I am often asked how I think of stories for the pieces of jewellery that I make. Sometimes the stories follow naturally after making a piece and, at other times, the stories precede the pieces themselves. In this case, this particular story sat with me for a few months before I sat at my bench and let my hands create something to communicate this story. I hope that you enjoy reading this and that it will resonate with some of you. For there is freedom in accepting that our thoughts are just that: thoughts. And that’s why you can’t believe everything that you think.
Have you heard the phrase: ‘Don’t believe everything you think’? I’ll be honest, I have, but it wasn’t until recently that I worked out what that meant for me.
I live with a number of chronic health conditions, including: Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and a Primary Immunodeficiency (sometimes called Common Variable Immunodeficiency). Looking back, so much of my life makes sense now having these diagnoses, but for a large part of my life I felt misplaced, lazy or ‘weird’. I never seemed to have the energy that other people seemed to have; chronic stomach pain was labelled ‘IBS’ or dismissed as a physical manifestation of anxiety (definitely true, in part!) I think for a good few years of my life – those where my health issues were at their worst – friends struggled to understand me because I’d more often pass on social engagements, opting instead to stay home in my safe cocoon. University lecturers assumed I was ‘pulling a fast one’ when I missed classes because I simply couldn’t get out of bed… And I guess at a point you start to believe those things too.
It’s always amazing to me how I am often asked how I came to have my own business both within and outside of the remit of being chronically ill. I think people often assume that I must be exceedingly driven or that I was ‘destined’ to do something wonderful off the back of my, quite frankly, bad luck at having the issues that I do.
The truth is, I didn’t start When Caitie met Soda with the intention of it being something ‘great’, let alone it becoming my livelihood. And, I guess in many ways that made it easier because I wasn’t bogged down with the typical concerns that most business owners are. I wasn’t thinking about how much I’d have to turn over to make a profit, or who my target audience was. I was just grateful for an opportunity to feel useful, to express myself and to find likeminded friends in the process after years of feeling very isolated. I always assumed that I’d have to ‘get a real job’ when I was well enough and once again ‘join the real world’ – thoughts which horrified and terrified me in equal measure. Because the truth is, I don’t think I quite ‘fit’ into either of those places. I’m not sure that many of us feel like we do, do we? Most of us suffer from horrible imposter syndrome and from being our own worst enemies. We quickly shrug off our successes, attributing them to help we had or luck, whilst holding on to our failures and deeming them integral parts of our very beings.
And that’s where not believing everything that you think comes in, isn’t it? Because we can’t believe everything that we think. But for me, this phrase runs a little deeper and means that I can’t believe so many of the things that I think and especially not the things that I think on either my best or my worst days.
Let me explain.
Living with chronic health conditions is, for me, something akin to struggling with drastic mood fluctuations (I’m lucky enough to struggle with those, too… In case you wondered!) This means that I can wake up one morning feeling like I’ll never amount to anything; never achieve anything and can spend an entire day in bed asleep but the very next day, wake up with every brilliant idea I’ve ever had all at once and so loud in my head that I simply can’t hear them. I can go from believing in myself and my business; forging ahead with new ideas; designing new pieces; to wondering why it is that I bother trying at all very quickly and my body mimics these emotions very closely. Therapists often all this cycle the ‘Boom and Bust’ cycle and it’s something that you’re taught to manage by pacing yourself – both on a physical and emotional level – in order to flatten down the big peaks and troughs that you experience as a result of your health issues.
Before I understood them, I used to think that I was weird for these fluctuations. But I’ve come to realise that we all struggle with them to greater or lesser extents. Or perhaps a better way to think of it is that we are either better or less good at hiding the ways that we struggle and our moments of crippling self-doubt.
But here’s the deal, friends. Those moments; the good, the bad, the ugly; they all contribute to the face that we present to the world. And further still, they’re integral to who we are and the reason that only you can be you.
I’ve spent so long thinking that the only parts of me that the world wants to see are the best days. The productive days. The days where I show how much a chronically ill person can achieve in spite of the odds. But those days can sometimes feel few and far between and they certainly aren’t the only ones that count.
Because isn’t it the bad days; I mean the really shitty ones; that make us pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off again? Aren’t those the days that show us what we’re really made of when we get up the next day and decide to just do what we can even if we know we’ll never be able to realise all of our ideas and potential.
For isn’t there magic in just being ?
So here I am, friends. Just checking in to remind you that despite what you think, you’re doing okay. That you will get to where you want to be by just putting one foot in front of the other. That it isn’t a race. That if you’re chronically ill you absolutely can achieve amazing things and that feeling different to everyone else certainly isn’t necessarily a bad thing but also isn’t always necessarily true. Because we all feel lonely and useless at times. We all feel like square pegs in round holes.
And the secret to it all?
– Don’t believe everything you think. Especially not the thoughts that you have on your best or worst days. The only thing that you truly need to believe is that you are worthy. Whoever you are and whatever hand of cards you have been dealt. You are worthy.
It is my dearest hope that whoever wears this ring will be reminded of the collection of thoughts, experiences and emotions that come together to make you the beautifully individual person that you are; much like the granules on this individually handcrafted piece come together to create a beautifully unique texture and sparkle.
With all of my love, friends,