As I went through my own journey to wellness I had hundreds of conversations with people who like me have gotten sick or faced something traumatic that changed their lives forever. I listened as they intimately shared their suffering and their victories.
Today, I thought I would share about the question people often asked me during this time, the impact this question had, and the answers.
Question: You look different, what did you do?
I have to admit that this one is really hard. My worst fears were realized when people asked this, and especially as they treated me differently because of how my body looked.
When my body carries less weight I get praised, this only feeds the fears I had all along, that I was less lovable or less worthy because of how my body looked. Some ask what I’m doing differently, wanting to try it themselves which brings up my own emotions in seeing other bodies I believe look better, healthier, skinnier.
When my body carries more weight people ask if I’m ok, if I’m sick, or suggestively talk about their diet, a cleanse they are doing, or invite me to work out with them. Once again my fears are fed, that I am not good enough or accepted.
I don’t know that there is a question that would be appropriate here. Of course, when people can see something physically different is easier to notice. While there are definitely fluctuations in my body, but the real changes are on the inside.
So, what is happening with me?
While I remember my childhood being fun I also remember from an early age thinking something was wrong with me. What I wouldn’t know until much later in life, is that we all feel this way. We all feel like we are too this or too little of that. The part that matters is that I thought it was something to hide, that if others knew the truth I wouldn’t have family or friends anymore.
In my early teens, my grandfather vanished. Yup… vanished. Now I know that this is a key time where my depression took hold of me. At the moment all I could see was I didn’t understand what was happening, lots of sadness, and immediately I felt like he had left because of me. Once again, I knew I had to hide this feeling. Everyone around me was so sad, they would hate me if they knew it was my fault.
Over and over I repeated this pattern each time something happened in my life. Big or small, it was always my fault, I’m bad and I have to hide this truth. It was there when I was raped when I left my first marriage, and ultimately it was the way I lived in my depression.
Let’s fast forward 20 years. I’ve been living this way day in and day out through marrying my current husband. Having 2 amazing children, and being their mom day in and day out. Through happy moments and sad ones. What I didn’t notice was that I was getting worse.
What’s worse than depression?
The next phase in being sick seemed to happen all at once like a light switch had been turned off inside of me. I was exhausted all the time. I seemed that I would wake up more tired than when I went to sleep. This went on for a few weeks where I would make excuses, I was busy at work blah blah blah. I never thought anything of it.
Then once again, another sick switch turned off and I wasn’t able to eat without severe pain. When people ask me to describe the, I look back to being in labor with my daughter for a week. (Yes I said a week, and that’s a whole other story) Honestly, that was easier than this. It would hurt to breathe, my lower and middle back would feel like I was being stabbed. My mid to upper belly would feel like I was an alien movie extra. In between eating everything still hurt, I was constantly aching and in discomfort.
Eventually, I went to the doctor. They ran every test they could think of and found… nothing.
Then I came crashing down
I kept going back again and again. Looking for an answer. Then the diagnosis started to roll in so fast I began to wonder why I had asked for help. I now had hemangioma in my liver, nothing to worry about he said. “Lets put you on a liquid diet, and we will follow up in 6 months”.
Only 6 weeks later things got worse, much worse. I now had high cholesterol and fatty liver disease, something I didn’t even know you could get without a drinking problem. Now only a year after my “normal” yearly check-up I felt like I was falling apart and had no idea what to do or why. I tried sharing this with my doctor.
Then he said, I think you are just stressed.
WAIT STOP? What did you say?
You may have figured it all out already, but it took me 6 months of not being able to eat to see it. I felt so alone, lost, and ready to give up. I was also hiding all of this! It had become my automatic way of being. To do it alone I hid the pain, the appointments, the fear.
I could not see how sick I was, and I certainly couldn’t let others see it for me. I would cry in my car on the side of the road so no one would see me at home or at work. My pockets would always have pain pills I would pop like candy to try to get any relief. I had become so used to pretending and hiding the truth, I couldn’t see what was so clear.
I was in full burnout. It is so easy for me to see it all today, and when I look back it is a bit laughable. You see I’m a pretty smart cookie, people know me as a problem solving positive person. So how did I not see the pieces of this puzzle come together before the picture literally slapped me in the face?
So what happened? Well, I spent 40 years feeling like I wasn’t good enough, that I had to do life alone. I worked 80 hour work weeks to try to make my boss happy so I could have a promotion I didn’t even want. Plus, I volunteered 1200 hours a year because I wasn’t fulfilled in my job and it was the only way I felt people would see that I had value. I skipped meals, sleep, and self care every day.
And my body finally said STOP.
Okay, so back to “You look different, what did you do?”
Alright, so let’s fast forward to the day it all started to change. I’m in a yin yoga class at my friend’s studio. The teacher is transitioning us into a wide-legged forward fold, and it was like everything let go all at once.
It is not surprising to me that this happened on my yoga mat. My first yoga class was in Vancouver a few days after I was raped. A friend had seen the struggle I was trying to hide and invited me to come. From that class forward I had gone to yoga classes and never really asked why. Honestly, the truth slapped me in the face in this moment. I finally saw what my life, my depression, and now my illness was screaming for me to see.
It was time to see the truth, to find love right here within me. To finally let go of all the false beliefs, pain and suffering. It was time to not only take charge of my life, but it was also time to be the source of it!
How I went from sick to living the life of my dreams
I remember being a little girl watching the Wizard of Oz and Glinda telling Dorothy that she had everything she needed all along. So why do we forget that? Why are we so hard on ourselves? So how did my journey from sick to wellness begin?
I had to see the world I had created
I had to stop doing everything alone! To authentically share all the things I was hiding and be free of them for good. To find out that I had this wonderful support structure and community who WANTED to help. For the first time, I allowed others to contribute to me. The game-changer… I allowed myself to see me and my worth through their experience of me. And I gave myself permission to believe it.
I had to get that I matter and listen within
There was a distinct moment where I realized that I could read every book and every google result. I could ask doctors, get tests and watch documentaries. But none of it would do anything, nothing would change until… I learned to listen to myself. To connect with my inner wisdom, be curious and not give up. I also had to realize that my body is exactly that, mine. It is not some external part of me that is being good or bad today. I had to finally see that I actually matter!
Discovery my peace
I had to look at what made me feel peaceful, what was calming and healing in my life. And do A LOT MORE OF IT. This helped me to understand why I went to yoga, something I had never questioned. For more than 25 years I had been in the practice of yoga, without ever asking why. Today I can see it is where I have gone to heal, to be with me and all my stuff, to allow me to be exactly who I am.
I had to find my values
Getting sick helped me see this more clearly, but in the end, I knew all along. What I value most is my family and being in service to others. Getting sick reminded me that I was at risk of not being able to be there to see my kids grow up. To meet and be there for my grandchildren. With no energy how could I have the time for them and then give to others? This is the heart of why I needed a change.
What happens next is the whirlwind that became the Life of Wellness Institute. I hope you will join me as I share it.