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You need to hold on…

Scott Phillips (TMFGilla)

This time last year, I was lying in a hospital bed.

Not just any hospital bed — I was in intensive care, strapped to a machine that was forcing air into my lungs. I wasn’t intubated, thankfully, but the doctor was concerned I couldn’t get enough air, so the machine was pushing it in.

I had severe pneumonia, in the top and bottom of both lungs. I wouldn’t say the doctor was worried — but he wasn’t exactly confident it would be a simple recovery.

The good news, of course, is that the antibiotics and quality care did their job, and a few days later I was released from intensive care… and home soon after that.

(I wrote about the ordeal, here, if you want to read the full story.)

On a personal level, I have a lot to be thankful for. The amazing care, the (literally) life-saving drugs, and the support of my family, friends and colleagues.

And there’s nothing like being crook to remind you not to take your health — or life — for granted. It’s a helluva way to get perspective, but there you go.

But there’s another part of that experience I had cause to reflect on, recently.

See, the very first night I was in intensive care — when I was sickest and on that machine — was the toughest of the lot.

No, not medically, though I’m sure that was part of it.

It was the emotionally toughest part.

I was obviously physically unwell, and that impacts our ability to cope with adversity.

I was uncomfortable, with drips and other unmentionable tubes and cables hanging from me.

I was confined to bed, too unwell to move, and not able to even if I wasn’t, such were the contraptions attached to my body.

I was sleep-deprived, and was tossing and turning. I just couldn’t nod off.

It was dark and — but for the incessant beeping that only hospital patients know — quiet.

And, somewhere between midnight and sunrise, I was surrounded by people, but also very much alone.

I don’t know if it was being confronted by mortality, the hopelessness of being unable to do anything for myself, the feeling of having air forced into my lungs, or the doctor’s diagnosis that I probably wasn’t going to die… 

… but I was miserable.

I try not to be too much of a sook, but I really struggled that night. I just felt overwhelmed, out of control and downright miserable.

And I’m not Robinson Crusoe.

I’m no psychologist or medico, but I know that sort of feeling is common to many people, I’ve had similar experiences (if much less impactful) when I can’t sleep at 2am and the house is dark and quiet.

The human mind really doesn’t cope well with darkness, does it?

For me, that darkness has been a literal thing.

But I can easily imagine that it’s difficult for many people on a metaphorical level, too.

We’ve all heard people use metaphors like the walls closing in, or being in a hole and not feeling like they can get out. 

Again, I’m not qualified to offer any advice on that stuff in general, but if you’re struggling, please reach out to someone. I’ve never had need of them, but beyondblue (1300 22 4636) and Lifeline (13 11 14)  are there to help if you need it. Please give them a call if you think it’d help.

Far less important in the scheme of things, but something that came to mind as I recalled that night, is the parallel to investing.

We’ve all had times when our portfolios are having a rough trot. Again, our basic human nature takes over. We start to wonder if the market is rigged. If maybe we’re unlucky, or just aren’t cut out for this investing caper.

We doubt whether we really should be investing at all. 

Maybe you own tech stocks, and have watched over the past few weeks as prices have taken a dive.

How hard it is to remember that, even after the recent falls, most of those companies have put on meaningful gains this calendar year.

Or maybe you finally just took the plunge last month, and you’re looking at red on your brokerage screen, including how much money you’ve lost since you started, and you’re tempted to just cut and run, to staunch the financial bleeding and the emotional pain.

I’ve been there, too. 

I went through a patch just recently where the last half-dozen companies I’d recommended to members of Motley Fool Share Advisor were all losing to the market. Not 2 of them. Not 4 or 5. All of them.

Some of my members questioned the service and my ability. I felt like I was letting people down. Moreover, I was worried that members who’d joined recently — some investing for the very first time — might decide that, a few months in — this investing lark wasn’t for them, and would leave before the worm started to turn.

It did, of course.

Today, 4 of the last 6 recommendations are beating the market. 9 of the last 12 recommendations are making money for members who followed them.

It wasn’t a smooth path, but we got there.

Just like that night, one year ago.

I wish I could remember the name of the nurse who looked after me that night. She was kind, thoughtful — and she was there. I will always appreciate that.

And just as, deep down, I knew it would, the sun came up the next day. The hospital started to buzz again and my mood slowly lifted.

Which is also what happens – historically, at least — with investing. I’m not allowed, by law, to make you any promises. And I wouldn’t want to, anyway. My parents always told me not to make a promise you couldn’t be certain you could fulfil.

But here’s what I know. The ASX, like the US market, has never yet failed to recover from its slumps.

There are plenty of them — plenty of dark days, weeks and even months. There are down years, too.

But they’ve always passed. Not always easily or without causing some emotional scarring, but the financial pain has always been made good, if you stayed the course.

I hope that knowledge and — if you choose to stick with us — our support, can approximate the comfort I received from that nurse who sat at her desk at the end of my hospital bed one year ago, next time the markets get choppy.

I hope next time the market falls — or you’re going through any hard time — you’ll remember this story.

I hope you’ll remember that the dark times have always passed, and that my bet is they’ll continue to do so.

The human mind hates darkness. But the dawn always breaks.

Fool on!

The post You need to hold on… appeared first on Motley Fool Australia.

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The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

The Motley Fool's purpose is to help the world invest, better. Click here now for your free subscription to Take Stock, The Motley Fool's free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson. 2019