So You’re On Medical Leave … Now What?

Carole Ames describes how Living Alive Phase I helped her when she was on medical leave 26 years ago – a program which she now leads.

By Carole Ames. Carole and Jo-Ann Kevala are leading Living Alive Phase I (May 26–June 20, 2019).

Sometimes “work” doesn’t “work.” A myriad of ailments, from cancer to depression to traumatic injury, can make work impossible, culminating in medical leave. The diagnosis may be part of the mystery, or maybe that part is clear but the path to recovery is clouded. Perhaps this is you, or someone you know. 

I was in just such a situation 26 years ago. After 18 months of feeling crummy while still trying to work in a high-pressure management job, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, environmental sensitivities and hypoglycemia. Upon hearing that, I also felt depressed! I was given medical leave, but in my case there was no apparent cure, nor temporary balm.

I knew I was at a potential crossroads emotionally, physically, spiritually and professionally. I was exhausted, anxious, depressed, and lost. I had no idea how to go about making changes, what changes were possible, or even how to access the energy required to think and move.

Fortunately, I knew about The Haven and decided that since I had the unexpected gift of time, I would take a leap of faith and register for Living Alive Phase I. I wondered if it was possible that an entirely different approach to living might help me shift gears. The answer turned out to be “yes!”

During the 25 days of Living Alive Phase I, I experienced connection, frustration, peace, joy, anger, intrigue, sexual attractions, fear, excitement and discovery. Of course to do that I needed to be alive in my body, and I was. That was the biggest discovery for me in the program – that I could shift the lethargy, discomfort, isolation and lack of purpose that had comprised my world this dramatically in such a short period of time.

I left the program with knowledge, experience and tools to live my life differently, which I did. As I applied my learnings around embodiment (especially conscious breathing), honest communication, genuine intimacy, and self-defining boundaries, I recovered. And not just to my previous “status quo,” but more alive, more vital, more conscious. I have stumbled at times, and yet I have never lost what I learned, nor my appetite for “living alive.” I have been symptom-free for 24 years, except for one period when I slipped and drove myself too hard physically and emotionally – as soon as my symptoms crept back I paused, reflected on what I was “up to,” and shifted my behaviour and attitude. Then I was back on track.

My participation in Living Alive Phase I was the catalyst for many shifts in my life. I developed a new sense of purpose, forged meaningful relationships, and rekindled my joy. I even started to explore long-abandoned interests like acting, directing, travelling and comedy.

The Haven’s Living Alive Phase I is a beautifully designed and delivered program, an exceptional opportunity to learn and grow. That’s why I’ve been involved in leading it for many years. For anyone on medical leave, it offers the possibility of a new perspective and new tools with which to move through life, now and long into the future. Are you on a medical leave? Do you have an unexpected gift of time? May 26 – June 20, join me and Jo-Ann Kevala for Living Alive Phase I .

Carole Ames BES, DipC, MTC is the founder of Creative Pursuits. She supports people and organizations in meaningful reflection, creative exploration, and effective integration. Her communication skills, humour and insight have been key in her 35-year career. Associated with The Haven since 1990, she leads Come Alive, Living Alive Phase I and The Quantum Laugh in Canada, and also programs for the Haven in China. She has been working in both Canada and China for the last 12 years. 

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