A Life Experience

I. E.: After struggling with Lyme disease.

From Quora Digest

What was the hardest thing you went through in life and how did you get past it?

Paul Millerd
Paul Millerd, lifelong learner

VIII. Lessons

Like I said at the beginning, this is one of the toughest things I have ever gone through, yet it taught me about life.

I also have to reflect that this experience, though bad, makes me realize just how lucky I am. Many people have gone through much, much worse (if you want some perspective on how good you have it, read this holocaust survivor’s experience: A Man’s Search for Meaning)

I took away found main lessons and continue to reflect on these in all aspects of my life:

  • Real confidence comes from embracing vulnerability: Life was pretty good for me growing up. I didn’t really face any true challenges. When I was experiencing pain, I saw myself as somewhat of a failure. After all, “Real men don’t cry.” That was bullshit. I didn’t realize anything close to real confidence and courage until I embraced vulnerability.
  • Real relationships are built on sharing when things aren’t so great: Being in a state of suffering gave me two choices: share or hold it inside. At first, I chose the latter but eventually had no choice but to learn how to open up and share to people “I feel like crap.” The blog really helped with this and gave people an avenue to ask me how it was going. It was shocking to find that this didn’t bother people and that they stood by my side. Before being sick I spent too much time protecting other people from my feelings. Though, I am a relatively positive person, I made the mistake of thinking people only wanted positivist from me. I realized that great friends and relationships are about standing by people in good times and bad and I realized how many I had once I showed them my pain.
  • Living in the present is the only option: It is easy to spend time thinking about the future or dwelling on the past – but those that only leads to more anxiety. This is never more true than when you are sick. You always lose when comparing yourself to a healthier, ideal past self. Similarly, when you worry about a future of potential continued suffering, you spend more time in your head than living life. When I learned to embrace a recovery mindset, I could move forward into a new and better future, one day at a time.
  • Losing it all is not that bad: We spend so much time worrying about “failure” that we lose sight of the things that matter. Whether it is a job, a relationship or material things, losing things is ultimately, not that bad. I had lost my health temporarily and had to slow my career trajectory a bit. At the time this really stressed me out. However, just the process of going through the feeling of tremendous loss, made me realize – I can deal with this! It has helped shift how I think about risk. For example, at work I can take risks, try new things and pursue things I am passionate about instead of trying to fit in and being scared of being fired. In relationships, I can invest in others without worrying about protecting their feelings or losing the relationship. I can live authentically and honestly, which actually helps pull people closer. By thinking I lost it all, I know its not that bad. At the end of the day I still have great people in my life, which is really all that matters.
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