As cycle 2, week 3 kicks in, we find ourselves at a Mexican standoff, this Dragon and I. The good news; results post cycle 1 showed an almost 75% decrease in Dragon strength. The not so good news; the cumulative effects of all these unimaginably strong drugs are beginning to take their toll. So much so, that I find myself increasingly reliant again on the Turbulence Playbook. Hard-fought wisdom, and a collection of tried and tested battle tools, compiled throughout the saga of the last few years.
In Peace & Bar Fights
It wasn’t a conscious intention to create a Playbook per se. It just occurred to me back when this unfortunate duel first started, that keeping a note of the things I read and tried, along with the advice other people shared, might be an interesting thing to do. Moreover, potentially useful both to myself and others in times of future scuffles.
Turns out I wasn’t wrong (which is rare by the way. I often excel, quite charmingly so, at the art of the ill-informed judgement calls), particularly on the usefulness front. As I edge myself closer to finally channelling this experience and information into a something with more of a professional polish, I’m frequently surprised at how much of it I can use to help people living in times of relative peace. Just as much as those who find themselves bar-fighting with their own Dragon.
The Big 5
I’ve wrestled a lot with whether or not to share certain parts of the Playbook. Some of it is quite personal, and most might only be relatable for people in, or at least heading towards, turbulence. And yet not too, would defeat its purpose.
One of the most important truths we should live by is that of unchartered personal context. The irrefutable fact that each and everyone one of us is impossibly different, magically individual and living out our own unique stories. So who am I, who is anyone for that matter, to say who will and won’t find some of it useful? Now, or in the future.
There’s no real hierarchy to the Playbook, however, in terms of how quickly they provide support and transformation, these Big 5 below are a pretty good place to start.
1. On Life & The Question Of “Do You Want To Live, And Why?”
Ooooohhhhh. Straight out of the blocks.
Bare with me as we roll it back a bit.
A few days after my diagnosis back in 2014, I asked a friend of mine to do some Reiki. I was really struggling emotionally and needed – as my daughter affectionally calls it – some magic hands.
Before we started, she sat down, looked me in the face and asked simply: “Christian, before we start, I need to know; do you want to live?”
Neither I nor anyone else had ever asked me such a profound question. Under normal circumstances, I would have replied instinctually to the affirmative. However given where and how I was, it shook me to a remarkable, and at moments terrifying place of reflection.
It took me a while to answer properly. Several days in fact, as I realised that to answer it with any real value required a wider understanding of why not just if, I wanted to be alive. And that’s the hidden wisdom of the question.
I knew I didn’t want to die. Death, for most, is terrifying. Unimaginable even. Yet despite its enormity, simply not wanting to die isn’t a good enough answer or reason for wanting to live. There’s deeper territory that needs to be ventured into.
In terms of the Playbook, getting this out in the open and upfront is paramount; an important prelude to much of what follows. Getting clear and connected to your deepest reasons for wanting to be alive is phenomenally empowering; healing and motivating.
2. Get Calm & Make It Your OS
I am of a pretty ardent belief, that Calm is the parent of wellness. I don’t mean superficial calm. The old count-backwards-down-from-10 with-deep-breaths-type calm. I mean deep, inner-calm. Calm as your default operating system with which to face the good fight.
The opposite of calm is stress, anxiety and at times, panic. When the body is sick, the last thing it needs is the hormones that these things release. It needs Dopamine, Oxytocin and (to a lesser degree) Serotonin. Crucial, healing wing-men to support the fight.
How do you get Calm?
This deserves and will get a dedicated post. But here’s a summary for now:
1 – Think and get clear
Get clear – brutally so – about what causes you anxiety and turbulence. We’re all different. All a bit bonkers. And a bit vulnerable. So throw off the pride, any fear of judgment and get clear on what is that unsettles you. Both in internally (thoughts, beliefs, fears etc..), and externally (money, pain, suffering, people, work, football : – )
Start on your own, and then ask trusted friends and family. They’ll likely have insights about you that won’t be able to see. Get it all down in writing. I guarantee you’ll be surprised by what comes up if you really take the time to think it deeply enough.
2 – Prioritise
Try not to start with your most intense cause of turbulence. Start with the ones you feel most frequently. If they are one and the same then ok, but try and free yourself first from the things that unsettle most often.
