Updated: Feb 15
Three years ago, I was on a night out with friends celebrating the rare occasion of being altogether. We had had quite a few drinks, and at one point we became a very rowdy audience for a drag act as we revelled in our weekend. Partway through her show, the drag queen called for volunteers, I was drunk enough to self-elect, and I quickly found myself in a dance competition that would change my life. But I didn't win. It wasn't the kind of life-changing occasion where a talent scout spots you, whisks you off to Hollywood and gives you a million-dollar movie deal. It was the sort of life-changing event where you are a dancer who has had too much to drink, but you provide a stellar performance of a can-can, by giving high-kicks and turns, and then you jump into the box-splits, landing on both your chin and your testicles and subsequently lose the competition.
In hindsight, it's a rather amusing incident up to that point. In fact, the story became the centre point of a cabaret act that I used to do, though that is another story for another blog. Meanwhile, twenty-four hours after my collision with the floor, when the stomach pains hadn't subsided, and my body went into shock, I took myself to A&E to share my delightful experience with our beloved NHS staff. After several embarrassing scans and painful examinations, they told me that I had ruptured my testicle. I didn't know that was even possible, but there it was on the screen. Imagine if you will, squeezing a cherry tomato until it splits down the side. That's pretty much what happened.
So why am I telling you this? Well, there was a necessary surgery that saved my life and a subsequent shift in mindset that rescued me further.
I'm big on interpretations. After the incident, my brain threw a pity party; there was lots of feeling sorry for myself, quickly replaced by showers of shame. It was the perfect excuse for all my insecurities to surface because there was so much evidence to prove them correct. I told myself I was stupid and irresponsible, and that I had let so many people down. I told myself that I was a screw-up and a failure who was undeserving of anything good. I was certain that I would get fired and thought I should probably quit my job anyway because I was an embarrassment to anyone I might be associated with. My interpretations of the situation brought on the proverbial 'dark nights of the soul', and I started to sense a familiar depression on the horizon.
My saving grace was the journey I had been making into the world of life-coaching and the counter-perspectives I was able to take to shift my thinking and feelings about the situation. Coaching brings the gift of awareness. After a brief but tormenting bout of rumination, I started to re-interpret my story as a message and a call to action; 'it's time to make some changes'. I used the feelings of shame to motivate myself, and I began to choose new thoughts. I was still disgusted at myself, but I became future-focused rather than dwelling on the shame of the past, and I found movement towards doing something about the pain. A new interpretation brought new insights into what I wanted.
As a start, my relationship with alcohol changed overnight. The turnaround also shifted me from being extremely irresponsible with money (thousands of pounds worth of debt, NEVER having any savings), to being debt-free, and having the deposit for my first home.
It guided me in a search for love. Away from dysfunctional relationships, towards a healthier relationship with myself and eventually living with the partner of my dreams.
It lifted me beyond the lame excuses for not learning to drive, towards passing my test within a year and buying my first car.
It spun my work ethic around in countless ways and deepened m relationships.
At the time of the incident, I would not have described my self as an unhappy person. I used to have heaps of fun. However, since making such massive changes to my lifestyle, those former days seem miserable by comparison. I am not the same person who courageously, but foolishly, entertained a bar crowd with one too many split jumps. My courage now presents in much more useful places, though I had to drastically change my interpretation of events, of who I am, and of what I can be.
I love that in the PRIDE model, the 'I' sits at the centre because I am at the centre of my pride. No one can be proud for me, its an inside job based on how I interpret my experiences. I'm thankful now for the shake-up that the accident gave me, and whenever people tell me they have 'busted a nut' to get where they are, I smile.