The thoughts, stories and advice of Bill Riddell.

Trust Yourself – The Importance of Self Reliance

August 24th, 2009 Posted in advice, illness, personal

What do you do when the world around you is getting hostile? When the people you loved and the people society tells you to trust, have turned against you? When even your beloved parents say that you are wrong?

Do you believe them? Do you give up your way of thinking?

What if they all believed you were lying about an illness that was crippling your life and your body? What if everyone believed you were making up all those symptoms that had ruined your life?

My Story

For those who arent regular readers, I was in that position earlier this decade, as barely a teenager, on the verge of suicide as everything around me turned sour.

In case that wasn-t bad enough, I began to doubt myself. That was the worst feeling in the world.

Looking back, doubting myself was far worse than the physical pain and emotional strain I went through. Losing faith in my own judgement and heartfelt belief, then trading it for the opinions of those around me.

It didn-t last for long, but those few weeks were the lowest in my life. Lying in bed suddenly convinced that the pain throughout my body, that had kept me there for over a year, was a figment of my imagination.

Bouncing Off The Bottom

After hitting rock bottom and coming so close to attempting suicide, I became determined to live life according to my own rule and reason. My first rule was although I listened to and respected the opinions of other, I would put my own ahead of all of them. My second was to listen to my heart.

According to both rules I was not making it up and I should seek people that supported my belief and also those who could do something about it. After an incredibly emotional discussion with my mother late at night, I got my families support back . The very next day we set about finding some doctors who would stand in my corner, rather than deliver a barrage of blows from the opposing side of the ring.

First I found a very understanding GP, who although she had precious little idea of what was wrong with me, had a lot of compassion and sent me to every expert who she believed may be able to help. Most of those followed suit with the previous doctors, insisting it was all in my head and that I should stop lying and go back to school.

Finding The Truth In My Eyes

Finally one brilliant doctor looked where others hadn-t, into my eyes. Where others checked my body that had been wracked with pain or probed my mind that was slowly breaking down, he checked my eyes that had shed far too many tears recently. Something appeard wrong to him.

The blood vessels at the back of my eyes, the optic disc, looked seriously aggravated and he referred me to a specialist. Days later I was diagnosed with papilledema, which was caused by benign intracranial hypertension. It turned out earlier doctors where correct, it was all in my head. My body was producing too much of the fluid that runs up your spine and and surounds your brain, underneath the skull. It was putting pressure on the back of my eyes and somehow sending false pain signals all over my body.

I had a 10 inch needle shoved into my spine to drain the excess fluid. Once the pressure (mine was about 600% greater than the normal range) was released things slowly got better.

It was still a battle, a painfully slow rehabilitation process of regaining my lost muscle mass and teaching myself to walk again in a manner befitting a young man rather than 80 year old woman crippled by arthritis. Again I put faith in myself. I could have done hospital based rehab, instead I did my own things, swimming daily in my aunts freezing cold pool in the middle of winter, trying to walk an extra 100m each day (including taking the initial 100m walk – yes I was that bad).

Gradually I made it back to school and got on with my life.

Lessons to be Learnt

I grew up an awful lot in the 18 month period briefly described above and I-m sure there are a lot of lessons you can take away from it.

  • Your health is the most vital part of your life. Until you are happy and healthy not just physical, but also mentaly and emotionaly, all other concerns in life need to take a back seat. How can you love or take care of someone else when you do not love and take care of yourself.
  • Before you try to convince someone else, convince yourself. If you-re trying to pitch an idea or a deal to someone, put your ego and preconceived notions aside for a second and truly listen to your own pitch. Would you invest in, or otherwise trust yourself? If you don-t, why should anyone else.
  • We all need true allies. After you have unshakable belief in who you are and what you want to achieve, find people who feel the same and can help you to make it happen. Don-t do it the other way around, you will find the wrong people.
  • Yours is the most important opinion – obey experts at your own peril. Learn from them, investigate their advice, but do not follow it blindly and get at least a second opinion. I went through approximately 30 doctors before I found one who agreed with me, it took about another 10 to find someone with the right answers. Go with your opinion and trust your gut – even if you are wrong, it is a lesson learnt.
  • Friends will come and go from your life, but family is forever. They are both very important. Be more forgiving of your family, although you can make more, you won-t find any replacements. Friends are a different matter – if they-re not working for you, replace them. When I got sick my then friends completely abandoned me, in 18 months I got a few cards and one visit in the first month. When I got back to school I largely ignored them and found other friends.
  • When you-re going through bad times, keep going. Once you hit rock bottom there is nowhere to go but up. Along the way you will learn more about yourself, what you are capable of and the world around you than you could ever imagine.
  • Never give up on your dreams and goals. While sick I had a lot of time to contemplate all the things I would rather be doing and eventually I wrote them all down. Getting better was at the top of the list and since ticking it off I have set about achieving the remaining 100+ life goals.

Most importantly, enjoy life. Live yours and help enrich others.

  1. 5 Responses to “Trust Yourself – The Importance of Self Reliance”

  2. By Cornelius on Aug 25, 2009

    I added your blog to bookmarks. And i’ll read your articles more often!

  3. By JN on Aug 26, 2009

    Health is very important. I find it strange that most ppl struggle to look after themselves.

  4. By Nicole on Sep 4, 2009

    Bill,
    Great advice all around! I was diagnosed with IH this June, so I know the frustrations of the doubters (and, honestly, there were MANY days I doubted MYSELF – swearing i was going crazy!!) It is such a strange disease – so rare, and hidden (they couldn’t diagnose me until a peek in the eyes either) – that even after diagnosis people are still flabberghasted.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I am still on my road to recovery. I am a full-time teacher getting ready to go back to school for the first time since all of this with seriously damaged vision. Things will be different, but I have a great support system in my school and as you said:
    When you are going through bad times, just keep going!!
    ….that’s always been one of my mantras, otherwise how else will you get out of the bad times?!

  5. By Bill on Sep 5, 2009

    Thank you for sharing Nicole. All the best with your recovery and I hope your vision returns. I’ve been incredibly lucky my vision has not really been affected, even when diagnosed I had 20-20 sight and normal field of vision (which apparently is the first to go). It’s great to hear you have plenty of support.

    Thanks for your comments Cornelius and JN.

  6. By Patrick on Oct 30, 2009

    Point by point you are spot on! ‘Twould be nice if we didn’t have to suffer in so many ways in this life, but it’s all about learning. Glad that despite your trials, you made it through to the other side of the black tunnel. Keep up the great work and you will be an ambassador of truth and good works, setting a great example for others who travel through the Valley of Sorrow.

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