Learning to Float – a journey through unexpected change

October 25, 2012 by  
Filed under current, Guest Space

I am thrilled today to welcome Bec Bennett to our pages. More about Bec below.

I was never comfortable with change in my First Life. It was something to be carefully planned or otherwise avoided unless absolutely necessary, because making plans helped me stay in control and focused. I was a young woman with big dreams, a load of ambition and a hefty dose of determination to make my way into the world. My job was wonderful, I was earning good money and starting to make a real name for myself in my chosen field.

But when change was thrust upon me in a fairly catastrophic way, my First Life became a distant memory. Any sense of control or ambition was replaced with a lot of uncertainty and fear.

If change is defined as the process of becoming something different, then it is fair to say that being diagnosed with illness of any kind is a whopper. Illness changes your body, your relationships and to some degree, your perspective on the world.

Many of us fear change the same way we fear illness, but as a woman who has been in the chrysalis that is the process of morphing from a life of full health to one that will be forever shifted by degenerative disease, it also offers up an opportunity for us to embrace change.

Seven years ago, I began my Second Life following a diagnosis of aggressive rheumatoid arthritis, coupled with Hashimotos Disease and Fibromyalgia. I’d been in denial of the latter two for some time, preferring to “push through” in a way that I’d been raised to believe was the way through adversity.

Within months of the RA diagnosis, I’d gone from being a career woman at the cusp of something big to a burned out wreck barely able to leave my house because of the impact of pain and fatigue that were utterly debilitating. My career was in tatters along with my health, and I felt like I’d tipped all of my buckets over.

As I look back on those seven years, my perspective on change has most definitely shifted from fearing it to learning to ride with it, to expect that change can bring with it opportunity to create a better life.

So what has seven years of fairly constant change taught me?

Change will come whether you want it to or not

Of all the lessons RA has brought, it is that control is always an illusion, but change will come whether you want it or not. The first few months of being ill were hellish to say the least. All of the rules, boundaries and opportunities I’d set up for my life vanished as I became temporarily housebound while adjusting to my new health status. I fought and fought to hold onto all the things I knew, but it only made the change harder. Once I accepted that there would be no cure, that there would be no return to my former life, only then did I accept that I could sit down and howl about it or I could learn how to navigate differently.

Attitude is everything

That shift in attitude changed the colour of my landscape.

As my friend Nat said to me, “You’ve been forced to drop all the buckets of ‘stuff’ you’ve been carrying for years. Turn the buckets upright and choose what you want to let back in. Carry only what you want to handle.”

Recognizing that I had a choice as to how I lived with autoimmune disease, that I had the option to be positive and live well despite this new life with disability, enabled me to start looking at how to make positive change despite my circumstances. I had to learn to laugh again, but once I sought positive change, my guffaws came thick and fast. Ever tried to open a carton of milk with a spoon as leverage? It gives a whole new definition to spilled milk…

I love the quote by Carrie Fisher, which goes: “If my life weren’t funny, then it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.” Finding things to laugh about when you’re in the midst of major change keeps you sane.

You learn to make space to allow change to unfold

When someone is in grief, they are often advised not to make major change. But when illness occurs you don’t get the choice. It’s sink or swim. It’s frustrating, it’s ugly, it’s terrifying, but it can also be peppered with small moments of peace; the little spaces you the chance to draw a deep breath and grieve in smaller doses. It’s those small spaces that help you float as change unfolds. The moments when you’re able to take a moment to work through your emotions and find the nuggets that help you build strength to build your second life.

You learn resilience

Having autoimmune disease has shown me how ironic the idea of being “in control” can be. I had to learn how to deal with unpredictable flare-ups that cost me many a social occasion, many a job opportunity and sadly, a lot of friendships as many of my friends couldn’t adjust to my new reality. The first two years were unrelenting as I fought to find a way to manage my new circumstances.

I had to learn how to pace, accept new limitations on time and energy, how to communicate and bring people along with me on my journey without becoming a burden. I also had to learn how to accept the hand of friends who stayed with me through the many changes that autoimmune disease brought to our relationships. I had to learn how to be resilient and strong, to be committed to living a good life.

It’s okay to drop your buckets once in a while

Change will come surely as the sun will rise and set because life rarely stands still, even if it only moves in small increments. It’s when the big ones come, the life-altering earthquakes that make us feel like the rug was pulled from underneath us and exposed a whopping big hole underneath that it’s really okay to drop your buckets. If nothing else it shows you just what you’re carrying and offers up the opportunity to make a positive change to live a better life.

About Our Guest Writer

Bec Bennett is a freelance writer and marketing consultant, traveller, photographer, life observer and owner of the blog at www.crackedbetty.com. She likes to laugh – a lot.

You can also follow her on Twitter @crackedbetty.

Comments

4 Responses to “Learning to Float – a journey through unexpected change”
  1. What a great title. The idea of floating as a way to embrace change and hardship. Wonderful! In one title and a beautifully penned article, you packed a powerful and inspirational punch. As someone who just yesterday found out I had Meniere’s Disease, it was the perfect article to read. In fact, this is the first time I’ve even been on this site, so I will call it a happy bit of synchronicity. Thank you for the gift. It helped.

    Bill Apablasa

    P.S. And btw…crackedbetty.com is a great site. The world is lucky to have your voice. Keep up the good work.

  2. Bec says:

    Bill, thank you for such kind words…. it’s great to know that you’ve found this when you needed it. Receiving a “diagnosis” can create so much uncertainty and it makes your journey just a little easier, then I’m really glad that my words have helped. I wish you well and hope that learning to float helps you through.

    Bec

  3. Bec, it is such a pleasure to have you sharing your experience and your wisdom with us here!

    Your story is powerful – the way you have turned your experiences and health challenges around, seeing them both as opportunities in your own life, and as a way to reach out to others and share your learning is generous and Inspiring. Thank you so much xxx

    • Bec says:

      I think that’s what makes The Calm Space such a wonderful community to be a part of – everyone has life experience worth sharing. Thank you for being the curator of our stories, Karen.