I have come to realise that whenever I am struggling with my health it’s because A. I am working too much or B. I am putting far too much stress on myself, for too long, or C. Both of the above. It’s never about what I’m eating – because that is divine, or a lack of sleep, because I am zzzzzz almost before I’m in bed, and I stay that way until I wake up in the morning, refreshed. I am mostly happy and always grateful for my life so it’s not malcontent making me sick – it’s bloody stress.
Stress is a major cause of illness for so many of us. I see it in my practice all the time. Many of my clients have their diet and exercise regime sorted now, but there is an imbalance somewhere. Either too much work and not enough play, or there is something else causing it – and it’s creating stress. It’s not easy to change ourselves, especially as we get older and increasingly accustomed to our ‘ways’. We have a thousand excuses to justify our patterns, or at least I have. Here’s one of my favourites – I feel I was born at this time to do exactly what I’m doing; to teach others how to live a healthier, happier, more sustainable life easily; to be of service. So by sitting back on my haunches would feel like I’m wasting precious time – and not just mine, everybody’s.
Pretty convincing huh? Easy not to change when you put it like this right? Wrong!
I’ve also had this bent that I get my ‘love quota’ through helping others. Yup! I’m sure some of you can relate to this. So, once I started studying ‘The Enneagram’, this pattern became uncomfortably clear.
Stemming from the Greek words ‘ennea’ (nine) and grammos (a written symbol), the nine-pointed Enneagram symbol represents nine distinct strategies for relating to the self, others and the world. This is a very old typing dating back to the Sufi’s. http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/mysticism/sufi_mysticism.html
Each Enneagram ‘type’ has a different pattern of thinking, feeling and acting that arises from a deeper inner motivation or worldview. We all swing between different numbers in times of stress and happiness. The shape itself is a fractal – a perfect mathematical equation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal It’s not related to your horoscope or numerology (although I’m into both) it’s about how we learnt to get love from our parents as a child. In my mid-20’s it become increasingly apparent to me that I was a ‘2’ – I was ‘the helper’, giving to get – love.
Naturally I wanted to die from shame, and profusely denied this pattern, but instead – I didn’t leave the house for a week. I was in crisis – my ego had been ‘fractured’. This is a good thing (eventually) but wow; it’s hard being fractured. What follows is crises around your own identity, or rather – lack of. Who on earth am I then? Yep it’s full on work and not for the feint hearted, but absolutely necessary for anyone wanting to live an authentic life free from shame, guilt and fear; anyone on a path to personal freedom. Once you’ve faced your own demons, everything and everyone seems easier.
The Kinesiologist I was working with for over a decade to help me move through some of these patterns was great. (I later went onto study Kinesiology because I personally found it to be a wonderful way to deal with big, old stuff – without blaming anyone.) If I wanted to change my pattern of giving-to-get, first I needed to make the decision that I wasn’t to give anything to anyone for 12 months. No one! Can you imagine? I couldn’t. Not even a birthday card to my Mother.
Ok, so let’s get this into perspective. This is the same girl who couldn’t go to a dinner party without taking not only a good bottle of wine, but more than likely entrée, main and dessert, and probably ingredients and a blender for a special cocktail and a present for the host/ess, and then stay to clean up.
I was a chronic over-giver, and it needed to stop. IT needed to stop because if I didn’t get what I thought were my ‘dues’ in return, resentment, anger then sadness would result, and I’d end up feeling alone. (8 then 4 in ‘The Enneagram’ – my ‘lines’ as a 2.)
After much (hard and painful) work, I realised that I had a deep lack of self-worth (I’m guessing from a poor body image), and that this pattern of over-giving, of being totally lovely, friendly, helpful and without any needs of my own had started as a means to gain love and approval and therefore an identity. Hmmmm? Yuck!
I remember picking a tarot card at this time – ‘The Tower’. In this card the tower is getting struck by a lightning bolt (the curveball), which has a person standing on the top of it, watching her world fall apart all around her. The rubble on the ground indicates chaos, but it is said this is a good thing, (eventually) as one can now rebuild on ‘truth and love’. Great! But I was in the middle of ground zero. I had no idea who to be, let alone who I actually was underneath all the rubble, and there was no New York fire brigade to help me out. I was the only one who could rebuild my life, an honest one.
I was going through this at my own ‘Saturn Return’, (see link below), which occurs around 26-30 years old (29.5 to be exact) – a typical time when a big change occurs in one’s life.
