Happy New Year and welcome to 2012!! I’m excited to begin the next chapter of life, and I’m planning for (not wishing or hoping for) my best year ever. How about you?
I have to admit, 2011 didn’t end as I had thought it would. This was my family’s first holiday season in Dallas. Given that this is still a transition time for us (we’re recent transplants,) I wasn’t expecting that it would feel like the last three decades of Christmases, surrounded by family and more friends than I can count! Oh, this Christmas….this one was different for sure, but not in the way I had expected.
On the Friday before Christmas, I awoke with the worst headache (my first red flag, since I don’t tend to get headaches!) Over-the-counter pain relievers and sinus/allergy medicines didn’t provide any relief as they normally would have, and the headache worsened as the day went on.
By evening, the pain had gone into my neck and back, in addition to encircling my head. My lovely date night with my husband included a wonderful dinner and tickets to Les Miserables (our favorite musical.) I only made it to the Intermission, when I apologetically looked at my husband and said, “I can’t take the pain anymore.”
We went straight to the Emergency Room.
After a CAT scan, blood work and two spinal taps (the first one didn’t garner any fluid) they admitted me into the hospital to spend Christmas weekend with a diagnosis of viral meningitis.
I allowed myself to mourn and be sad for only a few hours, and then I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and considered what I should be grateful for and what I can learn from this situation. It’s amazing how we can find leadership lessons just about anywhere, if we only look….
Listen to your body. Hear what it needs and take care of it. You can never be your best – even with all the talent and passion in the world – if you can’t physically do it. Your health is vital to your success!
I had no idea what was wrong with me…but I know my body. I knew my morning headache was unusual and as the symptoms increased, my gut kept nudging me to get help. I’m so glad I listened!
By the way, your body sends you more subtle messages too. It doesn’t just speak to you in emergencies. Do you listen when your body says it’s tired, hungry, in need of movement, relaxation, creative stimulation, or even a good cry? Your body tells you all these things and more. If you want to bring your best to the New Year, you must be in tune with your body. Listen to what it says and respond accordingly.
Advocate for yourself. Communicate clearly your desired outcome and any obstacles you need help removing. Nobody can help you get there, if they don’t know where “there” is or what’s getting in your way.
After arriving in the ER, they quickly did a CAT scan of my head and told me it showed that I had sinusitis. I have allergies, and I often suffer from sinus-related issues as a result. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I knew without a doubt this was more than a sinus issue. I clearly and confidently communicated that although my sinuses might be inflamed, this was not what I was feeling. I detailed my symptoms again and asked for additional tests. This little “push” got further action and results.
Do the “right” people know what you want in your future? Are you asking for help from people who actually have the power and authority to help you? Never just assume that people know what you want. Be sure you’re communicating your goals, your confidence and your intention, so others can help!
Don’t let fear make decisions for you. My advocating got me additional testing in the form of a spinal tap. I was afraid to allow them to puncture my spine, but that’s exactly where I found my answers.
I could have said no. Frankly, I wanted to say no after they explained it to me. I had gotten epidurals before with the birth of both my children. Both times they hit nerves, and I knew they’d be going even deeper with a spinal tap. I was already in so much pain…did I need to go through more?!?! I did, and logically, I knew it.
You will never make a clear decision when you allow fear to drive you. Fear is powerful, and often not in good ways. It impairs your judgment, squelches healthy risk and holds creativity prisoner. It can be a bad four-letter word and should not be empowered to drive your actions. Don’t give into it when it’s not necessary!
Social media is powerful! Once I got settled into my room, my sweet husband brought me some personal items, including my iPad. He quickly took my picture and said, go ahead and post it on Facebook. He knew it was the quickest way to send a consistent message to many people at once, and he knew those same people would encourage me and give me strength to deal with this crisis.
My darling husband knows me well enough to realize how much I value community and connectedness. This Christmas was going to be hard, just being away from the home I have known for the last 30+ years, but to be isolated in the hospital on top of that…well, that just wouldn’t do! He gave me the exact tool I needed to fuel my well-being; instant connection with people who love me.
This, by the way, turned out to be my best Christmas present!! I was able to keep everyone updated on my prognosis and recovery, but equally as important, I received more loving and encouraging wishes through Facebook than I could have ever imagined!! People were coming out of the woodwork to pray for me, make me smile and coach me through the process of healing. I am convinced I would have remained in the hospital longer without this chicken soup for my soul.
Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or some new-fangled site I don’t yet know about, think about how you could use it to more effectively communicate, demonstrate leadership or rally the energy of many toward a common purpose. I’m telling you, bringing people together has power, and social media brings people together!
A grateful attitude lifts your spirits and inspires others. While I was being nurtured back to health by many supporters, I did my best to remain positive and show them and everyone helping me how sincerely grateful I was. As it turns out, people felt inspired by this. They felt as though I was somehow being courageous and optimistic, and it even caused some people to take action on things in their own lives!! Wow, I love how attitudes can be contagious (better than the virus, right?!)
Good or bad, I have found that the people around you not only react to your attitude, but it affects them too! What kind of effect do you want to have on the people around you? Do you want to infect them with the germs of negativity, or do you want to lead people to a better place? Either way, you’re “catchy,” so be mindful!
Today, I am home recuperating with just mild headaches and stiffness, along with some “normal” (for me) sinus congestion and fatigue. Each day I feel better and better, and each day I have reflected on the blessings that came out of this chaos.
I am amazed by and ever-so-grateful for the wonderful (and cheerful) care provided by every single professional at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. I am blessed beyond measure to have a supportive and loving family (my children opened Christmas presents on my hospital bed instead of immediately under the tree, my husband was a thoughtful and outstanding care-taker, and my mother made sure I didn’t need to lift a finger for the four days she was here.)
My spirit is renewed by the power of love and community, as well as the connectedness and communication brought by social media. My belief in leadership is stronger than ever. And this New Year has begun…bringing us all a fresh start, a clean slate, a new chapter to begin writing…
What leadership lessons will you take with you on your journey? And where is your journey taking you? I’d love to hear!!
Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners and a Certified Coach, Trainer and Speaker. Erin is passionate about building into people and bringing out their leadership qualities to help them excel in all areas of life.