We are all born into the world 'tabala rasa', as a blank slate.
Our template is set up by the earliest messages we receive: both implicitly (through modeling) or explicitly (through language and instruction)
Although my childhood was privileged, behind the scenes was ongoing trauma.
I was convinced as a child and into my early adult years there must be something wrong with me, that it was somehow ALL my fault. If anything went wrong around me I would immediately blame myself, no questions asked. If I sensed other people were emotionally upset, I would automatically assume it was all my responsibility and would set about doing everything I could to reduce their suffering.
Now, even without trauma, our 'tabala rasa' blank slate is programmed by our early childhood experiences. Children up until the age of 7 are in the same brainwave state as someone under a highly suggestible hypnotic state. All inbound information is swallowed whole without question. So our programming is imprinted from ALL of our experiences in combination. What we see, hear and sense in our environment (often subliminally) becomes a belief-determined filter, governing our overall perceptions and choices in life, for good or for bad.
So because I believed that there was something wrong with me, my prerogative in life was to prove to the world that I was an OK, acceptable human being, that I was of value and had something useful to offer.
And because in the West, we tend to value high achievers, working hard and pushing through, even to the detriment of our own physical bodies, I got sucked into this too. 'Toughen up' and 'Get over it!' became my everyday mantras...
We also tend to accolade the self-less: the generous and charitable spirits of our society.
Now don't get me wrong, being productive, charitable and generous are all admirable traits!
Just NOT when they are taken to the extreme and come at a cost to the human body. And these were the qualities I adopted in extreme to prove my worthiness and receive what all human beings crave at a deep cellular level: love and acceptance from others.
These behaviours were what predominantly made up the mask I wore for the world. And the more I wore the mask the more distant I became from my true self. The mask was so stuck-hard to my face for so many years I didn't even know it existed. I had no awareness of the mask, thinking it was the real me but never feeling quite right in myself.
Wearing this mask caused my body insurmountable stress. The mask pushed me in a direction that went against who I am and ultimately the person I was ultimately meant to become.
But life has a funny way of course-correcting us when we are off track! As a result of this unconscious stress, a very painful wake up call entered my life in my late 20s: a chronic illness fraught with misunderstanding by both the medical profession and general public called Myalgic Encephelomylytis, more commonly known as, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, true to its name, comes with industrial-strength fatigue. It was like someone pulled the plug out and crawling from the bed to the toilet was commonplace in early years of having it.
Light, noise and stimulation were unbearable and I found myself predominantly in a darkened room, losing my life as I knew it.
My dream job was lost and I could no longer properly take care of my children or continue my studies.
Off the back of Glandular Fever, it felt like the virus never left me. I could barely lift my head off the pillow, my flu-like symptoms and systemic muscular pain so excruciating.
With my immune system shot to pieces, viral and bacterial infections landed me in hospital a number of times.
And my brain turned to mush. The severe cognitive dysfunction made words coming at me sound like gobbledygook and stringing sentences together seemed like an impossible task.
Everyday was 'survival'.
It was confusing too because the odd day I was semi-functional. At these times I would often think to myself that it must be all in my head, and try to catch up on my 'to do' list, only to crash for days, weeks and sometimes months all over again.
3 years later I received the medical diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia with the proverbial 'sorry, there is nothing we can do for you' spiel from doctors and specialists.
My quality of life was so bad at the time that I silently resolved myself to either getting better or ending my life. Keeping my children in the forefront of my mind, I went online to search for recoverees of these conditions. Little did I know at the time, my unraveling health crisis was the gateway to finally making what was unconscious in my life, conscious. It was not only the beginning of a healing journey for my physical health but also a healing journey for the WHOLE of my life.
In fact healing means to make whole again, to restore back to wholeness - mind, heart, body and spirit. I learnt that everything is connected: past, present and future and most importantly, that our early programming impacts the choices we make in our lives; for example, the relationships we attract, the environments we choose to put ourselves into, the food we ingest, and the way we operate day to day and treat ourselves and others.
I learnt that the way I had been living my life, and the mask I had worn unwittingly all those years, had set up the optimal conditions for me to become very, very unwell.
I also had the recognition that if I had the power to create illness, then I also had the power to create wellness.
