Storms And Rainbows: How To Fall Apart And Get Back Up Again
Promise me you’ll always remember:
You’re braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.”
Christopher Robin to Pooh – A. A. Milne
As a coach with over 20 years’ experience, I always thought I could work everything out and that I could ‘fix’ anything. I didn’t realise quite how controlled I was by this ‘fixing things’ mindset until, everything that I thought made me who I was, was taken away by a devastating illness. Suddenly, all my certainty and confidence was stripped from me. I doubted everything about myself. I doubted my ability as a coach. I doubted if I was a good enough person. I lost trust in myself. In my head I knew that my experiences and struggles are all part of the complex, wonderful fabric of being human, but what happened to me was a stark reminder that it’s not always easy being human and that just when you think you’ve got it all planned out, the rug can be pulled away from underneath you at any moment. The key thing is how you get back up.
Like everyone, there have been many experiences which have shaped my life, but some have had a more profound effect than others. And as vulnerable as I feel sharing, I take comfort from something Brené Brown quotes in her book, Dare to Lead, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” So, if one person reading this can gain hope, it will have been worth me sharing my story and the lessons I’ve learned.
When things don’t go to plan
Over the last few years, I have experienced many sudden, and definitely unplanned, challenges. The first came one morning when swimming in open water, I still remember the mist rising on surface as the horn sounded to start. It was a small triathlon race I was using as a warm up before heading out to race in the European Triathlon Championships for Team GB. Although a little chilly in the water, all went well and I placed in the top five. However, something niggled in the back on my mind, I just didn’t feel right about going in the water that day, but overrode my intuition with logic and pushed on. Ten days later, my niggling intuition was proved correct, I became extremely ill with suspected leptospirosis/Weils disease, a potentially lethal bacterial infection which attacks the brain, liver, kidneys, lungs and heart. You catch it from rodent urine, obviously I’d been swimming after a particularly ill rat.
“Anything’ is not always possible, ‘something’ always is, if we give ourselves permission to try”
Needless to say, I didn’t fly out to race. I spent many days and weeks just lying still, with the pain, sickness, noise and light sensitivity affecting all of my body and nervous system. To allow my body to heal and to realign my life took nearly two years, and has had a lasting impact, in both good and challenging ways, on my life right now.
I’m often asked, do you think it happened for a reason? Reflecting back, perhaps I was doing too much, perhaps it was a lesson to sit in life’s queue and pause or perhaps it was just was one of those things. But what I do know, deep within is that these experiences have fundamentally altered my life. I had a choice, like each of us. I could either choose to show up, to adapt, evolve and learn how to live again, or give up and wish for the past.
But how do you ride adversity through the storms and keep evolving? I want to share just a few thoughts and strategies which helped me and may help you during these times. While knowing ‘anything is possible’ is not always true, ‘something’ always is possible, if we give ourselves permission to try.
Firstly to begin healing, I had to understand and then let go of my fears, so I could get out of my own way. Everything that scared me, the darkness and doubts, everything that I could no longer currently do physically or cope with mentally. I had to sit down, explore it and learn how to accept it. Not to give up but rather to make my peace. This is often termed as ‘invisible losses’, the things which we hoped and planned for, but are no longer is possible. Christianna Rasmussen writes about this in her book, ‘Second First’ and talks about it on her podcast, ‘Dear Life’. Often we build metaphorical walls or get in a box to protect ourselves. I knew I had to get out of my self-limiting box if I ever wanted to live a brave life again or my life and courage would become irretrievably smaller.
Once I had healed some of my fears and doubts, I then had to work out who I wanted to become. I knew who I was before, but with everything taken from me, who was you now? I drew a big mind map, and in the middle wrote, Who Do I Want To Become?
From this I wrote about myself, as a friend, partner, daughter, coach, godmother, and about what I wanted from other aspects of my life; my business, travel, charity, fitness, growth and more. Exploring my values, beliefs, capabilities and behaviour, based around Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and a technique called mBraining linking the intelligence centres of the head, heart and gut.
I worked on it most days, adding little thoughts, ideas, quotes and people who inspired me. This has now become my road map to evolving my authentic self, and I really encourage you to do the same. It’s worth carving out a little time in a busy schedule to map out where you are and where you want to go.
As part of my new self I now have daily non-negotiable habits which I commit to, sometimes only for a few minutes a day, which are the key to reaching my goals. James Clear talks about the remarkable results you can achieve with a daily practise of tiny regular changes in his book Atomic Habits, which I recommend. My habits include ‘journaling’, I write about what has made me feel good, what I have learned and what I have resisted in the day. I practise the Tibetan 5 Yoga moves, which I picked up initially when I was working with Strictly Come Dancing Pros and read Bruce Forsyth did regularly. I find it helps my posture and brings awareness back to my breath. This then leads to breath work, brisk walks in nature, good hydration and breakfast, being kind and consciously making a decision everyday which will move me forward. Of course, there are many other things but these are my non-negotiables. Have a think about what yours could be as we flow into the New Year.
Another thing I have discovered with even greater clarity than before is how important it is for me to surround myself with people who inspire and motivate me to become better, who I can laugh with, non-judgmental people who provide mutual support and safety.
Working through feelings
If you’ve lost yourself. If something has blown your life off course, take a moment now to free your mind and ask yourself these simple questions: What is missing which brings joy in your life? What changes can you make towards it today? What advice would you give yourself right now to help you like yourself a little more? What would give you the courage to take a little risk each week to move towards what you would like in your life? Clear your mind, breathe in something you would like – confidence, courage, bravery… breathe out and release the things you don’t want – self doubt, fear, stuckness…
Note down up to three things or feelings to focus on, then revisit in a week’s time to see how you you are feeling about them now.
Above everything, my greatest insight I learned from my own unexpected life experiences is the power of understanding that comes from accepting grief, loss or trauma. Giving yourself permission to work through it and reaching out for help when you need it, even if it feels scary to do so, is incredibly important. Even when you’re afraid I know that I have to fight to reduce my own self sabotage and to nourish my self-worth and courage.
The past 16 months have been full of challenges and unexpected change for all of us. I wish you the courage to fulfil your untapped potential and access the dreams in the corner of your mind, for your time is now. Always remember, you matter, you are good enough – even if you don’t realise it. Be brave enough to try to understand yourself and what lights you up, mind, body and adventuring soul. To develop deep relationships with communication, connection and care with those you love. Be kind and helpful to those around you and most importantly, be kind to yourself and trust and commit to you.
Kim Ingleby is a multi-award winning mind body coach, author and TEDx Speaker. To find out more about her and her work got to www.kimingleby.co.uk 0r follow her on Instagram @kimingleby You can also buy her wonderful book 52 Tips To Feel Good with profits going to charity.