how can it be that you can be so sure you’ve made a good decision about someone, but you get it wrong?
You will have guessed by now that I like quotations. I love getting nuggets of wisdom from people who have gone before us. So often I conclude that even with time, life really doesn’t change that much.
My favourite quote is one I have used here before:
“Come to the edge”, he said. We are afraid. “Come to the edge”, he said. They came. He pushed them, And they flew…”
So often when we are facing something new or just different, we need a push. All going well, we get that push and we fly. We soar. And we’re glad we took that step off the edge.
This year I was facing something new, and my heart and my gut told me that what I was doing was absolutely right for me. It was huge, and it wasn’t that I was without fear. Fear is just natural when we face something new. But in spite of what seemed to be just normal fear, I was totally sure of what I was doing. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind.
So I came to the edge, and as I took off from the edge, I started to fly. I thought I had listened to my gut instinct correctly and I was happy. Actually I was more happy than I had been for years. But then the flying faltered, and I went… splat…. there was no more flying but instead I had crashed at the bottom of the cliff.
I very quickly discovered that my gut instinct had got it wrong. This wasn’t a moment of flight, but instead I found myself scraping myself off the rocks, looking at my wounds and wondering how the heck had I got it so wrong?
This post isn’t about feeling sorry for myself. The wounds are still there, but I will survive. This post is about making sense of what happened and asking myself, what happens when gut instinct gets it wrong? It’s not like I was in denial of real doubts. And it’s not like I hadn’t put a whole lot of thought into what I was planning. My gut instinct told me that I was doing the right thing for me. I was completely committed to what was ahead. This was right for me.
I’ve been mulling this post over in my mind for several weeks now. I didn’t want to write it until I had an answer for myself. I wanted that hope of understanding, but to be honest I’m still stumped by this. Every time I see something telling my just my gut feeling, I am left with the thought ‘but I’ve proven that I can’t trust my gut feeling‘. How do I trust my gut feeling, when it gets it wrong?
Maybe for some reason I just had to go through what this path has taken me through. Again, I don’t know. I’m sure there would be an easier way to learn a lesson. I personally don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that some things are too awful for some divine power to put us through. Don’t try and tell me that innocent people have died in Syria in past weeks for some divine reason. I don’t buy it. I’m not saying that what I have been through is in that category, but I’m also not prepared to say that what I have been though was all for some unknown reason.
None of the books, articles, blog posts tell me what to make if my gut instinct getting it wrong. I don’t know the answer. I just have to keep treating those wounds, keep taking one step at a time. As for leaping off cliffs? I think I’ll pass on that for now.
“Deep down within the heart there is a stillness which is healing, a trust in the universal laws which is unwavering, and a strength which is rock-like. But because it is so deep we need both patience and perseverance when digging for it.”
― Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton