Recognising that you are not where you want to be
is a starting point to begin changing your life.
The morning of Wednesday, 27 November 2002, started much like any other day. Mike, my husband at that time, and our children shouted goodbye as they flew out the door for work and university. My care assistant Irene popped in briefly to help bathe and dress me and settle me in my usual chair in the front room next to the fireplace. She placed a cup of hot milky tea on the small table beside me. Looking through the window, I could see the day was still dark, although it was already after nine. It felt as though there had been no sun for years.
I picked up the television remote and flicked through the channels, but I had no appetite that morning for hearing about family breakdowns or watching home makeovers. Switching on the radio, a familiar song filled the room, ‘Though it’s darker than December, what’s ahead is a different colour.’ The hopeful words of the song High by Lighthouse Family had come to mean so much to me since I had become too ill to work some five years earlier. Usually, the song lifted my spirits, but that day, I shouted, ‘You’re lying! What’s ahead isn’t a different colour. For me, it’s all the same.’
I looked around the room at the wheelchair by the door, the Zimmer walking frame next to me, and the boxes of painkillers on the coffee table. The small carriage clock on the mantelpiece chimed. It was 9:30 a.m., and it would be another nine or ten hours before any of my family would return home for a quick bite to eat and then likely head back out to meet friends for the evening. Loneliness and pain were my life, and I knew it might remain that way for the next thirty or forty years.
That morning, the horrible realisation hit me as if for the first time.
I saw my life spread out in front of me, day after day—hundreds and thousands of days of sitting there, waiting for my mother to visit and take me out in my wheelchair, waiting for carers to help me get bathed and dressed. . .
Nothing would be different.
It would be the same for years to come.
With my whole body, I cried out, ‘No!’
No to the doctors, no to the hospitals, no to the carers, no to the pain, no to the financial worries—no to everything.
I was only forty-six years old. I felt I had not yet lived.
That moment, I saw myself clearly. Although I was breathing and my heart beat steadily within me, my soul and spirit had been hacked—something had gained unauthorized access to my life. Despite being physically alive, I felt dead.
The harsh realisation that I had lost all passion and joy was my catalyst for taking ownership of my life and redirecting the story I was living. In that standout moment, I committed to doing all I could to crack the darkness open and let the light of a better future start to stream back in. For five years, I had retreated deeper and deeper into the darkness of pain, loneliness, and despair. But that was not how I wanted to live. I wanted to rise up, feel alive, and live well despite my pain and illness. I wanted to reignite the light within me. And so, that dark morning in my front room, I made the choice to rise.
I went to bed that night feeling strong and powerful. A sense of excitement and purpose overcame me as I envisaged the possibility of a much brighter future. The next morning, however, that sense of excitement and purpose was gone. I awoke feeling numb and weak once again. As I’d slept, my excitement had diminished along with my inner strength to fight for a more meaningful and joyful life. In truth, I felt stupid for having even considered change possible. I shuffled to the mirror where a hollow-eyed figure stared back at me. What on earth had I been thinking? I felt weak and childish and questioned my judgment, thinking that all that hope and enthusiasm were probably the result of overmedication. How could I possibly have imagined anything other than a bleak future?
I sat for a while, transfixed by the image in the mirror—and I felt horrified and uneasy. I hated me and what had become of me. I despised the downward spiral that had become my life. Seeing that pitiful figure staring back at me from the mirror was the sharp shake-up I needed. I saw that my happiness was my responsibility—it came down to no one else. If I was serious about crafting change in my life, I knew I had to start somewhere. So I rummaged around in the drawer in my dressing table, found some lip gloss, and for the first time in a long time, I put some on.
The simple act of putting on lip gloss may seem insignificant, but today, almost twenty years later, that moment stands out as a major turning point in my life. I realised that facing the reality of my circumstances and igniting a desire for a better life was never going to be enough on its own. If I didn’t take some positive action, my desire would remain only a wish and a dream. And what I have come to know over the years since then is that even the smallest steps, when taken consistently, add up in time.
Today, I am delighted to tell you that although I still live with chronic pain, my soul, spirit, and mind are strong and vibrant. And as a result, my life is wholly different—it is much brighter and happier and no longer marked by feelings of numbness and isolation. I feel alive. I feel complete and whole. I enjoy a deep inner peace and an unshakable confidence that I can handle whatever life may bring me. I have moved from a place of fear to faith, from pain to purpose, from being a victim to my pain to being a pain warrior of courage, grit, grace, strength, and wisdom. I show up fully to life and am a soul ignited. My spirit is empowered and well.
If my story resonates with you, and you too are passionate about living your best life despite any ongoing pain and illness, I have written a book called Unhackable Soul: Rise Up, Feel Alive, and Live Well with Pain and Illness. The 30-day elixir for reigniting the light within. In my book I introduce new ways of thinking, practical and spiritual strategies, and ways of living that can help ignite a renewed enthusiasm and passion within you. The thirty daily missions I share are the same steps I took to rise from the dark pit dug by pain and transform my quality of life. Today, my life is rooted in—and my soul is nourished by—these fundamental principles.
My internationally bestselling book Unhackable Soul does not promise you the tools for a miracle cure or fix. Nor can I promise you that instigating and fully embodying the practices and mindsets within its pages will bring about full physical healing. The mind–body connection is powerful, and it is imperative to understand how each interacts and impacts the other. Sometimes, however, full healing at a physical, functional level is not always possible. That said, wellness is often about keeping your soul and spirit healthy, even when your physical body is injured, deteriorating, ageing, or impaired in some way. Living well happens when we develop an Unhackable Soul—the ability to see the beauty in imperfection and to rise, enriched by truth, and start each day anew.
Are you ready to rise? Do you long to reignite the fire in your soul and live a life fuelled by enthusiasm and purpose rather than dictated by pain?
I believe you can and I invite you to join me on the Unhackable Soul journey.
I have a story. You have a story. Our stories unite us. We are the same.
From Unhackable Soul: Rise Up, Feel Alive, and Live Well with Pain and Illness by Maureen Sharphouse Copyright © 2022 by the author and reprinted by permission of Unhackable Press.
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