To mark the occasion I fractured my right leg into a million peaces rollerblading – a few days before my 27th birthday. This forced me to be still, although not initially. At first I hopped around everywhere (without my crutch/es), still ‘keeping on’, but after a month or so when an x-ray revealed that the bone wasn’t healing as fast as it should be – I woke up. It didn’t matter how many comfrey leaves I wrapped around my leg (I had a removable cast as my leg had been pinned and plated by now), how much calcium and magnesium I took or how much arnica I swallowed. And perhaps swimming all those laps in the pool without the cast on wasn’t such a great idea. My ego was petrified of putting on weight so it was enormously difficult to stay still. Sound familiar? This is when I realised I had to stay STILL. Damn! It was personality- changing, seriously. I couldn’t drive, work in a kitchen cooking as I had been doing, run, wash my hair, play, or…help! Once I finally ‘surrendered’ to it something amazing happened.
One morning as I was waking up, still in bed, I heard a very loud voice in my head telling me I was a healer; that I needed to study Naturopathy; that this was my path. I had never thought of formal training in natural therapies before. Although a year or so before a clairvoyant had told me I would become a well known Naturopath and writer with a public profile. I promptly ignored that as I was on my own mission to open juice bars. But on this particular morning I heard the message.
A month or two before I broke my leg I had just returned from my first European trip. I was 26. The first part of the trip was 3 months or so in America to see what they were doing with juice bars and health food stores there. I couldn’t get enough of it. I was working in an Australian restaurant to support myself, and all the while writing business plans, drawing up shop plans, creating a massive folder on all I needed to open my own health food store with a juice bar. I wanted to have an ‘Elixir Bar’ in the store also – herbal shots that you could add to your cold-pressed juice for a particular ailment – pmt, energy, de-tox, immunity, etc. (This is where the name of my first book ‘Elixir’ stemmed.) This was 1995 so I was a bit ahead of ‘time’, but my word nothing was going to stop me, not even ‘divine timing’. Apart from a broken leg and the subsequent operations that followed, that is.
It’s funny how things happen. The week before I broke my leg I had found the perfect little shop to lease in North Bondi. I had lived in this suburb in my 20’s (and 30’s until I moved to the Byron Hinterland) so I knew the area well, and what it needed. I was due to sign the lease on the shop on a Monday, but the day before this I went rollerblading in Sydney’s Centennial park, (it was the 90’s), with some friends. The whole time I was complaining about how busy I was and that I needed a ‘break’. Careful what you wish for hey? Just as we were arriving back to our picnic rug, I spun around to my friends to say to ‘hurry up’ (ha) and my boot hit a clump of grass. I was standing still at the time. This twisted my boot around causing a spiral fracture to my right leg. Yeah, that hurt! Guess who didn’t get to sign that lease that next day, and guess who was forced to be ‘still’, and guess who then went onto study natural therapies and never look back? Me, lucky me. Breaking my leg that day was one of the best things that has ever happened to me in my life. What a blessing!
I know from my years in private practice now that denying one’s own needs is a common practice amongst many people. We give up our own identities in order to be of service, and therefore gain loved. That’s all well and good but how about once those emerging, real needs surface? What happens then? I’ll tell you what happens – you break your leg, or they show themselves in a less than gracious way. The ‘curveball’, or a bolt of lightening hits. Either way – you know about it and chaos results. Crisis follows, and hopefully it’s not coinciding with menopause or man-o-pause, exams, filming, big presentations or your best friends or child’s wedding, but you know what – it often does. In days gone by ‘loosing it’ was often referred to as having a mental breakdown, these days perhaps ‘adrenal exhaustion’, and in many cultures ‘a spiritual or kundalini awakening’. It shouldn’t necessarily be considered to be a bad thing. It’s a wake up call, and there to help you become the best most authentic person you can be, and to put you on your destined path.
Reading this passage by Marianne Williamson – whilst amidst my own chaos and rubble – strengthened my resolve to rebuild.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”
A few years later I started looking into working with ‘The Shadow’. I was now aware of my giving-to-get pattern and had somewhat curbed it. I did slip up at times of course, but you know what? That’s ok, sometimes. But now it was time to look at the parts of myself I was denying altogether. ‘The Darkness’. This should be fun, (not). This pattern often starts in childhood, usually because we were told that a particular trait isn’t so attractive or loveable. Some children are told for example, that they’re being too loud and just showing off when they’re dancing around the house, and then, Mummy doesn’t like that. So, the child stops dancing, and he puts that particular activity and the joy that comes with it into a bag around his chest and zips it up tightly. It’s tucked away so well to ensure no one will ever see it again. This repeats with any behaviour that isn’t ok by the people this child relies on for love.
