|10- Finding Peace.|
It seems a fitting time to post this blog as the 11th-17th of September 2017 marks World Childless Week. I can't even begin to estimate how many men and women across the globe feel a sense of connection to this topic and my heart goes out to all of you! If you've previously found your way to my website www.thelotusnetwork.com and read any of my pieces (thank you by the way), you'll know my story and how I came to be childless. Regardless of why any of us find ourselves in this camp, the numbers are vast and I know each story is unique. No two people will have exactly the same experience, and beyond that, we process and heal in different ways yet there is a common thread that binds us and weeks like this one are vital for bridging the divide, talking about how we feel, not just for those of us who are immediately affected but for those in our world so they might better understand.
I haven't written for quite a while and that in itself has had an impact on me. Blogging about my story, sharing the journey has been, and continues to be, an integral part of my healing. I would recommend it to anyone, to get their thoughts down on paper, regardless of whether others read it. Not only is it hugely cathartic but it also enables you to look back and see how far you have come on those days when maybe your core is feeling a bit shaken. Remember that time is fluid, with each passing second we are changing, I know that I find some comfort in this truth. From browsing the many Twitter sites and blogs online, I sense that most people who are childless not by choice are just searching for some peace, a way to heal. I'm glad there wasn't a magic wand that could do this for me. I wouldn't know myself as well as I do today if I hadn't navigated the rivers of grief, hopelessness, anxiety, isolation.....the list goes on. From the ashes of personal struggle, in whatever form it appears, we are left with a gift. The gift to be able to relate to others, maybe a sense of compassion and empathy that wasn't as acute before. Once we are ready to demolish any barriers we may have built around us, we are forever changed and this doesn't have to be a bad thing. There are stages to go through first though, no short cuts, no study notes! I was diagnosed completely out of the blue in 2010 with Premature Ovarian Failure, but I didn't allow myself to start the grieving process until 4 years later...
2014- "The enormity of my diagnosis has hit me all over again. It didn't come at me with one big slap round the face though, instead it just chipped away at me, my heart rate became heightened regardless of what I was doing. I felt increasingly anxious and on edge, started losing weight and before long realised that my body was trying to tell me something. It was telling me to stop, to acknowledge why I was feeling this way." (Excerpt from Blog 2- 'Fast Forward')
2010 was tarnished with shock and inner turmoil, I was too busy surviving the days to listen to my body, however the one incredible thing I took from that year (apart from the births of my niece and best friend's baby which at the time were tinged with sadness) was my introduction to Mother Nature. Don't get me wrong, I have seen some stunning places, I have looked at nature before and marvelled at its beauty but had never stepped in to it, been immersed completely, at one with it. Just weeks after my diagnosis I already felt like I was flailing, I was struck by how vulnerable I was, how if I'd had no-one in my life I could speak to, no best friend or family, then goodness only knows what I'd have done. To say it was a dark period in my life would be a huge understatement. I didn't have it in me at the time to call my G.P, the tiniest of tasks like phone calls would overwhelm me, I needed someone else to take the reins for a while. The same incredible woman who had referred me to Harley Street (see Blog 5- 'Knowledge Is Power') also pointed me in the direction of a therapist on Great Portland Street in London who specialised in issues like mine. I had never seen a therapist before and although I'm sure they all have different approaches this particular one just wasn't for me. I sat opposite this lady who was pleasant enough and talked. She said very little and as I heard myself filling the pauses in conversation, I realised that I was saying everything I thought I should say. On paper, I must have seemed like I was coping well and was quite together. I'm quite good at that, good at talking the talk when need be. Although I believed everything I was saying on an intellectual level, on an emotional level I wasn't living it, I wasn't practising what I preached, not even slightly. I should've realised at the time that this wasn't purely a coping mechanism, but one of many barriers I had constructed. Maybe I should have given that type of counselling more of a chance but I didn't go back again. Instinctively I just knew it wasn't the right approach for me at that time. It transpired that during that particular stage of my journey, my counsel came to me from the beautiful landscape of Somerset, South West England. A friend of a friend had been on a spiritual* retreat down there, I was just aching for a little inner peace and so I took the time off work and tried something I'd never done before (If you're not comfortable with the S* word then just erase it, it was a retreat, that's all you need to know as once you are still enough to connect with the natural world around you, you can't help but be soothed). The programmes are run by a married couple Natalia** and Terry who are two of the most genuine, beautiful people you could ever hope to meet. Upon reading the description of the Autumn Equinox Retreat, I knew it sounded just perfect for what I so desperately needed.
'Harvest is a time when the life force energy is returning to the roots in preparation for the inner recesses of winter. Autumn is a time for letting go of what is not needed in our lives at this time-giving us the courage to take a journey of self discovery, addressing and releasing the past and encouraging what needs to blossom in our life in the coming year'
Visit www.soulrescuers.co.uk to find out more about this lovely couple and the work they do.
This is when my personal love affair with nature really took off and now it is my safe haven, I'm never more content than when I'm sitting under a tree! On that retreat I learned how to quiet my noisy mind (not always easy to do but the important point is, I know it is possible), how to breathe (you'd think I'd have already got the hang of that since I was a functioning adult) and how to be truly present. I released a lot of fear and anger that weekend, that's not to say they didn't reappear from time to time but in smaller measures. I even managed to keep hold of the serenity for about 2 weeks before the craziness of life pulled me back in to its grasp. The difference now is, I can bring Somerset to me whenever I choose to, and it is a choice! It's so easy to feel like we're being pulled along in the current, sometimes I found the sadness almost comforting. It started to become familiar and safe, the alternative was to step away from it and then what? I knew who I was within the sadness but felt like the me-before-diagnosis was gone so who would I be without my trusty cloud? If you understand what I'm talking about then here's the thing, you are still you!!!!!
