Even Coaches Need Coaches and Therapists
by Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos
Crisis causes relationships to either grow stronger or fall apart, but they never stay the same.
The therapist introduces herself as Linda, hands me her card featuring the face of a wolf rather than hers, and says, “I was a wolf in a previous life, then I was an Indian.” She looks like a flower-power hippy with long gray hair parted down the middle, and an ankle-length, multi-print dress that hangs above her socked sandaled feet…in the dead of a Cape Cod winter.
Okay. Either she needs therapy too, or I am in the right place, I think to myself. I’ll decide later.
Linda leads me toward two empty chairs facing each other and hands me a box of tissues as we sit. My eyes scan a room where sunlight falls on potted plants placed on windowsills that face the icy Bay. We sit so close her toes almost touch my boots. Did she come to work in those sandals? As if to answer my question, my eyes pause on an old pair of well-loved UGH-looking boots sporting run-down heels slumped in a corner. Her voice brings me back to our session.
“Now, start from the beginning and tell me everything.” So, I did. I told her how the medical community and the tests they relied on had missed my breast cancer, but my dreams filled with Franciscan monks bearing angel feathers warned me I had a false negative test and instructed me to return to my physicians for additional testing. The pathology reports confirmed the precognitive dreams. I had cancer. Linda’s nonjudgmental smile reassured me that I was indeed in the right place. Only a wolf-Indian-coach could listen to my monk-dream story and not run screaming from the room or dial 911.
We discuss my emotional and physical experiences during chemotherapy and how I am still grieving the loss of my mother who died of colon cancer less than a year ago and for me. Losing a parent is a right-of-passage that I was not taking well. In a way, my innocence has died, and now I’m worried that my body might follow in my mother’s footsteps.
“Having a passive wish to join a loved one is part of the grieving process and one of the healing steps. Attempting suicide to join that person changes normal into what is termed complicated grief and can often be helped with medication. Do you think about suicide?” Linda asks gently.
“No, but I wonder if my body does. I was so close to my mother but never thought I was so close that I would want to join her. As an only-child army-brat who attended five different first grades in Germany, mom was my best friend. I realize we all have to die someday, but I really don’t want to die yet.”
“Good! I think you’re simultaneously experiencing several losses. Tell me how many of these causes of grief pertain to you right now: The death of a loved one, miscarriage, pet loss, major life change, and anticipation of a loss such as a diagnosis of a terminal illness.”
Well, I didn’t need to think long. Bluey, my sixteen-year-old Siamese cat, died in my arms six months ago of an embolism. I was too grief-stricken to get out of bed for days. So, the only loss from the list that didn’t fit my life right now was the first one, miscarriage. But, my oncologist’s belated warning two weeks telling me to “be sure to use protection during sex while in treatment because you could still get pregnant” could still change that, too.
The other three grief causes fit me on multiple levels, and I told them to Linda. As a coach and previous psychology professor at the University of South Florida, Ft. Myers branch, it felt odd being reminded of these signs rather than reminding someone else of them. But as a coach, I know how important it is for coaches to have coaches, just as doctors have doctors.
The tables were turned. Now, I was the client rather than the coach.
Linda looked down at her sandaled feet for a second, and then said in all seriousness, “You certainly have grounds to grieve. Now let’s go over the steps of grief and see where you are.” She must have dealt with a lot of grief because she rattled off the five steps without even blinking an eye, “…denial of loss, anger, yearning, despair, acceptance of loss.”
“Well,” I said, “I’m past the first two concerning my mother and my diagnosis. I still yearn and dream of mom and for my past healthy life. That does cause me despair. But I have accepted her death and my predicament as the ‘shit-happens’ part of life, which is step five. So, you tell me where that leaves me. Am I stuck in the middle and no longer progressing, or did I just skip over the middle to the end?”
Linda stares at me for a moment, then smiles and answers, “I think you are going through a very difficult time and progressing very well. But how do you feel you’re doing? How does having all this come at you at once make you feel?”
“Well, sometimes I feel like life is beating me down, and every time I try to get up, it yells, ‘Stay down! Cry Uncle!’ But I can’t give up or cry, Uncle.”
“Because it goes against my nature, my inner-warrior, and the Fighting Irish in me.”