This bag gets very full as you can imagine, and experts in this field reckon by about age 40-42 that ol’ bag gets so full that it bursts open. (Mine busted open at 38.) Yup, mid-life crisis. All that crap that you’ve shoved down in there, well, it wants out. You’ll often see it land on your partners face – so that it actually looks like their shit and not yours. Ha. And often everything you despise about your self that you’ve hidden nicely away for so long, will present itself as a mirror somewhere. There’ll likely be a person in your life with these same characteristics you haven’t claimed as your own yet, and you can imagine how you feel about them.
When I was looking at this stuff, I asked myself what my deepest fear was, meaning what did my shadow look like? It was to be fat, alone, without love, and doing nothing to help. (You know you’re onto it when you’re completely repulsed and you get a ‘charge’ through your body just thinking about it.) So I thought about whom I knew in my life that fit that description, and how did I feel about that person or people? Yup, there it was: the people I have in my life that I have trouble accepting. I judge them because I hadn’t ‘met’ let alone ‘romanced’ my own shadow, as Connie Zweig author of ‘Meeting The Shadow’ would say. This was going to be tough. http://conniezweig.com/
We are all very quick to judge each other, yet usually the very things we don’t like about another person is what we’ve shoved into the little bag. Shame really is a waste of time. I was brought up a strict catholic, and I found this particular set of rules only aided in compounding my natural tendency towards guilt, fear and shame. I didn’t really need anyone; thing or religion telling me how inadequate I was, or that I would be punished (or unloved) if I weren’t a good girl. The expectation to follow someone else’s set of rules just didn’t fit. I needed to be true to myself, to trust my own inner moral compass would lead me in the right direction. I chose to choose love over fear.
If you haven’t checked out Brene Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability I highly recommend you do. She makes this whole murky business funny. She gets it all out there, and I love that type of honesty. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o
I wonder how different things would be if we didn’t feel ashamed of anything? If we all just went ‘yup, that’s me,’ and I’m proud of who I am’ all of me – the loveable parts and the yucky bits. What if it was ok just to be me?
Growing up I was always chubby, as most of you know. I looked through some of my albums last night to find a picture for the Blog I posted late last night, titled ‘Dear Me’. It’s illuminating looking through old albums isn’t it? Throughout my life I have had periods of loosing a lot of weight, (and not through dieting, but contentedness) but mostly I’ve been a little on the heavy side. I’ve also been very emotional and empathic. But why have I held extra weight? For me shame was always associated with being less than perfect, physically.
The other thing that has shaped my life is food intolerances. Most of you know that from a young age – pre teens even, I was having trouble digesting many foods. I was almost always nauseous, bloated, had diarrhoea and teary. God help me, and my parents. My 2 sisters were ‘normal’.
So on I go towards puberty and my first menstrual period is excruciating! Really? This too? My Mother potentially had undiagnosed Endometriosis, and my paternal Auntie’s was confirmed. Great! It’s coming from both sides of the family. For a 13 year old to suffer such intense pain with her period is just not right (although doctors would say it was normal. Rubbish!). Imagine how it makes a young girl feel about her body and femininity? That it ‘hurts’ and it’s a ‘big bother’. I grew to hate my periods – which of course only made matters worse, as anger affects your liver in a very negative way. I was diagnosed with Endometriosis at age 18 but I know it was present close to my first menses.
What on earth was going wrong with me? It has of course lead me down a path of continual study, contemplation, observation, Traditional Chinese Medicine, spiritual guidance, astrology, crystal healing, meditation, aromatherapy, homeopathy to name just a few of the modalities I have studied and the tools I have gained. I was interested in all forms of healing, anything that would potentially help me find the missing link. What was it? Was it just that I was ‘sensitive’, as I was often told? No it bloody was not. I’ll tell you what it was – it’s a mutation in a set of genes and it’s called MTHFR, triggered by stress. In my case the result of a lack of self-worth. (See my Blog ‘MTHFR’ just before this one.)
In August this year (2014) I found this missing link discovering this gene mutation, or at least a part of the link. I have been reluctant to Blog about this as it’s still relatively new to me so I haven’t fully integrated it yet, but you know what? Exposing this is part of ‘me’ is me denying shame. Yes I am in a public space teaching health and nutrition and NO that doesn’t mean I have to be skinny and perfect. The reason I was initially attracted to this path of natural medicine was to find ways to heal myself, and this has led to me helping others. We are all imperfect, and is that not perfect?
The lesson in all of this? Putting your own oxygen mask on first allows you to function better, thereby allowing you to help others without having to ‘break a leg’.
In love and continued Wellbeing, and self-acceptance.