Putting it all into perspective -- on inner resilience
My mind was busy, frazzled, full of anxious thoughts of “I'll never be able to do all that”, “he hates me”, “I've messed up my life”, “how am I ever going to finish all of my work?”…and the list goes on. The location was beautiful, I was a passenger in a car travelling over the colourful North Yorkshire moors. It was wild with so many purple and green colours invading my field of vision. It's one of my favourite places ever, but even this scene didn't make me happy.
The radio signal can be very patchy here but we could hear most of the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2. Today, I heard a new word – “sepsis”. My guess of what it could be indeed wasn't far from the truth. It sounded like a vile disease someone might get in the Victorian age.
So what is sepsis?
It’s a life threatening condition that arises when the body's response to infection injures its own tissues and organs – the biggest killer you may not know, claiming 44,000 lives a year in Britain. The cost of dealing with 44,000 cases a year is costing the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds. In the case of Tom Ray interviewed on Radio 2, treatment costs were estimated at over £2 million.
About Tom Ray
Today, Jeremy Vine interviewed Tom Ray who was left disfigured and without arms and legs after a battle with sepsis. Within seconds of hearing his story, I was totally moved by what he'd been through and his humility and bravery began to move over the radio waves deep into my heart. To put Tom’s plight into context, he:
Has no arms or legs
Lost most of his face
Was gripped by depression
Was blanked by his two-year old daughter for months because of his disfigurement
Lost his home and career
Lost his short-term memory
As Tom spoke calmly, silence prevailed in the car. I stopped playing around with my phone as I often do, and I could feel tears welling in my eyes. I took a deep breath and caught a glimpse of my fiancé, who also looked deeply moved. Tom had to go out straight to work as soon as he left hospital and has been working in a call centre ever since without a single pay rise in the last 14 years.
Tom’s attitude in the interview is reflected in his blog on resilience. I think these words are just gorgeous:
“We all have pressing challenges. You, reading this, will have one or two issues causing you great concern. I know you will. But remember, there's always more than one way of looking at every situation, and by drawing on your inner resilience, you can manage anything.”
“I know I can, and although I am lacking in some departments right now, that makes me feel strong.”
And let’s not forget that we also need outside support to build resilience, a support network of those who stand by us, no matter what. In Tom’s own words, he “wouldn’t have tried to carry on living if he’d been on his own”. His wife, Nicola, gave up her whole life to care for him.
If I was Tom, I would have been tempted to just end everything, end life. What would be the point of going on? But he didn't. His world literally fell apart and eventually, amidst all of the pain and turmoil, he carried on with life and has been working tirelessly and bravely to raise awareness and save others from the disease.
“I am a very lucky man. I’m married to the most beautiful woman in the world, we have two lovely children, and I now have this important role as a public speaker about sepsis and can also inspire people who have gone through other kinds of setbacks to see the value of what they have left, and to build allies and good things around them.”
When my anxiety floors me, I often think about Tom –- and others I know who have built tremendous resilience to overcome great adversity. It reminds me that, however bad life can get, it can always get a hell of a lot worse. I know there's many times when self-coping strategies or mantras simply don't conquer the dark cloud, and that's totally fine. But, please, don't ever lose hope.