Have you seen this video floating around Facebook? Naval Admiral William H. McRaven gave the Commencement Address at the University of Texas at Austin, and it was spectacular.
I initially clicked the link because the Navy SEALs intrigue me. One of my good friends from high school is a Navy SEAL. I’ve heard the stories and seen the pictures from Basic SEAL training. There is no way to describe the physical, mental, and emotional feats they endure.
As I read Admiral’s speech, I couldn’t help but find multiple parallels to overcoming endometriosis and chronic pain, and be inspired by his words.
I loved what Admiral McRaven had to say. These are my favorites, and how I think the message applies to living with a chronic illness.
#2 Find someone to help you paddle.
Your support system is vital. Not only having someone to talk to, but having someone to listen and help you through your toughest times is indispensable. We need someone who can see our life as a whole and guide us through the road blocks. This person may not be your family or friends. It’s not for me. I call my spiritual leader when the wheels are really falling off. Her ability to listen without judgement and to help me turn towards blind spots takes me straight to the root of the problem…allowing me to move past the issue. Find a teammate who moves you forward.
#5 Don’t be afraid of the circus.
For the SEALs everything is a test. When you fail to meet the standards, you are invited to a “circus”; two additional hours of calisthenics designed to further wear you down, break your spirit, and make you quit. A circus means more fatigue and a rougher tomorrow where more circuses were likely. The Admiral goes on to say that everyone made the circus list, but an interesting thing happened to those who consistently made the list, the extra hours of calisthenics made them stronger. The pain of the circus built inner strength.
I know how much it sucks to live day to day with chronic pain and organ dysfunction caused by endometriosis. I also know the strength that can come from looking within and learning from physical and emotional pain. I believe there is a lesson within all of life’s experiences. For me, dealing with chronic pain and endometriosis for almost two decades gave me deep empathy for those who are suffering. It taught me I can survive. It also taught me that merely surviving is not living. It taught me that within every breakdown (big or small) is a breakthrough. Living through the breakdown is THE WORST! Finding the strength to choose to learn the lesson is what catapults us through life, and gets us one step closer to being who we are meant to be.
#8 Be your best in the darkest moment.
Admiral says every SEAL knows that at the darkest moment of the mission is the time when you must be calm and composed. I can tell you, at the height of my pain, calm and composed is the opposite of how I felt. I was overwhelmed, frantic, angry, and consumed with figuring out how to make the pain go away. Stress and anxiety are the breeding ground for pain, and I was stuck there for months on end. It wasn’t until acupuncture, kinesiology, and meditation began to teach me to be calm and find inner peace that my body could relax, allowing various therapies to heal my body.
#9 Start singing when you are up to your neck in mud.
Belief that the current moment will not be forever; the power of hope. It is the ability to find positive in everyday, and the ability to live into the idea that tomorrow will be a better day. Being positive and finding gratitude within everyday is a practice and a choice. Choose to sing when you are overwhelmed with pain.
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A big thank you for these inspirational words, and for everything you do, Naval Admiral William H. McRaven!