I am in the business of helping people find the joy in life and have been doing this for 33 years. Over the years, I have helped many people and saved many families from pain and heartache. I am very happy and proud to be a life coach and view my clients’ successes as also mine.
My greatest victory happened recently, when my mother, who is 78 years old, came to Australia to stay with us for five weeks. She came here to heal. My mom was unwell most of her life. Since I remember her, she was overweight, had swollen legs and could not stand on her feet for long. In the last 13 years, things got so bad that one of her therapists said that the only place she was going was the cemetery.
I would like to share this experience with you for a couple of reasons. First, you may be facing the challenge of a family member who is sick or even going through sickness yourself.
Some sicknesses require time. We have a joke in our family that when you have a flu and take medication for it, it goes away in two weeks, and if you don’t, it goes away in 14 days. I’m not talking about this type of sickness.
I’m talking about the long-term sickness that makes you feel your body is betraying you, and even can make you question your quality of life and consider death as the only relief. My mom was there. Her quality of life was so poor that when we talked to her about the future, she could not see two weeks ahead.
When we talked about planning, she would say, “God willing”, but didn’t want to plan anything, because she was in so much pain that she didn’t want to leave her small hometown, where she could be close to her doctor. The world is full of hospitals and specialists, but she was convinced that if she stepped away from her little spot, something bad would happen to her.
The other reason I want to share this story with you is that it has a happy ending. I hope it will give you and your family members hope that the way forward may not lead to the cemetery. My mom left after five weeks a healthy, happy person and everyone around, including her, was convinced it was a miracle.
Actually, it wasn’t! It was all planned.
I coached her and I coached my dad. I used every trick under my sleeves and I want to share with you what worked and what didn’t, so that you can use them on yourself or on a family member who needs your help. It happened six month ago and I debated for a long time if it was OK to share such personal things. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that if it helps one person reverse the direction away from cemetery then it is worth it. I hope this series will give you hope that what seems impossible is just an idea in the mind.
A year ago, we started talking with my parents about coming to visit us in Australia. In the last 24 years, we lived in many different places around the world and my parents came to all of them. The last time they came to be with us was in 2004, shortly before my nephew, who was 21 years old, died in a motorcycle accident. My mom did not manage the loss emotionally and her health, which was not good anyway, deteriorated further. She was depressed, she was sick, she complained all the time, she did nothing with herself, and she avoided seeing people, including her children and grandchildren. Everyone agreed that it all started with My nephew’s death.
The story of our lives
As a life coach, I can tell you that we all have a story. Malcom Gladwell said that we are all storytellers. I say that we tend to believe our stories and the quality of our life depends on the quality of our storytelling. If we tell ourselves that our life sucks, we will fulfil that story and make it come true. If we tell ourselves that we are sick due to an event that cannot be changed, we will become sick.
Storytelling is something you learn from your parents and my mother sucks at it. She has always been, and still is, a very frightened person. To face her fears, she believes in spirits and demons and angels and even God for her is a scary version of power and anger.
I don’t have any problem with believing in spirits, demons, angels and God. For me, they are just another story, and stories do not have to be true to serve us. However, her beliefs about those creatures are only bad. They are always punishing, always angry, always cruel and if you ask me, they are also insecure, because you always need to please them, and they are never, ever satisfied.
We always went along with her beliefs, even though most of them were about bad things that would happen to us. The ratio of bad to good was about 1,000:1. Only when I left home, I slowly got rid of the bad ones and cherished the good ones to share with my kids (like “If one of your eyelashes falls, when you blow it away and make a wish, your wish will come true”).
My mom’s mind was polluted with fear. She was convinced that giving money to charity would save her and her family from harm and when bad things happened, she thought it was because she didn’t give enough. If something good happened, she always said that it had something to do with her prayers or offerings to charity. My mom never told herself the story that she can directly divert her life, so she is at the mercy of God and the spirits and always needs to bribe them.
Again, I have no problem with giving money to charity. I think it is kind and a great reminder of how fortunate we are. My own family also give money to charity and I give plenty of my time to community work. But my mother does not give for the sake of giving. She gives out of fear. The story she told herself was that if she doesn’t give (enough), something horrible will happen.
The stories of our life tend to come true, and so did hers.
Years before my nephew’s accident, she told me she dreamed that some elders came to her in her dreams and told her that she and her family were protected for 7 generations. The loss of my nephew was very hard for everyone, but for my mom, the 2 stories she told herself clashed. She found our she was not protected, and if she was afraid before the accident, she was terrified afterwards.
Her health started to deteriorate rapidly. She was sick all the time and in constant pain. When someone talked to her on the phone, she immediately started telling stories of pain and sickness. Some of my siblings prayed for my dad to answer the phone or skype when they rang, because talking to my mom drained their energy.
She went from one doctor to another and spent all her days on several medications. Seeing doctors was her hobby and she did nothing else but watch TV (“reality” shows, because they were easier) while lying down, because she was always tired and in pain. She even stopped cooking, because she could not stand on her constantly-swollen feet. If you asked her about her week, she told about going from one doctor to another doctor and taking her medication.
A couple of years ago, God knows how, she convinced the doctors to take out a tiny tumor off her breast that had been there, at the same size, without any change, for 3 years. As soon as the tumor came out, things got even worse. She was even sicker after the removal and radiation and complications made her spend even more time in hospitals and see more doctors. If before, she took only 70 different pills (not supplements), then after, that number doubled.
We, her children, struggled with her attitude towards her health and life in general. My older sister is a walking health encyclopedia. My brother had a heart attack after his son’s death. I, the middle child, am very health-conscious and my children are extremely healthy. My younger sister is health-conscious, and my youngest sister is mainly mind-conscious, and we live in three different continents. We did not like the thought of losing our mom, but we knew that this was where she was headed.
We had many conversations about her. Some of us were angry with her. Some thought we needed to force her to do things. Some said she would never change. I remember that at one stage, I convinced myself that if she wanted to die, this was her wish and we needed to accept it.
The “old age” story has to go
My mother was in constant pain for about 14 years and no matter what the doctors prescribed, she was still in pain.
After hearing the same thing for 14 years, I started wondering if the pain was real or just a mental challenge due to age. I did some research about old people. Coincidentally, many of my friends started sharing stories of their own parents losing it in their old age, so the “old age” story seemed logical.
This made me think about my own stories of old people, dementia, weakness, loss of memory, confusion, depression with lots of wrinkles, but it just didn’t stick. As you see in my mom’s photo at the top of this post, she is 78 and looks great. My dad is 84 and looks even better, besides being very healthy in body and mind. So, I had to let go of the “old age” story.
Everything we think is a story we tell ourselves. A story is good if it empowers you and bad if it disempowers you. I had to let go of the “old age” story because it was devastating. It made me feel helpless and sad. Holding on to the “old age” story meant I could do nothing to reverse time. Rejecting this story instead gave me power.
Next week, I will share how my siblings and I made choices to free my mom from the vicious cycle she was trapped in. Until next time, examine your stories and get rid of those that are not healthy for you.
This post is part of the series From Sickness to Health:
- From Sickness to Health: The Story of Our Life
- From Sickness to Health: Working Together on a Shared Goal
- From Sickness to Health: Doctors are Not Gods