At the exact moment I began to bring The Best of You to life, I encountered a trauma that would literally knock me off my feet, forcing me to test everything I hoped to write about.
Today is almost the 2-year anniversary of that trauma. It’s unbelievable to me that this book is coming out next week.
In today’s episode, I read this very personal story from the introduction of The Best of You, along with some added commentary. It’s a tender story. Thank you for holding it with me.
“I didn’t lose my faith in God as my life slowly unraveled; I lost faith in
"If you are never taught how to develop—and trust—your own sense of self, you have no choice but to blindly trust other people. How can you possibly forge healthy relationships with others—if you don’t first understand how to show up as the person God made you to be?
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
Episode Nineteen: The Best of You Podcast 8th September 2022
Introduction to The Best of You With Dr. Alison Cook
Alison: Hey, everyone. I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started, as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey, everyone. Welcome back to The Best of You podcast. I'm so glad you're here today. This is a special episode of the podcast for two reasons. First, my new book, The Best of You comes out next week, Tuesday the 13th.
But, secondly, what's at the forefront of my mind, and my spirit, and my body right now is it's nearly, to the day, the two-year anniversary of a trauma that occurred just as I was bringing The Best of You into life. And I write about this trauma in the introduction to the book.
So in today's episode, I'm going to share that introduction with you. I'm going to read it. I will also provide a little bit of my own commentary on it. And, so, this is a tender story, and I'm really grateful for the opportunity to share it with this podcast community today.
Before we dive in, I want to remind you that this is your last chance to get all the pre-order bonuses that I've made available for you when you pre-order The Best of You. These bonuses are good through book release day. That's through the 12th of September, which is just next week.
So if you're planning to order the book don't wait another day. Head over to anywhere books are sold. Order the book, and then go to my website, it's dralisoncook.com/book, and you'll get so many pre-order bonuses, they're all available for you.
They include the first three chapters of the book now. The Best of You Devotional, which is the devotional we created just for you.
You'll also get lifetime access to my video courses, including my Boundaries for Women video course.
My Claim Your Yes Relationship bundle, which includes two videos, one on how to calm your emotions. And you'll get access to my two-part webinar series Five Toxic Behaviors and How to Protect Yourself. And it's all available, for you, when you pre-order The Best of You.
Head over to my website, again, it's dralisoncook.com/book. There are so many freebies there for you. So get that book now, before those freebies run out. When the book comes out, next week, it's going to be in your hands.
All right, so here we go. This is an excerpt, with some special commentary, from the introduction of The Best of You.[00:02:44] < Music >
The Best of You almost didn't make it into being. As a clinician, I had longed for an accessible practical guide, that laid out key elements of how we heal. A sort of therapy in a book, that brings together the best of faith with the best of psychology, in a way that speaks, especially, to the unique needs of women.
But at the exact moment I began to bring this book to life, I encountered a trauma. That would, literally, knock me off my feet, forcing me to test everything I hoped to write about.
It was a Friday Night Lights kind of night. A crisp September evening in the football-loving town of Sheridan, Wyoming.
After six months of lockdown, with our two-college aged, remote-learning kids, I was getting ready for a quarantine-style date night with my husband. A country road, tailgate dinner, complete with takeout from a favorite restaurant eaten under the stars.
Eager to get dressed up, for the first time in forever, I headed into our bathroom to put on some makeup. As I pumped concealer onto my finger, I noticed something strange. It was as if my finger was completely disconnected from my body. Prepped for the, seemingly, simple task of gliding over to my face. This finger was stubbornly refusing all my mental efforts to move it.
In a matter of moments, a body I had, for the most part, trusted to perform basic tasks was suddenly completely unresponsive to me. As hard as I tried I could not move that finger. I felt as powerless as if I were trying to use my mind to transport a book across the room by staring at it.
Ironically, the day before I had sent out a blog post on learning to trust yourself. A therapist for nearly two decades, I had started writing out observations from my work. In two years, my blog had grown to more than 30,000 readers.
That responsibility instilled a sense of fear and trembling in me. As I pressed send each week. In this particular post, I had been able to put words to something that I had wrestled with for decades.
"If you are never taught how to develop and trust your own sense of self, you have no choice but to blindly trust other people. How can you possibly forge healthy relationships with others? If you don't, first, understand how to show up as the person God made you to be?"
As I wrote this blog post, my usually busy mind had felt oddly calm. As if the letters had taken on a life of their own and dropped onto my screen one by one. Crystallizing years of personal struggle and professional pondering.
I had nurtured a deep faith in God in college. A formative move on my not so faith-filled Ivy league campus. But I somehow managed to remain completely disconnected from my own sense of self. Descending into a decade of self-doubt and chronic people-pleasing.
I never lost my faith in God. As my life, slowly, unraveled I lost faith in myself. It took a PhD in both religion and psychology, combined with a midlife meltdown to dig myself out.
And this blog post was a culmination of reflections on what I had observed in my own life and in the lives of the women who had come to me for counseling. This is the exact message I have to give, I thought. We have to develop a deep connection to our own sense of self. Work that goes hand in hand with trusting the one who made us.
Developing a strong sense of self is paramount to living the life God has for us. It's essential to healthy relationships with other people. It involves a deep understanding of your strengths, needs, values, and purpose.
It's finding and expressing your unique voice in all kinds of relationships and situations. It's trusting that you have what it takes to meet the challenges you will face no matter what life throws your way. My message had never felt so clear. After I hit Send and shut down my laptop, I'd had the profound feeling that a disconnect deep inside me had finally reached its end.