For me, it was unfortunately almost everything to do with hospitals. The smell, the squeaky wheel of an incoming meds trolley, the fear of pain, needles, blood etc..you name it. I was a nervous wreck. Prior to being bed-ridden for those 7 weeks, the worst I’d had was a blood test and a few spells in an MRI. There was no way I was going to get through it unless worked out how to defuse the situation and calm myself down first.
3 – Smooth them out
Once you have it down and prioritised, do whatever you need to do to smooth them as much as possible. From the superficial, like cranking up an oil diffuser to mask the hospital smell (hey, it worked, I still have it https://amzn.to/2s0ubfn) to the stuff that might need a more professional touch; counselling, hypnotherapy or even an IFA to help with money. Whatever you need and whatever it takes.
Clarity begets calm. Calm is the parent of wellness. And knowing is half the battle.
3. Gather Your Corner
Almost everything you read on the topic points towards human connection and friendship as the single most important factor in health and wellness. I think it was the John O’Donaugh that wrote: “Human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace” Never is this sentiment more vital than in times of turbulence.
So gather your corner…
..you’ll need them! 3 insights here:
- Allow as close as possible, the people in your life that make you feel most alive. Happy. Understood. People who make you laugh, and in front of whom you can openly express yourself; feelings, fears and vulnerability.
- Keep an eye out too for people that come into your life unexpectedly. There are forces in this world that are beyond our comprehension. All of us are drawn at some point in our lives, quite unexpectedly, to the light of a person or situation. So if someone shows up, let them in. Or at the very least, give them a chance. You’ll never know the message, gift or support they may have for you.
- On the flip side of this, you might find that there are friends, who for their own reasons, need to move away from your situation. Despite how close you are. And this ok. Remember the rule of uncharted personal context. For reasons that they probably are not even aware of, proximity to the suffering of a cherished friend, and the environments that go with it may be too uncomfortable. Let it be ok. Expectation is compost for disappointment and negativity. Especially expectations of our friends and loved ones. Do let it be ok. Keep in touch remotely and let them know they’re welcome in whatever capacity, whenever they feel ready.
Do whatever exercise you can, and do it as regularly as you can. If that’s a 10-minute walk twice a day, then that’s 2hrs 20 mins walking per week (ever read The Sligh Edge? If not, get it, it’s brilliant!) And if you can do more, great. But try and move.
Aside from the all the obvious physical benefits that support the fight, the emotional and psychological lift is invaluable. It’s warrior mentality and gives a sense of dominion over your antagonist.
If you’re unsure, or anxious about what you can and can’t do, loop back to no 2, and ask for help. I was confined to bed and on my back for 7 weeks. My physical health was one of my main causes of stress. Eventually, I got a physio to show me a 15-minute routine I could do twice a day. Granted, it and I looked slightly ridiculous – something akin to a large seal rustling about in a sleeping bag – but it gave me something extra to fight back with every day.
Yoga, stair walks, gardening, dog walking, swimming etc..choose something, and try and do it every day. It will be ‘The’ most important habit. Caveat – probably avoid any of this nonsense…
5. Go Pro With Your Nutrition
The emergency nutrition pivot. Ironic that we wait until we get sick yo finally get serious about what we put into our bodies. I am as guilty as the next person, but hey, better late than never. But here’s the thing – go pro.
Sure, do your homework and get smart, and make the remedial changes that probably should be there any way (less booze, zero sugar etc..). But at some point, seek out a pro, and get serious. We mindlessly pay for almost every other professional service. I can count on one hand the number of people I know who see a regular nutritionist. Crazy.
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” Damn, damn straight.
If you want food to be a part of your corner (and you 100% should) then level-up and go see a pro. You may only need 2 or 3 sessions, and if you can find one that specialises in whatever it is you’re dealing with, even better.
The Big 5 are intentionally designed to get the inner-you cleaned up and in the best possible condition and mindset for whatever you may have ahead of you. The mind-body connection is inestimably important to the healing process, as well as providing the emotional support to make the whole thing less of a drag.
Next up, digital tools for a physical fight. The apps, content, web resources and digital hacks etc.. that helped, and continue to help me through it.
Until then peace and calm
*** PS ***
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