"I was a lot of things before I was diagnosed and I forgot for a while that I am still all those things now. The sum of who I am does not lie purely in my inability to conceive a child; that is only a part of me. I’m not less of a woman now, I am whole."
"Don't let this bury you"....this is what my dad said to me when I had finally received the official diagnosis that I was unable to conceive my own child. I got it, I knew intellectually what he was telling me, keep breathing, keep moving forward... but it is only now, 7 years on that I can really grasp the magnitude of that statement. It so easily could have buried me, if I'm honest, there were times when the weight of it all felt unshakable but still, I held my head up just enough to keep taking oxygen in.
We fast forward from 2010 to July 2014..... "Believe in yourself"....this is what my dad said to me as I sobbed on the phone, telling my parents how the grief had finally caught up with me and I needed help. I remember pushing back when I heard those words, "I can't do it on my own, I need some counselling, some help from a professional"......as I write this blog today, another 3 years on, I can say with certainty that my dear dad was right. Counsel comes in so many different forms, each is another tool to add to the box we have at our disposal but it is up to us how we use those tools, how we open ourselves up to accepting help and then, how we move forward. No-one else can walk in our shoes or travel the road for us, ultimately when all is said and done, it is up to each individual. We have to believe in our self, the power and light inside of us
I just knew deep down that I had to find a way of loving myself again, despite what I then considered to be a major flaw in my being. Maybe it was in fact, for the first time as I can't say for sure that i loved myself prior to 2010! Now, is it my imagination or does the mere suggestion of 'loving yourself' make us Brits a little uneasy? (I am generalising of course). Are there masses of people who still consider it a narcissistic, 'happy-clappy' concept we've inherited from our fellow humans over in the States, found in the self-help aisle of the book store? Nothing could be further from the truth but nevertheless it's an ideal that I feel is hugely misunderstood. First of all we have to remove the ego from the equation.
Ego- (psychoanalysis) 'The part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity'
You see, more often than not this is where I get in to trouble, when my mind mediates/meddles and gets in the way of my hearing that whispering voice inside me that I know for sure is my soul. My friend Natalia** gently explained to me a couple of years ago that I was making my diagnosis bigger than it is. It would have been so easy for my ego to react but I understood what she meant. She wasn't for one second implying that it isn't devastating but it isn't the sum of my self and my life. I know and trust her, the truth she spoke was there to heal and not hurt. As a psychic practitioner she treats/heals many different people. I wouldn't look at someone and define them by their disease or disability so why should I define myself by my inability to conceive. It's only from that quiet place within that I have any chance of finding the love I'm talking about. The Greeks seemed to have a grasp on this, after all, they found 8 different varieties of love that we experience at some point in our lifetime.
1- Eros (Erotic)
2- Philia (Affectionate)
3- Storge (Familiar)
4- Ludus (Playful)
5- Mania (Obsessive)
6- Pragma (Enduring)
7- Philautia (Self love)
8- Agape (Selfless)
Philautia- 'This form of self-love is not the unhealthy vanity and self obsession that is focused on personal fame, gain and fortune as is the case with narcissism. Instead, Philautia is self-love in its healthiest form. It shares the Buddhist philosophy of "self compassion" which is the deep understanding that only once you have the strength to love yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin, will you be able to provide love to others. As Aristotle put it, "All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man's feelings for himself."
How do you find it? I guess the big question is, what does loving yourself mean to you? No doubt one answer will vary massively from the next but as always, I'll just speak for myself, share what I have come to believe and maybe it will resonate with someone out there. I have thought long and hard about all the different types of love in my life, my family, my soul mates and friends, the little people I'm blessed to be able to watch growing up...when I take my own self out of it, emotion aside what is it I am left with? For me, Love Is Peace. I learned how to meditate down in Somerset, when I manage to get to that quiet space, or when I am still, sitting under a tree I feel an all encompassing peace. A sense that I am safe and, well, loved! I can only conclude that if I can practice being gentle with my own self, giving myself the gift of time to connect with the part of me that just is, speaking to myself as I would a loved one, taking advice that I would offer to my best friend, then that self compassion will continue to heal me from the inside out!
I saw my parents for the first time in months just 2 days ago, yesterday on the phone my dad said, "It was wonderful to see you at peace, so relaxed and open to whatever the future holds." Maybe the practice is paying off!!!
Whether or not there's a divine reason for the hand I've been dealt, I'm at a stage now where I feel I'm responsible for honouring the life I've been given. The time and energy, and yes love, that I could have given to a child is now mine to utilise in the fullest way possible. Today as I sit here, maybe it's simply about writing this blog. I am humbled to know that my website has had a positive impact on a handful of people and that in itself is enough but I still feel I have more to do while I'm 'here'. So, dear reader, what is the life you've been given and how can you best honour it? I think the key to finding peace within, hence loving yourself may lie somewhere within the answer. As for me, well I left my nephew a couple of hours ago and as he nestled himself in to my shoulder and said he loved me, I knew, though life can seem cruel, it is beautiful in equal measure!
Find me on Twitter @niafisher
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