Confessions from the Couch
I don’t have many secrets, but I do have things I don’t talk about much. One of them is that I spend the vast majority of most of my days lying on the couch.
Napping? Eating bon bons? Watching my toenails grow?
No, I spend so much time on the couch for the simple reason that a great deal of the time, I can’t sit or stand for long without passing out.
Over 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as CFIDS, or CFS/ME), which for me has been relapsing/remitting. There have been years when I have ridden bicycles, hosted dinner parties for two dozen people, attended yoga classes, and chased my toddler round and round the block.
And then there have been years like the past two, where my functionality has been more compromised to the point of being bed- and housebound. But things are looking up: two years ago, when my relapse was fresh, I couldn’t stand up to take a shower and the one-mile drive to my doctor’s office left me in such a heart-pounding state of almost-collapse that I would have to lie in the backseat of my car for a while before I had the energy to walk the 100 feet from my Toyota to his door.
These days, I am back to my yoga practice. I can walk from my house to the park. This past weekend, I sat up and had lunch with friends for five hours straight, and had enough energy afterward to go shopping. I have also been lucky–I have not suffered cognitive dysfunction or impairment, even at my lowest times. Still, even with my health on an upswing, I remain careful; I pace myself. The day after that lunch, I spent most of my time on the couch.
I don’t talk about any of this much because I’ve told myself it isn’t relevant to my coaching practice; that clients don’t need or even want to know that I am coaching them while lying down. I have told myself it’s poor marketing strategy to seem anything less than vibrant and active and glowing. I have told myself that it isn’t sexy, isn’t attractive, isn’t interesting, isn’t cool. I have sold myself, I think, a pack of lies.
So why am I talking about it now? Because of all the core values that drive me and provide the most meaning in my life—self-care, being of service, connection to others—authenticity trumps them all. When I am inauthentic, I am, if not a fraud, at least less than my whole self. My disability does not define me. But it is, in the present moment, part of who I am, and I would be a very different person without it.
In point of fact, I think it’s possible that had I never lost a job, ended a marriage, suffered a serious illness, lost my ability—however temporarily—to stand on my own two feet and claim my place in the world—I might actually be a less effective coach. Do coaches have to suffer in order to help others? Not sure. But I know my challenges have helped me grow emotional muscles and tools for coping that I might never otherwise have gained. When I talk about not letting your story, your pain, keep you stuck, I really do know exactly what I’m talking about.
What are you keeping out of the conversation? What parts of you are you keeping partially or even totally hidden? What might it be like for you—your whole, authentic, unapologetic self—to step out into the sun?