Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m pretty even in temperament. I don’t like drama and I promote harmony wherever I go. I don’t lose my temper easily, with probably the exception of the past few months where my irritability has been obvious. This is a not-too-surprising symptom of Graves’ disease and of someone under extreme stress for a long time.
In your twenties and thirties, you don’t give a lot of thought to your childhood and things that went wrong in your past, unless of course, they were catastrophic. There have been two patches in my life when I’ve really thought extensively about my childhood. Firstly, on having children because you naturally consider what kind of a parent you’d like to be. You think about how you would like your children to experience their childhood. Turning forty was also a time of reflection in that I consider myself to be half way through, or thereabouts, of my life and I’m considering how the next half will look. My diagnosis has also been a catalyst at this time to consider my past and to design my future.
So, in thinking about my childhood and my past, sadly not a lot of good memories come to me. I was more neglected than anything I suppose and there was just not a lot of happiness. In my learning recently about growing as a person, I’ve done expressive writing to release the strong emotions, I’ve done visualisation exercises to let it go and I’ve written forgiveness letters to the people who have wronged me, which don’t have to be sent by the way.
I can’t help but be affected by recalling the events that have caused me sadness in my past. I’ve protected my family on more than one occasion from a physically abusive bully. I’ve protected my business from an angry hammer-wielding family member who smashed up the office. I’ve been a victim of a car hi-jacking and being held up in my home. I’ve been subject to a lot of violence and volatile behaviour of the people around me. And in all circumstances, I was the level-headed one who stepped up, even at 17 years old, when the adults failed to do so.
I’ve always thought of myself as courageous and that those events helped mould me into who I am today. I’ve been proud of myself for standing in the face of danger to protect everyone. But I didn’t consider at what cost to myself. Perhaps in my compulsion to restore order, I’ve taken the hit personally each time. Maybe all those events have something to do with my diagnosis. It’s possible that the feeling of disappointment of those who should have been protecting me, has caused me a lot of stress too.
It’s certain that my health started deteriorating after one of those violent events, at a time when I was really already exhausted from sleep deprivation that comes with having a small baby. And that was about three years ago. The decline has been steady as I have failed to protect myself from those who harm me repeatedly. I kept thinking that family is the most important thing in life and you can never turn your back on them. I kept hoping for the love and support that is supposed to come from a parent. It took a diagnosis of a life-long condition for me to wake up and realise that I really needed to protect myself above all because no-one else was going to do it.
I’m doing my best to not blame those who have caused me harm, but it isn’t easy. The path to happiness and personal growth does not include blame. It includes forgiveness, compassion and focussing on what you can do to be a better person.
When I look at my children, particularly when they’re asleep, I’m overwhelmed by the blessing of parenthood and of their innocence. The responsibility to raise them as happy independent people with solid values and humble confidence is substantial. But what a privilege at the same time. They are truly the source of great joy – why would anyone opt out or take that for granted? I know that I’m in charge of my life and I know that I’ll love, accept and support them always, without burdening them with my bad decisions.
We have all experienced sad and painful events in our past. We all have some burdens we carry with us, despite our efforts to let go. The trick is not to let them rule you. The trick is to overcome and to succeed despite your past.