As mentioned in recent postings, the past months brought me several health challenges. While chronic illness sufferers are more susceptible for catching every virus floating around, stress and anxiety further compromise the immune system making infections and complications more likely. My efforts to please others, personal beliefs that I must complete every task I start, and an expectation that quitting is a societal taboo kept me from making a life decision that in my heart I knew for many months was the right decision.
I achieved my Master’s in Social Work over 20 years ago and after working mostly in nonprofit management, I pursued my dream of becoming a school counselor in Alaska. I took classes for my Master’s in School Counseling in Alaska thinking that it would be more useful if I wanted to become a counselor outside the State.
When my husband and I moved to Texas, I continued my school counseling studies through long distance learning though my interest began waning. It was about this time last year when I began exploring coaching people with chronic illness. The more I learned, the more this vocation resonated within me. I learned the hard way how to live happily despite chronic illness and helping others is part of my DNA. I completed my final school project (like a thesis) last spring and when I defended before my committee, they told me that my plan was not satisfactory and I basically needed to reconsider my entire project. I will not get into details though I do agree that I had a project in mind before starting my schooling and instead base a project on where the research led me. My intent was to develop a training for educators on how to work with the most challenging students. I believe with the right tools, any educator can work with difficult students. My committee disagreed.
I took a break from my project over the summer but my heart was no longer in formal education. I always received A’s in graduate school papers and essay tests. I feared my chronic illness hindered my ability to write technically.
I paid tuition this fall and decided that I needed to place all of my energy on my project. I pushed my coaching efforts to the back burner. My physical pain worsened. Focusing on reading became difficult. One health problem after another arose. I became depressed and unable to do much of anything. I rarely get depressed. The more deadlines I set for myself passed with little progress on the project. What was going on with me?? How did I get so lost??
I knew the answers to these questions but feared doing anything about it. I am not a quitter and everyone was encouraging me to finish and receive my M.Ed. Finally, I had enough. Suffering through Thanksgiving weekend with yet another painful infection, I decided it was time to take back control of my head, heart, and health. I contacted my school adviser and told him that I was not going to complete the project. I feared telling my mother and husband who encouraged me but they were surprisingly understanding.
I preach to my clients how stress can cause flare-ups and further compromise the immune system. I failed to heed my own advise. Life events can change the road we are on. By keeping our hearts and minds open to possibilities that we believe are best for us – even if they are difficult – allows us to live more fully. Growing my business is not easy but I know I am now on the right path.
I grow stronger every day and am currently setting personal and professional goals for the next few weeks, months, and next year. As my favorite poet, Robert Frost, said in one of my favorite poems, The Road Not Taken,
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.“
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org