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Learning my happiness is my choice is a powerful position to be in

The control you gain through personal accountability

My life until my early 30’s followed a fairly smooth path. Yes, my parents separated when I was young and that took much adjustment but because they worked together to ensure my sister and I had as ‘normal’ an upbringing as possible, the acrimony was kept to a minimum. I grew up with step-parents in the mix so I felt blessed to have that extra love in my life.

Getting good results at school didn’t come easy so I worked hard and there were quite a few knocks to my confidence but with a supportive family, I would pick myself up and carry on. I passed my driving test first time, went to College and then to University. I met my now husband quite young and we moved to London to look for those streets paved with gold…

Work was hard to come by but we forged links and made contacts and we did it – we made our own luck. A year spent travelling was an education. We’d saved long and hard to make those travels possible – living and saving whilst in London is not easy and we’d lived on jacket potatoes and baked beans five days a week – on the weekend we’d treat ourselves – we’d add cheese!

Post-travels, it was back to London and we got our old jobs back. We married, more travelling, more working, more saving – this time for a flat. And then we married. And for a lot of people, the next step is children. It took a while for that maternal instinct to kick in but once it did, I was ready. As with everything in my life so far, once I committed, I was in it 100% and out to achieve it. Only this wasn’t within my control, as I so cruelly found out.

When the path deviates

Things did not go to plan but I would pick myself up and carry on. What else was there to do? At least that’s what I would tell myself. On a certain level, that was my belief and my thinking and it had served me well so far in life. But in the background, the gremlins were at work.

I’m always a ‘what you see is what you get’ kinda person – my face a mirror of my emotions. Except during this time in my life. Happy smiley sociable me existed on a level – the level that everyone sees. I looked like I was coping, that I was stoic but in reality, I was barely hanging on. Inside, I was falling to pieces. I saw constant reminders all around me of what I wanted so badly but which I couldn’t seem to have. All my life I had been in control – my exam results – down to me and how much work and revision I chose to do; my driving test – how committed I was to the lessons and the practice; travelling depended on how much we were willing to give up so we could save, whilst living in a city with so much to offer; securing great jobs and then working hard to be noticed so we’d be asked back post-travels. All of it was within my control. Except for this. This was one of the first major things in my life, since my parents’ separation, that was beyond my control. And I don’t do well when I’m not in control (I appreciate that’s fabulous self-talk there!).

Now I appreciate I was hugely fortunate to get this far through life without any major knock-backs or disappointments. For many, from a young age, they go through untold traumatic events and live in circumstances no one should have to experience; I’m sure reading this, it seems like I had led a charmed existence. And my writing this is not to seek sympathy. My struggle at this time in my life was no different to what thousands and thousands of people go through. But it was my experience. I felt there was darkness and wished I had a crystal ball to know what lay ahead…

 

What can we control in life?!

My point is, when you feel like the control has been taken away from you, what do you do? Well, I had a breakdown so that was an immediate red flag and I got help. But how could I have avoided reaching this point? Feeling out of control, whatever your reason or situation, leaves you feeling powerless and vulnerable. It’s therefore about gaining some kind of control on your thoughts, resulting in different emotions and therefore a change in behaviour which means new habits and therefore a change in the results you’re getting. What I didn’t realise is that I’d had control of my thoughts throughout my childhood and 20’s - choosing to study hard, learning to drive, being determined to get a good job, to save for travelling and a flat – all of those were choices stemming from the nature of my thoughts. I now needed to take control of my thoughts through this challenging time.

Me changing my thoughts didn’t mean I was ultimately getting the results I wanted but it meant the gremlins were banished. Changing my thoughts meant my brain was in a much more open and resourceful state. Changing my thinking meant I was speaking to others about how I felt and therefore could ask for help, advice and support.

I’m not pontificating that by changing the nature of our thoughts will see us through any challenging and devastating circumstances unscathed nor that it will solve all our problems or give us the answers, but it will enable us to open the lines of communication, to create new thought patterns and to see there is a different way to live. The alternative is to carry on feeling angry, frustrated and desperate and surely long-term, that does not serve us well.

There will be traumatic times in our lives because that’s all part of human existence but our happiness depends on one person – us and no one else. Yes, we can choose to lie in bed day after day after day but we’re not moving forward. Our thinking becomes cyclical and the nature of it is destructive.

‘Over time’ are two key words here and over time, we find a new normal and build a new life. For some, in many situations, it will never be the same again but the choice is there, to find a way through it all.

It is possible and belief comes before the how. Because strong belief triggers the mind to find the how.

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