Now that I’ve been blogging for over two years, I thought it was about time for me to share in more detail why I started this blog. So, here’s the backstory of how I came to be passionate about encouraging others to Be Unstoppable. It all started with…
The Life-Changing Event
On July 10, 1992, my world drastically changed. I was twenty-eight years old, married, and working full-time for a high-tech engineering and manufacturing company in Montana, when I got sick. One day I was fine, and the next I found myself in the emergency room. It came on so suddenly that I thought something serious was wrong with me.
Despite the fact that I couldn’t think clearly and was experiencing dizziness and extreme fatigue, the ER doctor could find nothing wrong. Since my problem didn’t appear to be life-threatening, he suggested I make an appointment with my regular physician. I did, but the only thing he could find was that my blood tested positive for the mononucleosis virus.
I assumed that after a couple of weeks I would recover, go back to work, and get on with my life. But it didn’t work out that way. I didn’t recover in a few weeks, or even a few months. I had no idea at the time that I would spend the next twenty-five years of my life trying to regain my health.
The first year I was barely able to get out of bed. It was pure torture for me not to be able to do all the things I wanted to do. I would try, and then end up utterly discouraged when the slightest exertion forced me back under the covers. The dizziness robbed me of the ability to read, so all I could do was lie there, alone with my thoughts.
Since we lived out in the country and my husband was rarely home, the isolation took its toll on me. With a Great Dane and Irish Wolfhound as my only companions, it was very difficult not to give in to despair. On several occasions, I truly thought I was going to die. More than once, I even hoped for it.
Over time, though, I slowly began to feel better. Three years later, I was still very limited in what I could do, but I learned that if I took it easy I could live an almost normal life. Feeling optimistic about my future for the first time in a long time, we moved to Oregon and welcomed our first daughter into the world. Five years later, when we adopted our second daughter, I was feeling better than I had in a very long time.
The Second & Third Challenges
Thoroughly enjoying motherhood, I home-schooled our girls and worked on my writing career while my husband acted as the main bread winner. After more than a decade, I was finally able to do some of the physical things that I used to love so much. I was gardening, hiking, biking and weight lifting and loving every minute of it!
It was then, when life had only recently become a fulfilling pleasure again, that I suffered another major setback. Due to someone else’s negligence and my cranium being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I received a blow to the head that resulted in a concussion. I cannot begin to describe how utterly depressing it was for me to find myself back in bed with not only fatigue, but also a piercing headache.
A friend told me about a treatment for head injuries called cranio-sacral therapy, which I found extremely effective. However, it was not a quick fix. It took five years of working with a therapist before I was fully recovered. Then, just when I was finally starting to feel almost normal again, I was diagnosed with melanoma.
Before you start feeling overly sorry for me, I want to make it clear that I did not have to endure any horrible cancer treatments. I was supremely lucky in that way. Since it hadn’t spread at all, two surgeries were all that was needed and I recovered quickly and easily!
The Fourth Challenge
One year later, my husband lost his job, requiring me to re-enter the workforce full-time. My new career involved sitting in a cubicle all day and I assumed that this would be no big deal. After all, I had worked at full-time sitting jobs before. However, I didn’t have much padding back there, and neither did the chair.
Perhaps mine was a case of the wrong butt in the wrong chair at the really wrong time. Regardless, within two weeks of starting my new job, sitting became a painful endeavor. I was embarrassed about the idea of telling my boss, so I kept my mouth shut and tried a variety of cushions. Nothing helped.
When it became too excruciating to remain silent, I stopped trying to hide my problem. Instead of sitting in my cubicle in anguish, I alternated kneeling and standing. This was well before vertical computer workstations had become fashionable, so I felt extremely self-conscious being the only person standing up in the 32-pen cubicle farm.
I was like a lone meerkat, poking up out of its hole. Some of my co-workers would pop up out of their holes now and then, just to tease me. It was good-natured teasing, to be sure, but it forced me to swallow my pride. The only way I could make peace with it, was to stop worrying about other people’s reactions to my very unconventional work postures.