Now, as I stood in front of the mirror, not 24 hours later. I was trying to make sense of another disconnect I could not possibly have predicted. My finger simply would not move.
"Is it asleep?"
I wondered, fleetingly, searching for a familiar category to describe what was happening.
"No, this is not that."
And I began to register a terrifying observation. My finger is no longer responding to the cues my brain is sending it and I started screaming for my husband.
"Joe!" I yelled, holding the unresponsive finger out in front of me.
As Joe rushed in, I tried to explain what was happening. I could hear my words slurring, like they were coming out in slow motion, and I started staggering as if I was drunk. It was, suddenly, no longer only my finger that had disconnected. It was my hand, my arm, and just like that, the whole left side of my body.
I was on the floor when we both realized what was happening.
Only in my forties, with no known medical conditions, I was having a stroke.
While I had been laboring over my blog post, only one-day prior, a blood clot was making its way into my brain.
My husband rushed me to the emergency room where doctors went into action, and immediately worked to mitigate the damage of the clot.
Three days later, I was able to walk out of the hospital my body, relatively, unscathed. But my heart and my soul would forever be changed. The terror of that moment evoked understandable anxiety. And I found myself traveling down an unwanted path through shock, fear, and bargaining, that I had so often accompanied my clients on.
I had to surrender in a whole new way to a process of healing from the emotional aftermath of trauma. The irony was not lost on me. Suddenly, I entered poignant season of practicing everything I taught.
Each day I would find ways to, gently, soothe my anxious mind, noticing and moving toward what brought glimmers of relief. I honored the tears that showed up, often, in the middle of the night.
I leaned into loving relationships. The presence of which was a marvel to me, after years of healing my own painful patterns of relating to other people. And I talked with God, honestly, instead of hiding doubts, fears, and even anger.
One sunny afternoon, a few months after the stroke. I found myself alone in the middle of a hayfield as my husband fly-fished nearby. I looked up into the enormous blue sky, encased on all sides with golden yellow, and asked God, "What is it that you want me to do with this life You've given me? You, certainly, have my attention."
And as is God's way I sensed not an easy answer but a loving nudge in a new, but also strangely familiar direction. Where God asked me questions.
"What is it that you want to do with this life you've been given? I know you. I see you. I want you to use the gifts you've been given."
I wanted to write The Best of You.
This book you are reading is my answer to God's question. What I want, at the core of my being, is to teach you how to do the hard, beautiful work of becoming and trusting your truest deepest self in partnership with the God who made you.
You may not have had a life-threatening stroke that brought you to a place of examining what to do when life gets the best of you. But I have no doubt you've had pain. You've suffered through loneliness, loss, self-doubt, or betrayal.
You've no doubt asked God, "What is it that you want from me in this crisis, this relationship, this heartache, this life?"
You've no doubt begged God to show you the way forward. The way out of the struggle you're facing.
The problem is that healing, whether it's current heartaches or past wounds, is rarely a one-time event. Healing is a process. A practice, a way of becoming more of who you really are.
It's the work every single one of us has been given to do.
It's the work that I believe is at the center of God's heart.
Healing starts within us and flows out to our loved ones, our neighbors, and our world.
I'm not here to give you easy answers. I don't presume to understand the sometimes strange ways of God. But I do know this to be true, whatever you are facing you have one of two choices. You can turn toward the work of healing this beautiful life you've been given, or you can turn away.
You can turn toward this question, I believe God is asking each and every one of us. "What is it that you want to do with this life you've been given? I'm listening."[00:12:07] < Music >
This is the introduction to The Best of You, and it brings up a lot of emotion still to this day, as I read it. Just replaying the tape of that night, of driving down main street in this small town where I grew up. Just all the thoughts that flashed through my mind in those moments of wondering if I would be okay.
One of the thoughts that I had as you read, in The Best of You, you'll get to chapter three. My husband, who helped me that night, was a widower when I met him with two young children. And, so, the cost of what had happened to me, was not only scary for what it meant for me. But what it would mean for him and the two children I had helped to raise.
I took several months off, completely, after that stroke. I needed the time to heal. I needed the time to understand, deeply, what had happened. I had to come to terms with some false ideas about what I believed about God. About some guarantees I thought we had in this life we've been given.
And I will tell you this, as you read the book you will see. I don't believe that we get easy answers from God. I don't believe in quick fixes, or clichés, or platitudes that so many of us have been offered.
But I do believe this, I believe that God is in the business of healing, our souls, our hearts, and our minds. And I believe that we can grow deeply in understanding how to bring more kindness, more, love, more patience, more gentleness, more goodness, more faithfulness, not only to the people around us but to ourselves. And that is the fruit of healing and that is what I wish for you.
Next week, I'm going to read from and talk about the last chapter of the book. Which gets at what I believe it means to heal. What I believe it means to live at peace with yourself, with God, and with others.
This is not an easy journey. I know so many of you listening are going through such hard things. But please know that as we turn toward the work of healing.
As we turn toward the work of inviting God into everything we're experiencing, even the hard things, even the anger, even the doubt, even the desolation, even the confusion.
As we honor and name those experiences, and we invite God into them. Instead of shoving them aside or trying to will those feelings away, we begin to experience a freedom. The spaciousness of a soul that is known inside out. The fruit of a well-lived life.
Thank you for joining me today on The Best of You. I can't wait to join you here next week.[00:15:12] < Music >
Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show.
You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison with one L- cook.com. Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now so that you don't miss an episode. And I'd love it if you'd go ahead and leave a review, it helps so much to get the word out.
I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others, and you stay true to your God-given self.[00:15:50] < Outro >