Rebekkah Stainton is a Registered Clinical Counsellor.
Rebekkah Stainton is the Founder of WestCoast Vitality, a counselling clinic that walks alongside people coping with a variety of struggles. Her two main areas of specialization are working with stress management and anxiety in high performers as well as working with trauma, with a focus on sexual abuse and assault.
What makes a hero?
As someone who has struggled with anxiety and feelings of inferiority at different points in my life, this is a question I’ve given a lot of thought to. Christopher Reeves once said that “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” I believe this to be true. We all come across situations in our lives that are challenging and scary. It’s not that the hero doesn’t experience fear but rather that they acknowledge the fear and choose to move forward anyway. Courage is the decision that something is more important than fear.
Just before my 30th birthday, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
At the time, it didn’t immediately register. I was in great shape and I took care of myself. I’d just finished my first sprint triathlon. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Cancer wasn’t a part of the plan.
I remember sitting with the news for quite a while, not telling anyone as I tried to accept that this was real. It felt like if I said it out loud then that would make it real and I didn’t know if I had the courage to face it. I did eventually let people in and I discovered just how amazing people can be. None of that changed that what followed was a long and scary journey towards healing.
A year or so later, the surgeries I went through to get the cancer out of my body had left me experiencing daily debilitating pain that the doctors were unable to explain or ease. It was a really hard time in my life. After months of watching me go through day after day of agony interspersed with hospital visits to rehydrate my body and provide the level of narcotics necessary to give me some small respite, my (now ex) husband said to me “Why don’t you kill yourself?”
I understand that this question seems particularly harsh but I knew it was coming from a place of confusion and fear and not from a desire to wound. He simply could not understand what allowed me to keep going day after day without knowing if there would ever be an end to my pain.
My drive to keep going, to keep seeking answers, to survive had nothing to do with not being afraid. Of course, I worried that this was what my life was going to be like forever but to me, my life was worth facing the fear for.
I am so incredibly fortunate to walk alongside people facing their own fears every day in my counselling practice. I am constantly humbled by the willingness of my clients to share their stories with me. I see the courage behind the struggles and decision to move forward in spite of fear. The person paralyzed by social anxiety who still puts themselves out there, the person who walks away from the familiar and the safe because they realize it’s not right for them anymore, or the person who was sexually abused/ assaulted and still knows they deserve to be respected and loved.
I’m now facing a different kind of fear, the kind many entrepreneurs face – expanding my business. Am I taking on too much? What if I fail? Is this the right time? What if it all goes away? These are the kinds of questions that I wrestle with all the time. There are moments where I’ve thought of turning back towards the certainty that I’ve felt in the past but something deep inside tells me that this is what feels right and even though it’s scary, I choose to keep moving forward.
Do I consider myself a hero? Some people have said I’ve done heroic things but I don’t feel like a hero. That term still feels reserved for others. Saying this, I recognize that I have seen acts of heroism on a daily basis. Some of these are big bold acts that most people would recognize as heroic like saving someone from a burning building or making a public stand against injustice. Others are more subtle individual battles that no one but the person will ever truly understand the courage involved. Courage comes in many forms and each of us has our own fear to face. It’s not up to someone else to determine what brings out the hero within. The only person who can do that is the person in the mirror staring back at you.