“Take a seat please Mr Regan” … I’m back at Kings College Hospital. I have spent many days here waiting to see the consultant who asks me about my physical and mental health.
I am eventually given an iPad and required to fill in a standard survey whose aim it is to show how I am doing. Since my wife isn’t here, the temptation not to be as honest as I should is very real.
Then comes the long wait. I do not know when I will be called. Instead of the usual panic that would typically fill up my mind as it did in my prior visits, I reflect back on how these ten years of constant hospital appointments and operations has changed me.
To say that I have been on a journey of self-discovery is an understatement. The process of going through surgery, of carrying a huge frame attached to my bones with screws around days and nights for a lengthy period of time, in combination with a perfect storm of everything else going wrong, has led me to be a very different person to the one who sat here ten years ago.
Yet, despite the pain, anxiety and depression, I am in a better place today.
I have come to realise that there are not black or white answers to why we go through these negative emotions and that’s ok. I have gotten comfortable with the mystery and uncertainty going through times like this brings.
I am learning to accept myself more. I am a sensitive soul, and instead of fighting that, I am accepting that it is who I am. In fact, I am more than ever before, aware that I do not want my feelings to control me. Yet, I do not have the desire to supress them. I do not want to suppress pain or anxiety, love or joy.
I want to feel love and compassion for myself and others, I want to live a life where I can cry with my friends when sadness hits, and I can laugh with them when they are rejoicing.
I want to live my feelings and emotions with authenticity and neither pretend nor attempt to suppress negative feelings or emotions. I do not want to become ‘tough’ or ‘thick skinned’ to fit society’s ideal male model.
Maya Angelou said: “People will forget what you say but never forget how you make them feel.” As I ponder on this, I just feel it is so very important to feel and make others feel safe accepted, loved and thought about.
Failure to feel accepted or loved or thought about can have devastating consequences on ourselves and we can quickly become void of empathy and of understanding for oneself or another.
As I am sitting and thinking about all this, I realise what is really important to me: relationships. Yes! it all boils down to our relationships.
Self-compassion is also something which I have learnt to practice more and more. I find that I am not as driven as I once was, and while I am still passionate about supporting and loving people, helping them find safe places, and assist them in reaching their full potential, I am no longer wanting to work every hour of the day. I am learning to say “no” and learning to recognise my limits and accepting that it’s ok to have limits.
I acknowledge that my thoughts are not always my friends and that my illness is not my identity. I am a strong yet sensitive and caring person who loves deeply. Having anxious thoughts or sad thoughts or angry thoughts does not ‘Make Me’. They are just thoughts, they are not me. I am also practising the skill of replacing my negative thoughts with positive ones. There is so much in life that we can’t control and although I don’t have much control over the negative thoughts coming into my mind, I refuse to entertain them.
I live life intensely and I believe this is the reason why I have achieved what I have.
I am who I am! I am loved by God and by those who want to love me. I want to encourage everyone who reads this to also realise that they are also loved by God. I want to encourage them to see themselves in the way God sees them and to appreciate how precious they truly are. For those people who don’t love me, for those who don’t love you… it is ok, let’s just release them to find their own way. We cannot be everything to everyone and that’s ok.