By Caroline Courey, special to The Naked Monk
Like everyone, I sometimes find myself in situations so difficult that I don’t want to admit they’re ‘situations.’ You can’t face your fears without admitting that you have to do something about them, and that shuts us all down from time to time.
The hardest thing I ever had to face was my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis. All of a sudden my rosy future seemed so bleak. I wondered how I’d continue to be productive as a wife and mother, how I’d continue working and hold my head up. I was profoundly scared and ashamed of becoming a burden, especially on my husband. Although I had to deal with attacks from which I generally recovered, and was still productive, I found myself too often dwelling on my horrible future. It was a dark cloud over my head. With every attack I felt more helpless, closer to becoming an invalid.
I entered a support group, then formed a local support group and found myself on a quest that guided me with tremendous focus. I found the courage to face my situation head-on, and began to see the other side of the picture. I was still walking, I could still think, I could go to school, and did. I wrote my book Crossed Signals (a novel about MS in the family) and presented it in high-school classrooms along with a workbook. This all gave me purpose, direction, focus. I even decided to embark upon a new career in pursuit of a new, long-term foundation.
I began to feel very fortunate.
Through founding and building Quiet Mind Seminars with my husband, and through my own training as a personal life coach, I learned to face the reality of my fears on a daily basis. I recognized how I tended to project my version of the future into the present as if it were a reality. It wasn’t, but this is a normal tendency. It seems easier to resist reality than to face it, but the cost is high: to be trapped by it and see only the nightmare, not the hope. There’s more to facing reality than just the words. Being aware of my body and my anxiety is just the beginning. To embrace all the good, I have to embrace the bad too, with all my strength and all my heart.
I’m twenty years into that diagnosis now, and my prognosis has changed from on-again, off-again relapse-remission MS to secondary progressive MS — a steady decline. I’ve learned to revisit my anxiety every day, especially when my hands don’t work, my muscles are stiff, legs give way or any number of symptoms happen to appear. Facing my fears means facing a constantly changing reality. This is my lot. I can let it stop me, as it does so many, or I can move on. Every day, I choose to move on. With every step forward I gather momentum. Even as my body fails me, my mind grows stronger; my appreciation for the opportunity to understand and help others grows deeper.
Through my experience teaching people with chronic disease at the MUHC, through coaching my clients through transformation, I learned that life is always a challenge, always a mystery, never predictable. Sure, I have a serious problem. Who doesn’t, sooner or later?
Coaching is not about rah-rah; it’s about getting the support you need to face things that otherwise seem unfaceable. I’m immensely grateful for the support I’ve received from my family — not just sympathy but challenge and wisdom. Nothing makes me happier — and stronger — than to give that same support to my coaching clients.
Caroline Courey is founder of New Way Life Coaching and co-founder of Quiet Mind Seminars. Visit her website at www.courey.com.