I don’t just want to tell my story. I want to give people the space to tell their own stories. Stories in which people followed their own inner voice. Went in new directions. Broke rules. Grew. Because there are so many unbelievable stories that need to be told!
The story of Carina von Stackelberg
Who are you?
I am Carina, I’m 27, I’m from Hamburg and I’m doing my Master’s in psychology.
I have a chronic illness, cystic fibrosis – I’ve had it since birth. Cystic fibrosis is the most common hereditary disease in Germany. It’s a metabolic disease caused by a genetic defect. It affects the pancreas, the liver, the intestines, but most of all the lungs. People with cystic fibrosis have more viscous bodily fluids than those who don’t have this genetic defect. Constant coughing to get rid of the viscous mucus is one of the typical symptoms, as is shortness of breath. My lung function is impaired, and I suffer recurring infections and pneumonia. Cystic fibrosis cannot be cured, all you can do is alleviate the symptoms. That takes a lot of time and energy! In spite of my disease, I want to participate in “normal” life. But studying, having hobbies, free time and an illness – it’s often hard to fit all those pieces together.
What do you see as your calling?
Why do people approach stumbling blocks or strokes of fate so differently – what motivates someone to keep going or to give up? I’ve been asking myself these questions as long as I can remember. These questions were one of the multiple reasons I started to study psychology. Throughout my life, I have frequently found myself at a point where I didn’t know how to continue on, and yet still I found ways to keep going.
I would like to bring together my own experiences and the knowledge gained from my studies. I would like to help people find ways to build courage and motivation. I want to help people to overcome life’s stumbling blocks a bit more easily. In addition to my studies, I work as a mental trainer, and try to accompany people on their path, perhaps providing them with a bit of inspiration or encouragement. I also have a blog, where I regularly write about myself and my disease. I’m currently writing my Master’s thesis. I’m doing a study on a motivational strategy designed to help chronically ill individuals have more motivation to do their daily therapy.
When did you start to follow your own inner voice?
A year ago, my best friend died. He had cystic fibrosis as well. Losing my friend was a critical moment for me in a sense. Suddenly I was asking myself questions I had never thought about before. I had always held back the things that were happening inside me, and for over 25 years, I had silenced my inner voice. Many of the things I did cost me tremendous amounts of energy – more energy than I actually possessed. My studies, for example, learning in school. But is it really worth it? What value does any of it have in the end?
After my best friend’s death, I began to do more things I was truly passionate about. My inner voice, which I had turned down for so many years, was finally turned up. I’ve started listening to this voice. What is it I’m passionate about? I wanted to stand up and speak out about what was important to me. Not just to swim blindly along with the current, but to ask myself what I really want, what makes me happy. A big part of that is talking about a taboo subject like chronic illness so much that it’s suddenly no longer a taboo subject. After all, quite a few of us are afflicted with issues our society deems abnormal…
What stumbling blocks did you encounter on your journey?
There were many stumbling blocks on my journey. Sometimes I felt like I was jumping from one stumbling block to another. Since childhood, I’m a regular visitor to the hospital and have to do drug therapies that really take a lot out of me. Every day I have to do multiple hours of physiotherapy. During my studies, I kept reaching a point where I thought I couldn’t keep going. It was just too much for me. Should I just quit now? Should I just do something “easier” and “more comfortable”, that doesn’t push me so close to my mental and physical limits? But I kept going. Now I believe that those moments are what made me the person I am today. Now I try to see the stumbling blocks not as obstacles, but as life lessons. Because every stumbling block shows us a little more of life, of all of the facets life has to offer.
Are there parallels between your path and the Stranger’s project?
I don’t make music myself – and yet, in a broader sense, it’s all about sounds for me. I want to listen to the sound of my inner voice and to help everyone to develop that ability. I too had a symbolic walk through the desert, until I was able to listen to my inner voice. By learning to listen to myself, I discovered how many treasures can be found along our paths – even when those paths are full of stumbling blocks.
How would you encourage other people to follow their inner voice?
Listening to your inner voice is not something you either are or are not able to do. I’m convinced that we can all learn, and that it is also possible to learn to be happy. It takes patience and a willingness to listen to yourself. Sometimes we are deaf to the things our hearts are trying to say to us. We chase after things that are supposedly important to us, that will make us successful. But really we just need to listen. Our inner voice is much louder than we sometimes believe! It’s important to be quiet sometimes, and to listen with elephant ears. Listen to our heart and to other people.
From personal experience, I know that often we are not one with ourselves because something isn’t going the way we thought it would. But to overcome these stumbling blocks, it’s incredibly important to know ourselves well and to be a good friend to ourselves. And to not be hell-bent on getting our way. We have to learn to be kinder and more loving with ourselves. Because the more we know about who we are and what we actually want, the easier it is to take the first steps in the right direction – in the direction of our passion. It’s not always about an immediate, significant change that turns your life around. Sometimes it helps to start with little steps. To try things out and see what feels good. To use myself as an example, I have learned that every stumbling block, every obstacle, every stroke of fate in life makes us who we are. But only by listening to our inner voice can we get to know ourselves better.
It’s not always about an immediate, significant change that turns your life around. Sometimes it helps to start with little steps. To try things out and see what feels good. To use myself as an example, I have learned that every stumbling block, every obstacle, every stroke of fate in life makes us who we are. But only by listening to our inner voice can we get to know ourselves better.
More about Carina: