Mental Health Awareness Week: Mental Health/Physical Health-One and the same

A lot of you know that I had a heart attack eight months ago but what you may not know is that it had a drastic effect on my mental health as well.  Since then I’ve had another bout of severe ill-health physically and my heart does all sorts of weird s..t all the time so that’s been a constant source of worry.

Pippa says it so well in ‘Kingdom of Us’, sometimes we need someone else to get us the help we need.

I guess we all kind of know that physical and mental health are linked, but, do we realise exactly to what extent?  I don’t think we necessarily do but it makes total sense, if our bodies aren’t working properly it’s not easy for our brain to work properly either.

And it’s not just the worry, it’s the fact that you feel so ill, achy and lacking in energy all the time.  If every physical task feels as though you’re climbing Everest, how can you possibly be full of the joys of spring, however much you may want to?

I decided to write this because I’ve finally had some more heart tests done and saw the consultant this morning to see just how badly affected my heart was when I had the heart attack.   I went to appointment full of dread, expecting the worst and wondering if I was going to be admitted (I feel as though I get admitted every time I visit a hospital these days!).

Instead of my worst fears being realised, the doctor tells me that whilst my heart is definitely not 100%, I’m not going to keel over at any moment either!  Yes, there is damage to my heart, yes, I have too many ectopic beats and yes, I have heart disease, (heart disease is, of course, for life) but, when I asked him about exercise etc…he told me to go run a marathon if I wanted to!

I burst into tears instantly, apologising between every blub!  I realised in that instant how much the worry had been weighing me down as I felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.  I feel as though I have my life back, dramatic I know, but very real.

Suddenly I have a reason to go on, suddenly I can look to the future and actually feel as though there is one, suddenly the world doesn’t look as dark.  And I know it will take a while to sink in and for my brain to adjust to being able to look forward to the future again but, it’s one hell of a feeling!

Could it be argued that I was worrying unnecessarily?  Not really, I had a severe heart attack, they call it the ‘widow maker’ as the survival rate is low and I believe if I hadn’t already been in hospital I probably wouldn’t be here now, I was lucky.  Add to that the fact that it all happened on the 10th anniversary of Paul’s suicide and that I was in surgery at the exact time he was calling the Police to tell them he was about to kill himself, it was all too weird to be real.  Also, I was readmitted a few weeks later with complications and the test results at that time didn’t look good,

All in all, I’m going to let myself off the hook for being terrified for the last 8 months and whilst my heart is still doing weird s..t as I’m writing this, at least I know that the new medication I’m starting may help to lower the number of ectopics I have and therefore help me to feel a little better.

So, I have my life back, I can plan for the future and take every step I need to in order to live a happy, healthy(ish) life. I hope to be displaying the new ‘spring in my step’ very soon!

LIVE WELL, LIVE HAPPY, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND UNDERSTAND THE INEXTRICABLE LINK BETWEEN PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH IN THIS ‘MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK’

Domestic Abuse: 4 reasons why we stay

I was watching a documentary the other night about a lady who was in an abusive relationship which ended in her being set on fire by her partner and dying.  A horrific story, but it set me thinking…  I lived in an abusive relationship, it was just more subtle and very insidious, some physical abuse but mostly mental and controlling.  The law now recognises this type of abuse as ‘coercive control‘ and can carry a sentence of up to five years imprisonment.  It’s also very much a gender biased form of abuse with most abusers being male.  I felt it would be useful to analyse the reasons why I stayed with Paul for so long, and having done so, I also realise that the reasons are pretty much the same regardless of the type of abuse.  So, for those of you who cannot begin to get your head around ‘why we stay’, maybe this will help you to understand how powerless you can feel in these relationships and how staying can feel like the easier option.

 

1. Fear

This is probably the biggest and most chilling reason why so many women stay in an abusive relationship and the fear is very real on a number of different levels.  There may be children involved in which case the fear of not being able to look after them adequately is very hard to overcome.  Another, more sinister fear is of your partner coming after you and hurting you, either physically or in any other way, this can be paralysing.  There is also the fear that life will actually become worse if you leave because of your partners inability to let go. Many women from abusive relationships end up being stalked by their partner and the consequences can be deadly.

 

2.  Love:-

It’s easy for onlookers to forget that we fell in love with these people, that they were wonderful when we first met them and we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with them, that is, the person we initially fell in love with.  When you’re head over heels in love you don’t see, or ignore, the negative aspects of your partner, you’re actually so blindly in love that it’s almost impossible to believe what you subconsciously suspect.  And hindsight is a very wonderful thing that we are deprived of at the actual time we need it!  I know, I look back now and realise that the writing was on the wall from very early on in our relationship but I blamed myself for causing his behaviour, vowing to become ‘better’.

 

3. Isolation:-

Sadly, in a lot of cases, the changes happen slowly and imperceptibly, distancing you from your family,  restricting your access to friends for what always seem to be perfectly good reasons and the anger if your partner suspects you may have confided in someone, always preventing you from doing just that.  The isolation builds until there is no-one left that you are close enough with to be able to ask for help, being totally alone makes the prospect of leaving even harder to contemplate.  Another aspect of this type of abuse is the constant reinforcement of your belief that it actually is all your fault and you’re the one who is lacking.  I was brainwashed over many years to believe that I was the one who was mentally ill due to my childhood experiences and my mother dying when I was a teenager, eventually I believed it wholeheartedly.  It was only a few years before Paul’s death that I ‘woke up’ and saw the reality, by that time I had 7 children, all with special needs, and leaving was going to be painfully slow and also a mammoth task, but do it I must.

 

4. Hope:-

Maybe the most paralysing of all, the constant hope that the person you fell in love with will suddenly return and the sheer bliss that you experienced in those early days will be here again.  Deluded? Yes, of course, but by the time you realise that you’re deluded the rest of the damage has already been done.

My book ‘Unravelled‘ was published a few years ago and since then I’ve received a number of messages for women telling that they read the book, realised that they were living in a coercively controlling relationship and found the strength to leave.  I feel horribly responsible, but, fortunately, all of these stories had a happy ending with the women involved finding true love with a new partner.  Leaving was incredibly hard for all of them but it ended up being the right thing to do.

Anyone who has seen ‘Kingdom of Us‘  will know that one of Paul’s considered plans was murder/suicide, we found a notepad after his death which outlined in detail how he would kill all of the children in front of me, then me and then himself.  It was terrifying to realise how close we had potentially come to such an appalling end and really highlights just how mentally ill Paul actually was.

We were lucky, Paul didn’t carry out his plan and chose instead to end his own life, a tragedy in itself, but I’m thankful that the children have had the opportunity of living their lives free from fear.  I guess there was never going to be a perfect ending within my relationship with Paul, it was so flawed in so many ways but here we are, still standing and living the best lives we can with hope in our hearts.  It fills me with joy to watch my beautiful children living full lives and working towards their dreams, dreams that could so easily have been snatched away, I have so much to be grateful for…

Autism: Male v Female statistics…correct or not?

A very dear friend of mine sent me the link to this article about autistic girls over the weekend and very interesting it is too!  https://graziadaily.co.uk/life/real-life/girls-autism-diagnosis-research/

It set me thinking, with several autistic girls I have to say that it was definitely easier to spot in Osborn (my son) than it was in the girls.  I remember Lorie’s teacher in year 2 telling me once that she had observed Lorie watching how everyone in the class reacted and then copying them a split second later.  She felt it was absolutely brilliant and enabled Lorie to look as though she fitted in a lot better than the actual reality.  It was brilliant, but it didn’t make her life any easier, it was just exhausting trying to be like everyone else and she has always struggled with depression and anxiety.

The same goes for the other girls, the problem is that they are so adept at mimicking what is regarded as being ‘normal’, moreover, they feel that they have to appear to be like the majority in order to be accepted.  This is the crux of the matter and this needs to change…urgently.

The general consensus seems to be that there are more autistic males than females but I would respectfully disagree.  I run an autism support group and in my experience over the years (and in meeting many autistic people outside of the group), is that the split is very definitely pretty much 50/50.

Recently, some new research suggesting that autism could be diagnosed through a urine and blood sample was headline news, I was asked to comment on local radio and was shocked to hear the doctor tell us that they had only tested a sample group of 38 autistic children and a control group of 31 non autistic children.  This is a ridiculously small test sample to be absolutely definitive (although when I mentioned this fact to the doctor live on air she insisted that this was a large study in research terms!), I was even more shocked though to hear that the gender split in the subjects tested was 29 male and 9 female in the autistic group and 23 male and 8 female in the non autistic group!

I was gobsmacked!  How can professionals, learned people with huge numbers of letters after their name be so narrow sighted?  The generally perceived gender bias towards males being more likely to be autistic is because of the ability of girls to mask their autism so effectively.  If the people in charge of the research believe in the myth that far more boys than girls are on the spectrum I don’t feel there’s much hope for future research to be more accurate until our professionals become more enlightened.

I hope it won’t take many more years before autistic girls gain the recognition they need, and therefore, the same support that boys tend to get at an earlier age.  It really can’t happen soon enough.

Film ‘Kingdom of Us’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc8_spETMBY&t=13s

Book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unravelled-inspirational-story-journey-darkness-ebook/dp/B00L1ENC0O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1520080087&sr=8-1

TED Talk:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xts1F-PoUNA&t=19s

The Mad Shanks Residence Easter Challenge

How quickly time flies, The Mad Shanks Residence Easter Challenge was yesterday, feels like only a few months ago that we had the last one!  As always, the people in attendance were given challenges to complete and be judged on before running out into the field to find 312 hidden chocolate goodies which were spread far and wide.

All went well, they had three challenges this year, first was to make six beautiful and imaginative chocolates fit for Gordon Ramsay, again I stipulated, NO turds on plates!  Secondly they had to transform a hat with bunny ears into something creative.  The ‘hats’ were pink and the ears resembled pigs rather than rabbits, probably the reason they were reduced to 50p each in Hobbycraft!

Lastly, they had to paint each others faces, this was a first for the Easter Challenge so I was waiting in eager anticipation to see what they came up with.  They had an hour per challenge, and , as always, no rules, they could do whatever they wanted, and boy, they did!

The hats turned into everything from Easter Chicks to genitalia (both male and female, I shouldn’t really have been surprised!), they were all absolutely ingenious.

The face painting featured everything from the beautiful to the astonishingly bizarre and the chocolates were all genuinely, beautifully executed and tasted delicious, all round a huge success.

Meanwhile, I hade been roaming the field creating the egg hunt, we’d started late so it was already evening when we realised two of the dogs were missing, the deadly duo of Lexie and Cody.  The ‘dog hunt’ started and after well over an hour was called off so that the egg hunt could go ahead before darkness fell.  I’m fussy about the hunt being done as soon as possible because of the risk of the local wildlife finding the treats (all wrapped in either plastic or foil) and risking their wellbeing if they eat them, wrapping and all.

We decide to incorporate the hunt with continued efforts to find the dogs who’d both been renamed with words that really are not suitable for this blog! As eleven people scatter gunned around the field searching, I sat and waited for their return, by this time I felt as though I’d done my bit and was shattered.

Fortunately Osborn found the wayward dogs a little way from home and brought them back safely and the chocolates were counted and prizes awarded to the winners of each category, a brilliant day enjoyed by all who attended.

Bearing in mind that the children now range in age from 17-26, will the tradition continue?  I really don’t know, but all the time they are as enthusiastic as they were yesterday, I will continue to organise it.  There’s no age limit on having fun you know!

HS2: The brutal reality finally revealed…

A lot of you will already know that HS2 will be passing less than 100m outside our back door and we have 10 years of on and off construction to look forward to.  Whilst the ‘experts’ insist on telling us constantly that the noise level will be very low and they will minimise the impact on my family as best they can, the reality is that it’s going to be very intrusive indeed.

We live in the middle of nowhere, tractors ploughing the surrounding fields are extremely noticeable as we live in silence bar the birds singing and the odd car going past.  And yes, we’re so incredibly lucky to live where we do but, I personally have spent every single one of the past 31 years working myself into the ground in order to be able to afford to keep it, for what, I now ask?

Was it worth the blood, sweat and tears I’ve put into being able to have the opportunity to live in a peaceful environment?  It now all feels as though it’s been in vain as I look forward to spending my older years (a time now when I really appreciate the peace and quiet) with the never ending noise of construction, the dust and loss of trees and environment that we are all so emotionally attached to.

We had a total of six people attend a meeting this morning to discuss where exactly the construction will be and what mitigation can be offered.  These people are the messengers and therefore do not deserve to be shot, but, I do resent the placating comments intended to convince us that ‘it won’t be as bad as we’re anticipating’.  I have stood next to many, many construction sites over my lifetime and I’m only too well aware of what the noise and visual impact is going to be.  Couple that with the fact that over the last seven years we’ve been told that the land they need will be ‘x’ and now we’re being told it’s a lot more than we ever imagined, no wonder my daughter broke down in tears.

On a very personal level it feels as though another part of Paul is being taken away from us as he loved our house so much and fought with me for 20 years to be able to keep it.  The ancient Oak tree that we used to sit under and where the children have some incredibly fond memories of their father will be chopped down at the end of the summer.  “You have it for the whole of the summer so you can still enjoy it” they told us.  Great, we have five more months of enjoying it’s beauty and then a tree that has taken 100’s of years to grow will be destroyed forever, along with dozens of other trees.

Yes, this blog is emotional, I’m feeling very emotional.  Something we don’t want and will never use is being forced upon us whether we like it or not, along with thousands of other people the length of the line.  None of the engineers from HS2 live near the line so it doesn’t affect them, easy to be blasé when it’s not impacting on your life.  For us, it’s the best part of our home being taken away along with so many happy memories, memories that we want to hold on to in order to override the sad ones.

The next few years are going to be extremely tough……

 

 

 

 

Autism: Do you have to be autistic to understand autism?

A friend of mine answered a Tweet yesterday telling someone that I am an ‘autism expert’, the response to this from a certain lady was  ‘if she’s not autistic she’s not an autism expert’.

I speak about how we need people with differently wired brains in my TED talk

Now, there may be an element of truth in this statement, but, not being on the spectrum but having a great understanding of the way autistic brains work has huge benefits as well. And why do I understand autism so well?  I’ve been around autism for my entire life!  My mother and both of my brothers were/are on the spectrum (one of my brothers and my mother are deceased), most of my children are on the spectrum and a lot of people I meet, and indeed, a lot of my closest friends are also on the spectrum. Five years ago I also set up, and still run, an autism support group where I obviously meet numerous people on the spectrum.

There is power in understanding the way the autistic brain works and how the different wiring affects people, but also understanding that the poor souls not on the spectrum sometimes struggle to understand the straightforward way the autistic brain tends to work.  I can interpret the differences in behaviour between those on the spectrum and those not, I can see where the communication struggles are occurring and suggest ways to overcome the challenges.  This is especially useful when I’m helping a couple where one is on the spectrum and the other isn’t.

I can often help to unravel the communication challenges

Because I understand how both types of brain work I recognise when communication is less effective due to the differences, and I’ve had plenty of practice with my own children who are all incredibly different within their autism.  They have challenges with totally different things and I understand what is causing those challenges, I’ve ‘studied’ my children in order to be able to help them as best I can and this has led to a great level of understanding.

No, I’m not autistic, but my time spent with autistic people has given me a huge amount of insight into how they think and feel, I can empathise with them, I can help them and I can use this to make people’s lives better.  On the other side of the coin I can also help people who are on the spectrum understand why non-autists seem to make communication so complicated and how to better understand what they are trying to say.  I see myself as being a kind of mediator.

And, of course, I can never experience the way the autistic brain actually works but maybe my perspective is the next best thing?  Better than nothing maybe, and, we need ALL types of brain wiring to make our world a better place to live.  Vive la difference!

Parenting: A little lament and giving your children ‘Roots and Wings’

 

Parenting, probably the most difficult task we will ever undertake, and yet, we fall into it so easily, not fully knowing how totally life changing having a child can be.

A child is a permanent fixture, a little person that will forever be a part of your life, regardless of what life may throw at you personally, they will still need your love and support.  It’s also a job that has no real predictable outcome, it’s not a task that you can assign goals to, you can’t break it down into bite sized, manageable pieces.  It’s a minute by minute, day by day, full-time job that has no foreseeable ending.

If only parenting was a job that we could neatly process in our planners, with a measurable end goal and a system for seeing how much progress we’re making.  It’s not, it’s a constant, evolving roller coaster of emotion and practical tasks that have to be addressed, procrastination isn’t something we can easily employ when it comes to our offspring.

And yet, we have one, then we often have another one, in my case ending up with seven!  Do we have more children because we already have one to look after, life has changed unrecognisably anyway, so we may as well add to the family?  How much harder can two be compared to one?

Not wishing the above to sound negative, I couldn’t be happier that I had all of my children, I wouldn’t change a thing with regard to them and I know every parent feels the same way.  The biggest challenge, I believe, is that you have no idea whether you’ve done a good job or not until they’re adults and start to tell you where you went wrong!

I remember someone telling me when I was pregnant with my first child Jamie that, as a parent, I had to be ‘good enough’.  I also remember my hackles going up at the time and thinking, “I don’t want to be ‘good enough’, I want to be the best parent I can be”, and then being determined to do just that.

Some great advice I was given 24 years ago and I’ve tried to remember

And over the last 26 years that’s exactly what I’ve tried to do, knowing all the time that I wouldn’t know if my ‘best’ was enough for many years to come, all I can say is that I’m at peace knowing that I sincerely did try to do my ‘best’ at all times in spite of the curved balls that have been thrown at me over the years.

I’ve been very conscious of everything I’ve done and everything I’ve said, always trying to not say something that would have a lasting negative impact on my beautiful children.  I’ve tried to be strict enough without stifling their emotions and crushing them into becoming the empty shells of the person they should have been.  I can put my hand on my heart and swear that I’ve only ever wanted the best for them, whatever that may be.  I’ve always tried to encourage them in whatever they want to do and taught them to reach for the stars  and believe in themselves, because it’s likely that very few other people will believe in them.

And now they’re mostly all adults and preparing to spread their wings, I hope and pray that I’ve managed to give them the tools they need to be whoever they wish to be, to be able to aspire to being whatever they want to be and strong enough to pursue their dreams in the way they want to pursue them.

I’m not perfect, I have made mistakes and I hope my children will forgive those mistakes and understand that parents don’t always ‘get it right’.  Maybe when they have children of their own they will fully understand that parenting isn’t a perfect science and is fraught with ‘danger’ and then they’ll understand that every parent is, effectively, ‘winging it’. Babies don’t come with a manual, no troubleshooting tips in the back, no error codes to check, no virus software to upload, just a miniature person that is handed to you at birth that you then have to try to work out all by yourself, and there’s no other model exactly the same  to compare their performance with!

So, to every parent out there, you’re not alone in wondering whether you’re getting it right, and you won’t know until they’re old enough to tell you the error of your ways.  In hindsight you’ll see their point and wish you could turn the clock back, but having regrets is pointless, as long as you know you did your best, you have to forgive yourself.  One day they’ll understand how difficult parenting is and they’ll understand those ‘mistakes’ you made because they’ll be making their own mistakes without even realising it.

Being a parent is the most rewarding and frustrating task I’ve ever undertaken and I feel honoured and privileged to have had the opportunity to be a mother to my children.  I love them all so much, I would die for them without a second thought, but above all, I respect them all as people, things could have been so very different.

Thank you Jamie, Kacie, Lorie, Mirie, Nikita, Osborn and Pippa.  I feel humbled to have been able to spend a large part of my life with you all, you bring me the most intense and immense joy every single day.  As I say in ‘Kingdom of Us‘, I don’t who I would be without you……

An important final word…

 

 

 

‘Kingdom of Us’: What all the children take away with them….answered!

My number one son (only son actually!),  travelled to Spain and Italy for a few weeks at the end of last year and I couldn’t wait for his return both times.  His departure aways leaves a gaping hole in the house that we all feel deeply and everyone wanders around asking “When is Osborn back?”.

In the film, ‘Kingdom of Us’, I’m in Pippa’s bedroom whilst she’s away in hospital talking to Nikita about what Pippa takes with her when she’s away, she’s the ‘Spark’ in the house.  She’s the person who throws curved balls at you that create sparks, sometimes not so good but mostly in the most wondrous way.

Unfortunately, when Nikita asks me what she takes away, because she’d put me on the spot, I really couldn’t think!  Since the release of the film I’ve had more time to consider all of the children and what part they play in the family unit, so here’s a run down of each of them:-

Jamie: Jamie is where it all started 26 years ago, she was the baby I believed I could never bear, having been told I was infertile for 17 years by every doctor I’d seen.  She was a huge surprise, and not at the best time in my life, but I eventually reasoned that she was just meant to be.  Ever since, she has represented all that is great about my life and when she isn’t around we all miss her passion for everything.  Without the happy accident that was Jamie, my life would be so much the poorer.

Kacie: Kacie is the drive of the family, she forges ahead with whatever she believes in without faltering and carries everyone along with her.  She’s like the irresistible force that never gives up, no matter how hard everything gets, and she’s had her fair share of troubles recently but she’s still fighting back.

Lorie: Lorie is the determination of the family, she works so hard to accomplish the things she believes in, very often against all the odds.  She will do whatever it takes to achieve her goal, inspiring everyone else to keep going as well.

Mirie: Mirie is the heart of the family, she quietly goes about her business making sure everyone is ok and being careful she never leaves anyone on a bad note in case anything happens to them.  She cares deeply about the less fortunate, be they human or animal and is constantly looking for ways to enrich people’s lives.

