When you think about it, my life has been pretty crappy! To begin with, I suffered through my childhood with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. I don’t remember when I had my first panic attack, but by the time I started school, they were a regular occurrence, making my school years a living nightmare. My teen and early adult years were not so bad. I got the anxiety under control and I met and married my high school sweetheart. However that ended in a painful divorce. It took me years to recover from that. During the latter part of my marriage, the anxiety returned and I suffered a full blown nervous breakdown. My anxiety and panic attacks were so intense that I could not go to work; I could not do simple chores, like banking or even get my hair styled. I couldn’t even take care of my own kids. What kind of a Psychologist has a nervous breakdown, anyway? That doesn’t say much for my skills as a counsellor, don’t you agree?
Following my divorce, I had not one, not two, but three….count them, THREE failed relationships, each one lasting four years. I must be a sucker for punishment! Can you just imagine how much heartache and suffering I have endured, just from breakups alone? Jeeze, I must have endured 10 break ups and make ups in just one of those relationships. Do you have any idea how many tears I have cried over men? Sure, I am now in a relationship with a wonderful guy, but knowing my luck, that will probably end in disaster as well.
Then, when I was 41, I got dealt one of the hardest blows of my life. My youngest son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. It is not easy being a single parent to a child with autism. Every day, there are challenges. Just a few days ago, for example, we went to a store for him to buy a DVD. The one he wanted was not there, which resulted in a complete meltdown. For what felt like an hour, he screamed cried, jumped up and down and was completely inconsolable. I felt so embarrassed as everyone in the store pointed and stared at us. By the time I dragged him to the car, I was in tears myself. That is just one of the challenges. Trust me, there are plenty more.
Life certainly didn’t improve during my forties…….a single mom of three kids, the youngest with autism, with a string of failed relationships. Just when I was at the point of thinking “What else could possibly go wrong with my life?” BAM….I get diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 44. It has been five years of suffering; surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and constant fear of it coming back. Cancer has scarred my body and it has scarred my soul. I will never again be the person I was before my diagnosis. Yes, folks, life has been crappy for me, that is for sure.
When you think about it, my life has been pretty happy! Sure, I had a rough start in life, with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. However, I give credit to that experience for my decision to become a Psychologist. I am now 26 years into my career and I can honestly say I have not had a single regret about my career choice. Not many people can say that! I can thank my childhood anxiety disorder for helping to make me the woman I am today. By the time I was a teen, the anxiety seemed to be under control and I really rocked the 80’s. I had great friends and a wonderful boyfriend who later became my husband. Sadly, that ended in divorce, but from it, I got two wonderful children, Kailtyn and Donovan. While divorce is painful, I learned a lot about myself from that experience.
My anxiety returned when I was in my thirties, and eventually resulted in a nervous breakdown. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, but I can honestly say, it has made me a better Psychologist. When I am counseling clients with anxiety, I am not just talking the talk. I have walked the walk. I know what a panic attack feels like, and what it is to battle an anxiety disorder. I also know that the techniques that I teach my clients really work. After being nearly 10 years panic attack free, without medication, I am living proof of the success of these techniques. I have had great success with treating anxiety, and as I write this, my services are in such high demand that I have a wait list of clients.
When I look back over my love life, no doubt about it, it was a rocky road. But I can honestly say that something good came from each of my failed relationships. I hold no grudges and I have no regrets. As the old saying goes, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Each of these relationships taught me something about myself and what I am truly deserving of in a relationship. And now, I have hit the jackpot! Steve Robertson is the most kind, caring, loving, affectionate and attentive man that I have ever met. (And I am NEVER letting him get away!)
I won’t lie to you, it is not easy raising a child with autism. There are so many challenges. For example, I am always on alert for him to have a meltdown in a public place, like he recently did when he could not find the DVD he wanted. However, because of that incident, I came up with a genius way to prevent further mishaps like that. When we left the store that day, Ben could not be consoled. He wanted to go to another store to look for the DVD. I didn’t know what to do. If the DVD was there, it would be the end of the upset. But if it wasn’t, it would probably result in an even more severe meltdown. That’s when I got my idea. I sent my daughter, Kailtyn in to the store to take pictures of the DVD displays, while we waited in the car. Sure, Ben got upset when he looked at the pictures and realized the one he wanted was not there. But we were in the car, so it wasn’t so bad. He eventually calmed down and choose another DVD from the pictures. Soon he was smiling, laughing, and even singing a little song that made me smile, “Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory…..” Since Ben has so many communication challenges, hearing him sing is literally music to my ears. As the saying goes, “All is well that ends well.” Sure, there are challenges to being Ben’s mom, but I can assure you, the joys of being his mom far outweigh the challenges!
At 44 years old, I was shocked to discover that I had breast cancer. I thought that my life was ending. In retrospect, I can see that my life was only just beginning. Not only did I face the challenge of battling the disease, but I did so with finesse, if I do say so myself. Finding “The Perks of Having Cancer” has changed my life. Five years ago, I would never have imagined myself as an award winning blogger, a best-selling author, and a sought after motivational speaker (I especially would not have believed the public speaking part!!!). But here I am at 49, feeling more confident and accomplished than I ever dreamed possible. Cancer has scarred my body and it has scarred my soul. But like a phoenix who rises from its ashes, a new Flo has arisen from cancer. I will never again be the person I was before my diagnosis! I now realize that I am capable of accomplishing anything that I set my mind to. I also know my own worth for the first time. Yes, folks, life has been happy for me, that is for sure.
The truth is, we all have the crappy and we all have the happy. It is where you choose to focus your attention that determines whether you live a crappy life, or you live a happy life. I believe that I am a happy person because I choose to focus on the good things in my life, and the life lessons that I have learned from the trials and tribulations. Attitude is a choice. Will you choose to focus on the crappy or the happy? It’s completely up to you.