Shifting Focus

‘Stop being afraid of what could go wrong; focus on what could go right’

This phrase popped up on my Facebook feed this morning and it perfectly summed up what I need to do now.

The last week has been a rollercoaster. Last Tuesday I went for a really important interview for an internship I really want. It was the toughest interview I’ve ever had but I laughed and smiled as much as I could and I tried my best. I was certain I wouldn’t get it. They’d want a graduate or someone with more experience. I resigned myself to the idea that I wouldn’t get it and got busy making other plans.

The following day I went to some fantastic volunteer training about accessibility and inclusion, something I’m very passionate about. I spoke to all the organisers and felt really inspired. I told them that if I didn’t get the internship I’d get more involved with what they were doing. Whilst I was at the training session I began to develop a weird sensation in my throat. It was an old building so I reassured myself that it was probably dust or paint affecting me. By that evening I was in a complete state. My throat and glands had swollen, my temperature was rising and every muscle screamed with pain.

The next few days were a blur of pain and fatigue and fear. I panicked that I had developed glandular fever or the scarlet fever I had last summer had come back. I checked every few hours for a rash but fortunately none came. What if I’m having an M.E. relapse and I’ll be bedbound for months? The worst fear was that Ana was back. Because the virus left me with no appetite it was the perfect situation for Ana to take advantage of my weakness and fear. “Look at how little food you can survive on, you don’t need to eat as much as you have been, you’ve been so greedy, you don’t want to eat that it might make you feel sick…” on and on she whispered in my ear and because I had no appetite I thought she was winning. It felt like I had gone back 7 years to when I had been in her grips and I was overwhelmed with fear and with grief for my dog, Harvey, who had been my support during those tough times.

On Sunday night I was awoken at 2am by intense pain in my ears, jaw and throat. My glands had swollen up again and this time it was excruciating. I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night; instead I had a transformative experience. Instead of panicking about the pain and nausea I tried to relax into it. I reminded myself that it would pass, that I was going to be ok. I chanted peaceful words in my head. Once the pain and anxiety subsided I had space to have a really good think about things that had been worrying me but I hadn’t given time to. I think the universe, or my body, probably decided enough was enough and I needed to sort stuff out! I came to a very profound and important realisation about something that is a little too personal to share here. I didn’t feel afraid anymore and I didn’t feel anxious about the insomnia but instead enjoyed listening to the first blackbird. The sunrise was so beautiful that morning. It looked like a dramatic stage set all laid out ready for me to perform. I’m not meant to be ill in bed; I’ve got too much great stuff to do! I watched it whilst eating a snack bar as my appetite suddenly returned and I was starving! I felt love and respect for myself and thanked the universe for my realisations and the beauty of nature. I told Ana to get lost and ate more that day as my appetite returned. I even finished a normal size portion of dinner happily.

I expected to feel awful that day because of the insomnia of the night before but I felt pretty calm and ok. I asked my university tutor for an extension to my assignment deadline on Thursday and he was happy to do so explaining that he was just getting over the same virus! One stress was taken off my shoulders and I relaxed.

In the afternoon I was offered the internship! I could not believe it. I was so sure I wouldn’t get it! They told me that they thought I’d fit into the team really well and offered to move the start date so I could get more university work done. They even said we’d discuss how to make sure my work days were manageable for my M.E. which was really reassuring to hear. I felt equally excited and nervous. In this weakened state the fear that I might not be well enough to do the job crept back in. I started being afraid of what could go wrong. Then I stopped myself. I am going to:

  • Live away from home for 6 months
  • During the summer
  • In a beautiful natural location
  • Doing the job I’ve always wanted to do
  • Which will kick start my career

I am the luckiest person in the world right now! I shouldn’t be worrying I should be celebrating and thanking the universe! I should also be really proud of myself. I have been ill since I was 15 (10 years) and it has made education and work such an uphill struggle. To finally get recognition in the field I want to have a career in feels amazing. I really can do it. What a confidence boost!

 

It’s so easy to focus on what could go wrong in a situation. It’s perfectly normal self-preservation. However there is useful analysis (this could go wrong so this is what we’ll put in place in case it does) and there’s not so useful analysis (this could go wrong….ahhh….I can’t do it… hide under blanket and never do things…). The STOP Process and CBT are really good for unhelpful thoughts to break them down and rationalise them. It ok to feel afraid, it’s what you do with that fear that’s important. Then focus on what could go right and remember all the times you were afraid something bad would happen and then it didn’t, or it did but you conquered it. Remember how you felt… pretty great I bet. We all have within us the capacity to do amazing things if we just coached ourselves a little better.

Before you get out of bed in the morning, try to focus on what could go right.

Now I’m going to go for a long lie down – I still have the flu!

 

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