Nikita: Nikita is the fun of the family, she makes us laugh so much with her incredibly sharp and very accurate wit.  Her comedic talent is astounding and an absolute joy to witness, there would be a lot less laughter in the house without her.

Osborn: Osborn is the mind of the family, he’s the one who asks the questions that no-one else would even think to ask in the first place!  He questions everything and searches constantly for the reason behind everything, keeping us all on our toes at all times.  Osborn and I can talk for hours about anything and everything!

Pippa: Pippa, as I’ve already said, is the spark of the family, you never know what’s coming next but it’s normally something very funny and unexpected.  Her wit is razor-sharp and is delivered with pinpoint accuracy, very often hitting the parts other people can’t reach!

AND ALL OF THAT MAKES FOR ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY!

The whole team at the premiere of ‘Kingdom of Us’!

Failure isn’t falling, it’s not getting back up again….

I’m going to let you into a secret, deep down I’m one of those people who would love to live in a world of rainbows, fairies, seahorses and unicorns!   It wouldn’t be for everyone but here is my idea of a perfect world…

….and this is what I’ve got!

Now, don’t get me wrong, Lorie asleep in her Unicorn onesie that I bought her for Christmas is wonderful and very endearing, and I love Bear very much indeed and he does do a passable impression of a Unicorn, for a dog.

But you can see the difference, huh?  It’s not quite the same as my fantasy world is it?

It’s sad that we can’t all live in a happy world of unicorns, fairies etc….but this is real life and sometimes it sucks!  The last year for the Shanks family has been one of incredible highs and desperate lows, it’s all very confusing.  The film being launched, winning a major award and being nominated for a BIFA and now a BAFTA was beyond our wildest dreams at the time of filming, and the film receiving such an incredible response from the audience on Netflix is simply amazing.

On the other hand, me having a heart attack, the children’s grandmother passing away and  various other rubbish events have had us all on a rollercoaster of emotions from which we’re all still recovering!

But that’s life isn’t it?  Highs and lows…the trick is managing to ride them well enough to be able to get through to the next rainbow on the horizon.  Oh yes, and keep searching for Unicorns, they’re out there somewhere!

 

Todd: Spaghetti Agency…The best stuff happens outside your comfort zone!

Life is a funny thing, it throws crap at us all constantly but it also offers us endless opportunities if we’re only open enough to see them and accept the challenge.

A very, very dear friend of mine, Todd from Spaghetti Agency  put the following on Facebook a couple of mornings ago and it got me thinking, he often does that:-

The best stuff happens outside of your comfort zone…

Incredibly simple but so, so powerful!  We all have a comfort zone and I’m not talking about your favourite chair in front of the TV,  I’m talking about the comfort zone inside your head!

Your brain and thought patterns are where everything starts and we all spend every second of every day making decisions, whether they be big ones or tiny ones.  We’re all very conscious of the big ones, but the little ones, like whether to have coffee or hot chocolate, fly under our radar without even realising that we’re making a decision.

So, does it matter about all these tiny little things?  Well, yes!  Every little thought we have adds up to creating our character and attitude to life.  Should I have a skinny latte with no sugar or a hot chocolate laden with cream and marshmallows?  Does it matter?  Yes, it does.

I had a heart attack a few months ago and I’m having to watch everything now, my exercise levels, my diet, my sleep patterns, my stress levels etc..  Choosing the hot chocolate over the skinny latte is now, for me, a potentially life changing decision if I keep making the same (wrong!) one, even though I would much rather be in a comfort zone and have the hot chocolate!

Sometimes being outside your comfort zone is simply making the best little decision rather than the one that comforts you, being outside your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean jumping out of an airplane!

And although there were people disagreeing with Todd, I think they may have been missing the point.  If we never, ever venture outside of whatever feels comfortable to us then we’ll never learn what we’re really capable of.  Therefore, we may miss out on things that, actually, we really enjoy and would rather be doing instead of whatever you feel comfortable doing.  True of food, hobbies, adventures, holidays, work, and anything else you care to think of, we need to try different things!  Besides, that new thing that scared you will soon become a new comfort zone when you get used to it, time to push a little further out!

So maybe, don’t see your comfort zone as only being the big things in life, pushing yourself applies to EVERYTHING, and you never know, you might discover something that you may never have found if you didn’t make yourself a little bit uncomfortable!