Human belief systems and habitual behaviours, however, don't like change. Its requires a pro-active conscious effort to shift the broken record of our entrenched conditioning and automatic behaviours. Whats more, if you feel like the 'living dead' experiencing a 'living hell', mustering up your already limited energy to reflect upon unhelpful conditioning, and most importantly, taking action to 're-wire' your life towards wellness can seem like an insurmountable task!
This is why what is known as 'Mindfulness' became the most healing medicinal tonic in the early stages of my healing journey. This required only my focused attention: to become present in the moment and observe my thinking patterns, the very thought patterns that had contributed to pushing my body to its limit in the first place.
It was horrifying to discover the broken record that was my own dysfunctional thinking. In the background, like a low volume radio station, I realised the songs that had got stuck on replay were my worst enemies. The six inches between my ears, the noise-making machine, as I like to call it, had taken me for a ride in a very misguided direction.
I also noticed the direct correlation between the unhealthy, nasty self-talk and how I physically felt. No wonder I had been plagued with migraines, headaches and sore tummies all of my life! The body, I discovered, was talking to me. It had been crying out for my help for so long only to be met by my own personal whipping stick, beating it back into submission as I kept pushing through.
With a developing awareness of my unconscious programming, I was able to gift myself the ultimate antidote to the harsh bully tactics I had been forever dishing out to myself. The remedy was simple: kindness, gentleness and a well overdue slower pace of life. This was supported by a gentle curiosity to discover who was sitting beneath the mask and underpinned by an ever-growing acceptance of the different aspects of myself, both negative and positive. It was a heart-rending experience to reconnect with the flame that burnt bright as a child but had become dimmer and dimmer with years gone by.
And this was just the beginning of my healing journey. All up, it has taken a good ten years to get my body back to a decent level of health. And it wasn't without a lot of trial and error as I learnt more about the physical body and what it ultimately requires to self-heal including reaching out for support, something my faulty conditioning dictated was not for 'strong, independent and successful people'!
Over time, old habits of over-helping and over-achieving slipped into the background as new healthier habits based on a solid sense of self-esteem took their place. From being a ‘yes to everyone’ girl I learnt to navigate relationships in a more healthy, genuine and authentic way. From being a controlled, rational and reasoned thinker, through the conscious changes I was making, I became more creative, trusting my instinct more and acting on inspiration, rather than the unreasonable demands from inside my own head. From a period of chaos, crisis and de-rangement I was able to find a new healthier arrangement that was eventually to become the ideal balanced and sustainable lifestyle long-term.
So contrary to the concept of cure, which has a view to eliminating or masking our symptoms, I learnt that healing demands that we re-examine the way we are living our lives. True healing actually insists that we look at every aspect of our lives, reviewing and assessing whether we are on the right track or not. Implementation of mini bite-size palatable actions ultimately led me to increasing levels of health and a better quality of life whereby I am now able to be more real and authentic, without the tiresome mask that had dragged me down for so long.
In my work as a counsellor, I notice that people get so busy, so caught up in distractions that they miss the moment and they miss the absolute ultimate: themselves and their reason for being here. They come to me because they find themselves derailed by relationship or health issues, often due to a series of poor unconsciously made choices. And true to the magic of life itself that totally has our back in every way, the body crashes or the emotions become too uncomfortable to ignore anymore.
Its life waking us up to the path we are actually meant to be on if we are brave enough to get curious and take a look :)
These life relapses, whether relational, emotional, spiritual or physical, usually happen because people have missed the important stuff way way back in time. They lose sight of themselves and may even have a mask on as I did. By taking time to slow down, reflect, and bring some self-compassion into the fold, they find themselves 'landing' back into themselves so they can actually bring the best expression of themselves to the world in a way that allows them to thrive, not continue to sacrifice and bring harm to themselves.
The lesson I take from my own personal health crisis is to give myself permission to slow down and be kind to myself. Its from this foundation that we can actually start to make healthier decisions that support the WHOLE of ourselves. From here there is a natural flow on effect to everyone and everything around us.
Because your potential to thrive in this lifetime and the legacy you leave depends on you not losing yourself along the way.
So here's to creating the space to reconnect with yourself regularly in a kind and compassionate way so you don't lose touch with the best authentic expression of yourself in 2019 and beyond....
Happy New Year Everyone :)
Ph. 021 027 18127
Kira Follas is a qualified counsellor and works as Wellness Practitioner and Group Facilitator in New Zealand. She is also a survivor and thriver of multiple physical and mental-emotional adversities and is a Mum to two awesome teenage lads :)