When all hell breaks loose, how do you stay anchored?

During storms, during conflict, during stress, how do you remain centred, stay calm with a strong sense of security, and retain your sanity and the substance of who you are?

Wondering how you can build (or perhaps rebuild) values-based resilience and wellbeing?

Looking for a listening ear and need competent confidential counselling?
Need a life coach to walk with you through transition and change?
Need someone anchored to reality during uncertain times? Continue reading

TSOTLS -Ch2: We are what we do.

Welcome to week 2 of this blog series.  For those who missed week 1 you can check out If the map is wrong and if you’d like to know the context that led to doing this series you can read Mid-Career Confidence Crash.

“We are not what we think, or what we say, or how we feel. We are what we do.” Livingston states this simple profound and pertinent truth.

He does so after drawing out the reality of his psychiatric experience where people would come to him seeking medication as a quick fix for their mood, mental health or mere boredom with life. They primarily wanted to minimise the pain, downplay the depression and despair, or desperation for the capacity to better manage their own emotions & thoughts as they battle unsatisfying daily routines.

His message: “The good news is that we have effective treatments for the symptoms of depression; the bad news is that medication will not make you happy. Happiness is not simply the absence of despair. It is an affirmative state in which our lives have both meaning and pleasure.”

Continue reading

D is for…deconstructing a deck

Last summer I went about demolishing a deck that runs the length of my pool. The problem with the old deck is it was in two sections of unequal height, and one section was crumbling away and beginning to rot at the foundations. It was functional but only just.  My boys and I had great delight in smashing it up, ripping it to pieces.  In its place now sits one continuous deck running the full length of the pool. Now it’s more than functional, its aesthetically pleasing too.

I remember at the time as I deconstructed the deteriorating deck that it was ironically symbolic. Deconstructing the two separate sections, clearing away the old 90mm painted pine, replacing the foundations on one side and raising the height level of the other before bridging the gap between the two former parts was like a metaphor of a season in life I went through. The deck now holds glistening merbau gracing the length of the pool.

It was about 18 months after dad had been diagnosed with cancer and the 6 weekly oncologist visits were in full swing. I was navigating the newness of separation and the transition of going from being a full-time hands-on dad to having my parental involvement subject to the whim and emotional pendulum swings of someone I once loved.

There was a 3 week window where things were black, and my memory of that time now largely blank. I’d been informed that I’d lost my job, something I now describe as being involuntarily terminated. Despite reassurances that my marriage separation would not impact my employment the reality was quite different.  The manner in which I learnt about the news was terrible.

I’d taken a couple of staff to Sydney for our national vision casting conference.  As the day progressed an announcement was made that not only made colleagues to spin heads around, but caused me to go “Did I really just hear what I thought I just heard?”

“We know that there are going to be changes in Victoria next year and Brendon won’t be continuing.” Say what?!?! This was the first I’d heard about it, no formal discussions, certainly no warnings or being alerted to being performance managed. I found out just like everyone else.  The shock was palpable, the unfolding implications for me took many years to come to terms with.

As we walked down the steep path towards lunch I’d confronted my former boss that he not only had no moral or ethical basis for such a decision, but worse he had no legal rights either. His response was evasive “you know why”. One of the witnesses who heard him say “It’s because of your marriage breakdown”, later told me he couldn’t believe I hadn’t decked him – something he felt like doing on my behalf.  Some five years later I spoke with an HR specialist who confirmed that my employer of the time had violated 3 federal employment acts. At the time however, simply surviving was all I could manage.

There have been many moments since when I wished I’d been stronger emotionally and psychologically and pursued legal action. The reality was I became a basket case. I burnout, completely. In the space of just 12 months dad was diagnosed with his brain tumour, I’d lost my marriage, my kids, my car, my house and now my job. I was financially screwed. My life was a mess…I was a mess.  That 3 week window of time I couldn’t even function.  I’d melted down. I remember during this time that the only prayer I could pray was “Please don’t let anything happen to my boys”.  I fear had that happened I would not be here today.

It’s hard to describe just how bad that window was. It really is a blur in my memory. I now recognise the significance of the trauma I experienced.

Destroying the old deck was a symbolic reminder of that time in my life…the old has gone. Rebuilding the new gap and bridging the gap between what was and what now is required reconstructive work on the deck. As it has in my life…perhaps in yours also?

This week is brought to you by the letter D….

D is for…Doctor: I’ve just walked out of a conference looking at the issues of resilience and healthy longevity.  More specifically, in terms of dealing with stress and looking at the impact on biological functioning and its subsequent impact on emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Our presenters, Dr Allan and Helen Meyer, shared openly about some of their own struggles and gave glimpses of personal and leadership challenges and the subsequent insights they’ve learnt and have shaped much of their work with Lifekeys and other resources they produce.

The guts of what Allan shared was based around the following points.

  • 4 major impactors on the Limbic system (with emphasis on the impact due to work related dynamics):
  1. Stress
  2. Fear / bullying
  3. Feelings of inadequacy
  4. Not wanting to disappoint
  • Effects of chronic stress:
  1. Depleted endorphins (physical pain)
  2. Depleted Serotonin (depression)
  3. Depleted Immune  (illness)
  4. Depleted  adrenaline (fatigue)
  5. Dysregulated dopamine (anhedonia)
  6. Depleted benzos (anxiety)

As our table discussed the impact of some of these realities and how we managed our own wellbeing, an older wise man shared the following quote from Henri Nouwen:

Anger is the emotional response to the experience of being deprived.

This resonated as I’m aware of feeling deprived across many important arenas of my life at present. This sparked for me several thoughts. The scariest of these was recognising that as I went through the above lists I could go tick for nearly all of them and see how over recent months my own capacity was being diminished across most of these bodily functions, both in part to cumulative work/life balance pressures, but largely due to triggers related to shared parenting issues that I’d not had to deal with for some 7 years.

Over the next few blogs I’ll unpack some of these thoughts and my experiences around…

  • D is for…diagnosis.
  • D is for…disappointment.
  • D is for…depression.
  • D is for…dirty grief.

For now, I’ll finish with…

D is for…disclaimer: I’ve been grappling over recent weeks how much I self-disclose through this medium.  I’m consistently told I have much to offer, partly because of what I’ve been through, and partly the subsequent insights this has given me.  Not that I think my experience and insights are especially unique per se, but I do recognise that I may be able to give voice on some topics that may assist others.

Part of my grapple is recognising that my professional, parenting and personal worlds overlap and I’m mindful that whilst I need to be able to give voice to my own experiences, I also need to do so in a way that respects various relationships, most importantly that with my two sons.  I will seek to hold these in tension ensuring I don’t disclose anything that may create difficulties for them or that I may feel concerned about them reading.