I desperately wanted to be able to sit in a chair like a normal person, but my mysterious condition defied treatment. I saw countless doctors and alternative health care practitioners, and tried every reasonable and even unreasonable intervention. Still, nothing relieved the pain.
The Only Remaining Option
Eventually, the kneeling took its toll on my knees. Then, all that prolonged standing created circulation problems. Unable to sit, kneel or stand without being utterly miserable, I had only one option left – lying down.
It was then that I made arrangements with my employer to work from home. This allowed me to lie on my side on my living room sofa with my computer propped at an angle on the ottoman. In a seemingly impossible situation, this was the best solution I could conceive. In order for it to succeed, though, I had to learn to type one-handed and to operate the mouse with either hand.
That was over a decade ago, and I have been using a computer this way ever since. I’m still in constant pain, even in this position, but not to the degree that I would be sitting in a chair. Although I was eventually given my own office complete with a sofa, the fifth challenge followed a few years later.
The Fifth Challenge
As the business grew, so did the job stress. My days were filled with juggling multiple responsibilities in an environment that was not conducive to well-being. Despite my best efforts, the symptoms of stress eventually became too severe to ignore.
Since there was nothing I could do to alter my environment, I reached a point where my only option was to walk away from an eleven year career in order to save my life. You can read more about what led up to that decision in my blog post Prolonged Stress Really Can Kill You. For me, it took getting to the point where my life was on the line before I learned to value myself enough to save myself.
However, resigning from my day job was not the end of that challenge. It was only the beginning. What followed was a long period of convalescence that was nowhere near as fun as if I had resigned in good health.
Not only that, but with the loss of my income, the challenge became about more than simply giving myself the space to heal. No longer able to place my security in a paycheck, I am learning to trust God on a deeper level to lead me forward as I rebuild my life.
It’s a little scary, but it’s also exciting! One of the things that gives me courage is the knowledge that being forced to resign was really a blessing in disguise. After all, now that I am no longer working to build someone else’s dream, I can devote my full attention to building my own dream.
Learning to Be Unstoppable
I share more about being sitting-disabled in my blog post How I Learned to be Unstoppable, but the truth is that my learning to be unstoppable started long before that. It started when I first got sick 24 years ago and has continued through every trial I have faced since then.
From the concussion to the constant pain that has plagued me for over a decade. From my first divorce after an abusive 22-year marriage to another bout of debilitating fatigue and then a second marriage and divorce. And… don’t even get me started on the parenting challenges that were so off the charts difficult even seasoned professionals were shaking their heads in disbelief and coming up empty-handed!
To be honest, I really don’t understand why chronic illness, constant pain, destructive relationships and seemingly impossible situations have tested and tried me for much of my life. Yet, the truth is, they have. The irony, though, is that instead of those things destroying me, they are teaching me to be unstoppable.
Each of those trials took me on journeys I would never have gone on otherwise. There is no way I would have signed up for a single one of them. Yet, it was through all those things that I thought would destroy me, that I was actually healed in some amazing ways.
Rarely was I healed in the way I wanted to be healed, but in many cases I experienced a deeper healing than the quick fix I was searching for. As a result, I have I come to view the trials that life brings not as curses meant for my destruction, but as stepping stones to deeper wellness. Now, I embrace everything that enters my life as being absolutely essential to making me unstoppable. It’s either that, or have a depressing pity party – and I think we all know how fun and productive those are (or aren’t).
I know I’m not the only one on this planet whose life presents challenges. We all need encouragement to keep moving onward and upward. Not only that, but it is so easy to simply settle for survival instead of daring to dream and living the grand adventure that life is meant to be.
I started this blog because I knew that writing about the challenges inherent in life would help me process them, learn from them, and rise above them. I don’t want to give up on my dreams, or even on life itself. And I don’t want anyone else to, either.
My hope is that the Be Unstoppable community will be a safe place where we can be authentic with each other, and encourage each other to never, never, never give up on our dreams!