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No Pain, No Gain: 5 Lessons From The Worst Year Of My Life

Kelly O'Brien
mbg Contributor By Kelly O'Brien
mbg Contributor
Kelly O'Brien is a freelance health and wellness writer based in Chicago.
woman looking down holding sunglasses

My life changed in 2010 after a bad reaction to a flu vaccine, a fall, and blow to my head that left me feeling extremely disoriented. I was left with a rare and challenging health condition that changed life as I knew it and resulted in financial devastation, the termination of a 14-year career, and the loss of many friends.

My pain over the next year was indescribable. That said, it helped me gain the perspective that can only come from a crisis. Here are five things I learned from the trenches:

1. There is beauty in suffering.

People love to root for the underdog, but most don't like to be on the front lines while the underdog is grabbling to get back on top. If you, too, are going through a hard time, look for people who will want to join you for the ride. Together, you will learn so much through suffering and find strength in new places. It's a beautiful process that brings you closer to your true self and a higher power. I encourage you and your loved ones to dig deep and find the beauty in what you are experiencing.


2. Worrying is your biggest waste of time. 

When dealing with loss, you will worry Will I ever feel normal again? Will I ever be able to do all of the activities I love? Will I get married and have a baby? Will my boyfriend stay with me through this? 

I have been filled with worry like this along my journey, and it's been such a confidence killer. Over time, you can worry yourself into absolute utter sickness and stress, and push people away as a result.

We all know this and yet we worry anyway. Stop! Life is short. Catch yourself when you start to worry about what will happen "one day" and instead focus on the joy of the hour, the minute, the day. When worry rears its ugly head, repeat a positive affirmation, mantra, or quote that resonates until that worry goes away. If you have to repeat that affirmation 20 times a day, do what you need to do to not give in to worry.

3. Bad situations are just lucky ones in disguise.

I believe that people are chosen to go through certain experiences for a reason. There is a reason you have been chosen to go through the trial that you are facing. There is something that you and you alone can give back to others on the other side of it.

4. We all have immense power and drive within us.

We are all stronger than we think, and we can persevere through any hardship.


5. You must honor yourself, always.

Someone recently said to me, "You are so intense!" At first I took offense to that, but then I realized, you know what? I am intense right now because I am going through a truly intense time in my life. And you know what else? That's okay. I will be laidback when I feel laidback.

Be who you truly are and feel what you feel. The key is to be authentic and that's good enough. The people who love you won't mind and the people who do don't matter. Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you up and love you as you are today. Being true to yourself even through a trying time is so incredibly empowering.

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