“Good! Now, let’s talk about your relationships.”
She immediately understood my concerns about previously not being “the number one person in Peter’s life.” Although he has now pledged his support to me, his family still pulls at him harder than ever, even though they know about my health crisis.
“Nothing is more important to them than themselves,” Linda explains about Peter’s family. “You will never change them or their demands, but you can change your response to them. Then they’ll have to change to this new response.”
She was right! Her words confirmed what I had realized days earlier after a phone call from an angry family member had reduced Peter to tears. It is the Basic Behavior Modification Class 101 rule:
The quickest way to change someone’s behavior is to change your own first.
Years of teaching Special Education taught me that before any behavior gets better, inevitably, it gets worse, so you don’t always immediately get the response you desire.
“I’m going to give you a mantra to repeat to yourself whenever you don’t feel like the most significant person in your life because that is what you need to feel right now,” Linda says and leans toward me in her chair. “I am number one. No one and nothing is more important than me. Repeat this mantra as often as you need until you start to feel it.”
Realizing our time was up, I stood to leave, grateful for my new mantra coping tool.
“Encourage your husband to seek therapy because he is faced with some overwhelming issues, too. But right now, your attention must be on yourself and not on him. Be selfish. His issues have to do with letting go of the past, his family. It’s up to his old family to either sink or swim. Peter can’t swim for them anymore. No one can swim for someone else.” Then she patted my hand. “I’ll be here for you, and when you don’t feel up to coming in, we can talk by phone.” I felt so much better. Linda wolf-Indian was definitely a keeper, sandals and all.
My lesson learned is how health and relationships go together like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They need to be balanced. Too much jelly causes drips, and too much peanut butter can gag you. When relationships are too challenged, our health can become stressed. And, when health is too challenged, relationships, personal and business are stressed. I talk about this on my Dreaming Healing Show– Expert Business Panel- Ringing In the New Year Success!
Crisis challenges all relationships, and the closer the relationship, the greater the challenge because deep emotions result in deep cracks. Crisis causes relationships to either grow stronger or fall apart, but they never stay the same.
Relationships are like bricks in an archway; two or more entities fused together to become one. When an earthquake such as illness shakes those bonds to their foundation, cracks form. If the cracks are ignored, perhaps from denial, guilt, or indifference, they grow larger until they completely split. However, if the splits are scrutinized with soul searching and repaired with respect and love, the attachment can become so strong that the archway survives during the next crisis when everything else is reduced to rubble.
This analogy seemed to describe my relationship. My illness registered a 5.0 magnitude on the Richter Scale of Existence, and although my life had crumbled down around my ears, my cracked marriage is still standing. My coach’s mantra helped me overcome the mayhem of my illness by refocusing on what was truly important to me—ME!
I have been cancer-free for more than twenty years. And my undying love created a relationship that has lasted more than forty years.
The moral of my story- Like the old Frank Sinatra song lyrics, “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime,” the coaching twist is, “Everybody Needs Some Coaching Sometimes.” No one is an island unto themselves. Even coaches need coaching. And a good coach can get you back to the business of life.
Surviving Cancerland: Intuitive Aspects of Healing, by Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos, Cypress House 2014; (P)2019 Blackstone Publishing
Dreams That Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases; by Dr. Larry Burk M.D. C.E.H.P. and Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos, Findhorn Press; 2018th edition (April 17, 2018), distribution: Simon & Schuster
Dreaming Healing on DreamVisions7 Radio Network- Expert Business Panel- Ringing In the New Year Success! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79EeaY-xj04
Kathleen (Kat) O’Keefe-Kanavos, aka The Queen of Dreams, is a Dreaming Healing Video Podcaster, publisher/WEBEBooksPublishing.com, three-time Breast Cancer Survivor, taught Psychology at USF Fort Myers, is a PR Guru, internationally syndicated columnist for BIZCATALYST 360° and Desert Health Magazines, Author/Lecturer and Internationally award-winning, bestselling author of many books seen on Dr. Oz, The DOCTORS, CBS and NBC. Kat promotes patient advocacy and connecting with Inner Guidance through Dreams for success in life. Kat says, “Don’t tell God how big your problems are. Tell your problems how big your God is.” Learn more @ http://kathleenokeefekanavos.com/
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