Just this week I was speaking to a courageous woman. She is courageous because she had reached the point of honesty with herself, and threw off the notion that she was fine. She realised instead that a richer life awaited her if she acknowledged that she wasn’t okay and sought support.
This was why my life had connected with hers, and why we had the chance to talk. I lead a integrated health organisation, The Banyans Health and Wellness, and one of the services we provide is residential wellbeing programs. We bring the best in physical, emotional, social, intellectual, occupational and spiritual wellness approaches together to develop tailored programs delivered on an individual basis. It’s an exciting organisation to be a part of, and the fulfilment of seeing people rediscover what living well feels like is immense.
The conversation with this woman was on the eve of her departure. I never get tired of hearing from people of the deep and profound shifts that occur within their heart and soul as they are immersed in a positive, supportive environment. While we create a welcoming and therapeutic environment, I am always inspired by those who decide to focus on their health. It’s hard enough to acknowledge your need of support, and it’s really hard work to confront the pain you have been carrying.
It’s an unfortunate reality that people who achieve great success in life are often also carrying great pain. Dr Constance Scharff says “What makes someone achieve at that level – the top executives – is often a stress or trauma that happened early on. There’s something, usually an early experience, that fuels that kind of drive, and oftentimes it’s the same thing that drives addiction. The vast majority didn’t have some sort of basic needs met as children, so they’re driven very, very hard to succeed. But the pain that goes with that is also what they’re self-medicating for.”
Whether the addiction is substances – prescription medication, illicit drugs or alcohol – or behavioural addiction such as overwork, compulsive gambling or online addiction, high achievers often find themselves in a situation where the drive that led to their success now threatens to unravel it. Combined with the loneliness of leadership which makes confidants harder to find; the feeling of risk in acknowledging a perceived weakness; and the concern about stepping away from business for several weeks, executives or high-performing individuals can find themselves trapped in a false prison – the idea that they can’t seek help.
Yet, as I have seen time and time again, the first step to freedom is a simple one. Acknowledge that a richer life awaits. The second step is asking for support to achieve it. Those first two steps lead the way to a journey of transformation. The journey can take us up steep mountains, skirting around what feels like perilous ravines, but the journey also takes us away from containment and towards wide open spaces.
As this courageous woman said to me, she experienced breakthrough after breakthrough through the expertise of the team who delivered her program. That’s what the support of others does. It helps us acknowledge our pain, comforts us as we face it, and carries us past the pain being our master.
The support of others takes us to the place where past pain becomes a character in our story, rather than the author of our future. The idea that we are alone is a false reality. There is always someone who can help. Always.
Lifeline – Crisis Support and Suicide Prevention
The Banyans Health and Wellness – workplace and community wellbeing education, private residential wellbeing programs and aftercare.
Fresh Start Recovery Programme – helping families with addiction, including detox and rehab
Beyond Blue – mental health resources