I don't mean I walk around with a permanent grin on my face, but now, most days I'm OK with my life.
Now, I have a more settled home. I enjoy a strong purpose, with influence. Importantly, I feel worthy and emotionally stable.
Being out of control has been unsettling because I have always been very clear on what I wanted out of my life.
My only priority was/is to be a hands-on, 100% reliable and dependable mum.
That doesn't mean my work-life balance hasn't been out of kilter at times since my stroke. I've been far from perfect!. However, factors like me needing to heal emotionally by needing to GIVE to others; my massive self-imposed lonely charity workload/activism; my dark depressive spells and my selfish need to make my life count this time around, before I die. Having a brush with death, makes you realise how fragile all our lives really are. We just don't know what is around the corner.
Since 2010, when our lives changed forever, I have become convinced that my relentless pursuit of goals have helped me stay happy and alive, when much of my personal life was crumbling around me. Family issues, my ongoing physical health problems, friendships, my social isolation, feelings of worthlessness and social withdrawal...
Looking back, it was after sixteen weeks in hospital that I genuinely stopped over thinking my hopeless, negative thoughts. Truthfully, from then on, I never entertained the idea that I wouldn't return home to function as a 'normal' mum. Completely naively, I thought it was 'when' not 'if' I got better. (I have the proof on my Facebook Memories posts from hospital.)
Shrinks may describe my mindset shift as having being of a 'growth' mindset. However, for me, it was only about WHEN I could walk, talk, eat, drink Earl Grey tea, dress myself, brush my teeth and wipe my own backside, not if.
I enjoyed a phenomenal improvement became a respected patient advocate; pioneered key research; successfully campaigned on the emotional sides of stroke and my relentless voluntary work to further Locked in Syndrome (LIS) awareness/improvement globally, and became a proven speaking career were all the visible tips of my 'success'.
However, that said, I don't always succeed in life.
I've been rather less public about my many unsuccessful predictions or projects. There have been so many disappointments, mistakes, missed goals, failures, closed doors, faux pas and frustrations. Perhaps, it's not helped that I've been somewhat of a 'Donald Trump' leader in the stroke rehabilitation world? Yeah, I've ruffled some feathers!
However, other examples of goals I've failed to achieve are:
Not yet finding a way to engage with key rare disease researchers or organisations to further all our understanding of LIS improvement with evidence-based research. Consequently, my hundreds of anecdotal case studies have become pretty much the only definitive guide to help desperate families in the immediate aftermath of a LIS diagnosis in ICU/ITU. I blogged my practical 35 top tips for LIS improvement)
It's true I've failed to reduce the misdiagnosis levels of early onset, younger stroke sufferers in A&E. (But keep watching!)
I, like the many others I seem to represent, could help shape services and identify unmet needs in the community, with treatments and prevention if we really collaborated in equal partnership with clinicians, researchers, GP's and therapists. Patient co-design (or equal partnership) appears to be the latest NHS buzz term. I believe, partnerships will make a difference to the cost burden and improve outcomes for patients in the NHS.
So no prizes for guessing what I'm going to speak about, when I speak at the 7th Leadership and Management Summit in May for The Kings Fund. (I'm on the bill with Simon Stevens CEO for the NHS!) The Kings Fund is the UK's influential health, leadership think tank.
Anyway, that's enough of me highlighting my many failed pledges (so far), we need to get positive!
So what can you learn and take away from my 'when', not 'if' approach?Ask yourself,
'what is my attitude to life?'
Truthfully, are you a half-full or half-empty kind of person?
Do you ever think (or say out loud) .....
'I give up, I've tried' or 'I can't do it' or 'I'm either good at it or I'm not' or
'This is too hard, what's the point?'
But have you ever wondered what you could achieve if you did a 180 degree spin of your pessimistic thoughts? What if you thought
'I WILL or I CAN' attitude?
Just think of the time you could save if you over-thought less and actually DID more?
So forget the 'if only' or 'I can't' barriers, start thinking what do I need to do to succeed?
So my advice - to know exactly what you want out of life, break your goal down into bite-sized-chunks, then focus on doing, rather than thinking!
Look, it worked for me in 2010. My fight or flight response meant I started to think differently about the things that mattered to me. So genuinely, I thought 'when', not 'if' I will walk out of hospital, run again, eat or hug my kids, set up a charity, write my books, earn respect from stroke professionals, influence the stroke rehabilitation debate, help others, become an accomplished speaker and deliver a TEDx speech on the importance of communication.
So the moral of my blog is not to think 'if' but 'when'.
If you tend to think thoughts like;
'If only I loved my work' or 'If only I could have a work-life balance' or 'I need to feel stimulated outside of work/family life' 'If only I could make a difference & had a purpose' or 'If only I spent more quality time with my kids'
'I WILL find a job I enjoy which provides for me and my family'
'I WILL reduce the frequency I check my emails at weekends'
'I WILL seek to learn a new skill or hobby in the next 12 months'
'I WILL identify and volunteer for local projects that I'm passionate about'
'I WILL arrange a one-to-one activity with each of my children a minimum of once per month'
Good luck, be happy and remember my favourite Winston Churchill's famous quote:
"Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It's the COURAGE to continue that counts."