Setbacks. Obstacles. Roadblocks

When you feel like you’ve already faced enough obstacles in your life, suddenly being thrown more is just tough.

Personally, after years rebuilding my crushed self-esteem and reinventing myself, suddenly being back in a hospital bed last year was not what I’d planned. Finally I had had my independence back, felt I was managing my pain and other deficits well and was enjoying my life. Now that independence was robbed again and my newfound ability to advocate and educate others was taken.

What’s more, the emotional toll of my situation was extremely confronting and quite traumatic. I had learnt over time to accept what I couldn’t change and modify what I could – so the physical deficits I was suddenly faced with weren’t too hard to adjust too – walking with a frame, being showered by a nurse and enduring unpleasant medical procedures had gradually become second nature.However, as the physical implications of my situation less daunting, I was forced to sit with the emotional toll of my setback. These uneasy feelings combined with my inability to move to manage my pain and engage in meaningful tasks (which had become a big coping mechanism) left me to feeling extremely negative, resentful and increasingly frustrated. Over time, these feelings only escalated as my vulnerability increased – feeling so worn down.

Although the below areas were integral to my well being since acquiring my stroke thirteen years ago, they had become almost innate. However, when things suddenly went backwards, the importance of drawing on these only became so much more vital.

Early in my recovery I began to practice gratitude to counteract the growing resentment and negativity I was experiencing. In fact, focusing on things I was thankful for in my day had become automatic, a cinch. However, in my vulnerable state I stopped practising this. Subsequently, I found myself once again becoming increasing resentful. Not only resentful for having to endure yet another setback but also resentful towards the support I was receiving that I did not want. I craved to resume my newfound ‘independent’ lifestyle but once again had to be grateful for help rather than critical of the way others came to my aid.

I also had to relearn how to practise gratefulness. Begin to force myself to notice things in my day that I was thankful for. As tough as things were, there were many positives in my situation that I had chosen to ignore. I had a great support network and my condition was improving. I readily speak about how we can develop our own resilience whereby I often say – “Be thankful for what you have and you end up having more”. This is so true!

In your day, look out for what is going well for you. List the things that you are thankful for – amazing how over time these become so clear! Perhaps, you may need to highlight the grateful aspects of anothers situation when theyre not able to elicit this themselves?

Acceptance to ‘accept what we can’t change and change what we can” is definitely an ongoing process! Increasingly frustrated at this unexpected setback, it wasn’t until I learnt the hard way (returning to my busy life too early) and was forced to stop and accept things were going to take time and needed to be done differently, that I was able to move forward.

Unfortunately for many of us, it takes a setback (or two) to stop and reflect.  In fact, in August this year- I decided to still carry out my ambassador role for AIN and partake in the 5km walk for RunMelbourne. However, training in my fragile state meant that I tore my shoulder muscle from walking too much and leaning on my frame – another roadblock! Determined to carry out my commitment, I decided that I could still do it, but differently. Like I said, by adapting our environments or how we do things, we can still carry out what we hoped too!

What can you let go of in your life to enable you to move forward? It may be resentment your holding onto from your past, an unhelpful habit or experience?

Positive Support & Positive Mindset

Although usually a ‘half-glass full’ person, I suddenly felt extremely depleted and negative. Stuck. Overtime, I gradually found that this only added to the severity of the obstacle. However, by accepting help and resuming meaningful activities, I was able to gradually flip this negative mindset. Subsequently, it was so much easier to sit with the challenging situation I was facing. I think there are three things that underpin one’s ability to be positive including your supports, the tasks you engage in and your mindset when going about your day.

Positive Support:
A HUGE lesson I thought I’d learnt was the importance of having a positive support network around me. Especially important when we need those around us to elicit a positive spin in an obstacle when we feel so engulfed by the negativity of the situation. There’s an African Proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together”.

I could not have endured the last 12 months without letting those different supports help me. Tough to let another do what you once could do independently, but amazing how much further you can go together.

After multiple rejections by the NDIA to become an NDIS participant, finally being deemed eligible was definitely only possible by working with an awesome network of people in the application process. Where I had dealt with my disability by focusing on what I could do, and not what had been robbed when I had my stroke. To be eligible for the NDIS, I suddenly had to focus on my disability – everything that was hard about my life. A strong coping mechanism for me has been to get out there. Choosing to focus on my abilities as a stroke survivor. Instead, I had to suddenly articulate what was difficult about my life, hardly uplifting. Unfortunately, relaying this information was essential to meet the criteria for eligibility for the NDIS. Feeling already so vulnerable after my illness, highlighting my many deficits was devastating. However, doing it with others made this possible.

Consider how you respond to support when going through a difficult time in your life. Do you tend to push them away? How can you work together better and be more productive?

Positive Tasks:
In my weakened state, engaging in meaningful things again was also a struggle. Easy to forgo and not prioritise these tasks when you have less energy and you can’t perform them in the same way, or as well, anyways. My shoulder injury meant I could no longer practice yoga like I had. I was too weak to swim. However these two activities that I’d weaved into my day to manage my pain and positivity. They were crucial in both physically and emotionally recovering from this setback. I had to resume meaningful things in my life again and learn to lower the expectations I had for myself – continually reminding myself, “to just show up and that was enough!’

How can you incorporate tasks or activities into your life more readily? Consider that by engaging in these enjoyable things, enduring more monotonous tasks and facing the inevitable obstacles, will be easier to withstand.

Positive Mindset:
Adopting a positive mindset when carrying out these tasks was also essential in my optimal recovery. I definitely found my ability to look for the positives quite challenging. I would only see what was difficult or wrong about each task. Learning to focus on and fill my mind with positive thoughts was essential.

Try listening to your inner dialogue and how easily we generate and tune into, negative thoughts. It’s human nature to do this (our minds are problem-making machines) but we all have a choice in what we focus on. Whilst we can’t control the obstacles we are faced with, we all have control on our mindsets. Filling our minds with positive thoughts will make those tough times easier to withstand.