Who are you? Who do you want to be? Do you believe you have the power to change yourself and your experience of life or do you think you are who you are and that’s it? Do you believe your thoughts can change your behaviours? Could they even help change your health? Big questions.
Today has been ‘M.E / CFS Awareness Day’ and as someone recovering from CFS I’ve had a lot of stories and status updates come into my newsfeed. They fall into two very distinct camps – those that believe that there is no cure and they will suffer with the illness forever, managing their symptoms and waiting for science to find an answer, and those that believe they will recover and that they are in control of that recovery. Did you notice the language I used at the beginning of the paragraph? One of the first things I learnt was not to use the phrase ‘I’m suffering from…’ but to use ‘I’m in recovery from…’. It’s not in the realms of possibility for me that I won’t recover. I don’t see it as an option. Ok, so I’m human, of course I have moments or days when it all gets on top of me and that dark thought ‘will I ever get better? What if I don’t?’ creeps in. But I try not to dwell there. I’ve now learnt to accept that’s how I feel in the moment and then look for ways to remind myself that recovery is possible.
Sorry if I offend anyone now (I am absolutely NOT suggesting that CFS is all psychological, I know that’s not the case) but which of the two sets of people I described do you think are more likely to recover from their illness?
The following Native American story is a perfect analogy of literally nourishing yourself with helpful thoughts rather than destructive ones:
The Two Wolves: A Native American grandfather is talking to his grandson about how he feels about a tragedy in their village. “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.” The grandson asks, “Grandfather, which wolf will win the fight in your heart?” The grandfather places his hand on his heart and replies, “The one I feed.”
That’s not to deny the darker side of yourself or try to rid yourself of it. You can accept it’s there, but you don’t have to feed it.
I found myself thinking the other day “I can’t wait until I feel better and can start enjoying life again.” Thankfully I’m learning which thoughts help me and which take me to a place I don’t want to be. I had a lightbulb moment. What am I waiting for? What a waste of precious days or months of my life sitting waiting to ‘get better’. No. I want to find things I can enjoy right now. Ok so right now I can’t do many of the things I used to love, like being out in the countryside, walking, swimming, running) But what an opportunity to find something new! So I tried something I’d been thinking about for a few months. I painted. I haven’t painted since I was about 13. My sister is an amazing painter (I have two of her pictures in my hallway) and always has been, so at school I did the typical sibling thing and dropped art because I wasn’t as good as her so why do it.
I picked up the brush with no expectations, really not caring about the outcome, just wanting to enjoy the process. In fact, I surprised myself, it wasn’t too bad! By no means amazing, but for a first attempt I was pretty pleased. But I wouldn’t have cared if it was rubbish, it wouldn’t have mattered. I lost myself in something for half an hour and went into that beautiful feeling of ‘flow’ that’s almost like a type of meditation, where anxiety and darkness can’t exist.
If you’re not happy with where your life is right now, you DO have the power to change it. Don’t be the person that resigns themselves to a life they don’t want. Choose which wolf you want to feed.
Here’s the beginning of my painting. The first tulip. With a few words of inspiration.