Throughout my childbearing years I worked as a clinical
social worker in the Children’s Department of a community mental health center. I was working toward my license part time. It was an amazing experience for me. I
worked in community mental health for ten years. During
those years I met a lot of clients. Some were as young as 5 and some were as old as 19. I could relate to their feelings of anxiety and depression. Because some of them were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I decided to diagnose myself with bipolar disorder. I can remember sharing with two different therapists that I thought I had bipolar. I don’t think they believed me.
A few years ago, during the time of Tyler’s surgery, I decided to see a psychiatrist to get some psychotropic relief for the anxiety I was feeling. What I really wanted was a pill to stop my compulsive eating. At this point I had given up on ever reaching my pre-baby weight; I just wanted to stay in the overweight category of the BMI (Body Mass Index) scale. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and started me on minimal medications that had somewhat of a positive effect for a short period of time. After a few months the medications were increased by the psychiatrist and a year later I was being faced with a taking a second and third drug which was a pretty serious medication.
I was still overweight and completely obsessed with being a size 4 again. The medication wasn’t doing a thing as far as I was concerned. If anything it was causing me to binge eat more. But the doctor insisted that I needed the medication. I told him “Thank you very much but I don’t want it anymore.” I asked for his blessing to help me to wean off the medication. He was very sweet and kind and agreed to help me, but did not agree with my decision. My therapist was worried too. I could see it in her face, but she whole heartedly supported me through the entire process and told me to go with my instinct that was screaming for me to get off these medications. Yes, it was that voice again.
I did wean off the medication. It was complete and utter hell. It took 3-4 months to regain balance in my body, mind and spirit. Once again, I cannot believe my husband stayed with me through it all. I was an absolute mess through the whole process. I had severe panic and anxiety accompanied by insomnia for three months. I almost caved in and took a medication for the insomnia, but fought through it. This period of my life made the most impact on me. Surrendering to that experience truly changed my life forever. During that time I questioned everything I learned about mental health, physical health and spiritual health. It was my moment of complete surrender.
Through that experience I developed a relationship with my aunt who was learning how to be a yoga teacher. She taught me how to breathe and how to connect with my body. She also taught me some gentle yoga postures to help me relax. I could only do these things for about two minutes at first. My mind would race, my heart would pound and I needed to get up and move. I felt like I could not breathe.
That summer I met two holistic nurse practitioners. One introduced me to vitamins that helped with anxiety and sleep. The other helped me learn about how food affected my mental health. She encouraged me to try an elimination diet for a few weeks. I was so desperate to feel better that I did it. I cut every single processed food, dairy, sugar, caffeine and gluten out of my diet for four weeks. Then I slowly added foods back in. It was the start of learning how to listen to my body.
I could not believe how sensitive my body was as I added the foods back in. I got headaches from certain foods and I noticed body pains from others. I noticed gas, bloating and digestive issues. It was eye opening. I didn’t stay on a clean diet for long because the desire to compulsively eat was stronger. Shortly after, I went back to my old ways of compulsive eating. I think I even purged a few times that year which was something I hadn‘t done since before I had children. But, I knew I was on the right path because I was sleeping better and feeling better.
That Fall I went on my first retreat to Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. It was a terrifying, but life changing experience. I took a workshop on anxiety that weekend and learned about the inner critic voice in our heads. I began to implement what I learned into my life. Being at Kripalu healed my anxiety. Overcoming my fears and trying new things, talking in small groups with people I didn’t know, crying in front of others, eating healthy food and practicing breathing and yoga techniques for the weekend all changed my life.
At Kripalu I learned how to take care of myself and more importantly why I need to take care of myself. I learned that weekend that I need to put myself first. So I began to do it. That year many things changed. I developed a very close relationship with God. My relationships with friends changed. I could not take care of my friends anymore because I did not have the physical or mental energy. I learned how to ask and accept help. I was not used to this and it was a challenge for me to accept help from others. But that voice and feeling in my heart told me that if I wanted to get better, then something needed to change.
Little by little my need to please others disappeared. Fear of people, criticism and judgment slowly faded. I opened a small private practice that grew quickly and left my job of almost 10 years. I lost friends in the process and fought with family that year, but I healed. All through this I continued to use food to cope with my feelings.
I recently decided to face the next challenge…my biggest challenge…my eating disorder. I call it my cross. My eating disorder has always been the cross I bear. I tried every diet out there. I tried Overeaters Anonymous and just recently was talked into trying a very expensive shake diet. I did lose weight for about 2 weeks, but gained 15 pounds back. I finally decided I needed to look at why I gained 15 pounds after all I had been through and all I had learned.
As my spiritual practices continued, the answers became clear as to why I was putting on the weight. About two years ago I lost a good friend. I considered her my best friend because she knew the deepest and darkest things about me. I shared my whole self with her. We shared our spiritual beliefs, our fears and our worries. She was my neighbor and dear friend. Our kids were friends and our husbands were friends. We vacationed together and even decided to do some spiritual healing work together. One day during her journey of growth she decided that she no longer wanted to be in a friendship with me. She refused to tell me why and abandoned the friendship without giving me a clear reason.
I tried several times to reach her, but failed. I spent two years of my life struggling with understanding why and how she could just get up and leave. I wondered why and how she could spend time with other women, but wanted nothing to do with me after all we had shared together. I questioned why I was so unlovable. I asked her for forgiveness; not understanding why I needed to be forgiven. I gave her the space she needed to figure things out.
I gained about 20 pounds while grieving the loss of our friendship. I became embarrassed and ashamed when I would run into her and drive by her house because it was noticeable that I was struggling with food by the amount of weight I gained. I wanted to hide. I knew it was time to go back to Kripalu for healing. I found a workshop by Geneen Roth on her latest book “Women, Food and God”. I felt that intuitive feeling again, so I bought the book, read it and began the process of implementing her principles and guidelines into my life. But, I gained a few more pounds.
Something inside me pulled at me to not give up and keep learning and going. I knew I had no other choice. Every single attempt to lose weight failed. So I did. I attended her workshop which was the most amazing of them all. She taught us about intuitive eating which is the process of listening to our mind, body and spirit regarding eating. I continue today with the process of intuitive eating. What does it feel like eating? Am I mentally hungry or physically hungry? Recognizing when I am full has been the biggest challenge of all. The process of intuitive eating led to my lifestyle of intuitive living.
It has been about a year and a half since attending that workshop and starting an intuitive living lifestyle. So much has changed for me. What started out as learning how to listen to my body, turned into listening to my body, mind and spirit. They are all part of the whole. I wrote my first book after that workshop. It was intended as a coaching tool for clients to help them begin to dialogue and process their food journey. That book evolved into this program.
My spiritual life grew quickly after that workshop. I started doing things I would have never done before. Once I could feel what was going on inside me, I could begin to listen. Soon after I learned how to listen, I started to take risks and began obeying my intuition. I learned one very simple thing; if I take the risk and obey my intuition, then I will not fail. But if I ignore it; then I will become anxious, imbalanced and eventually depressed.
I still encounter daily challenges. I mean come on now, I am a wife and mother of three very busy children. All three children have their challenges. I am constantly battling the education system which can be very stressful. My kids are involved in karate, hockey and football which involve a very busy practice and game schedule. I have two puppies I am trying to train which has been very overwhelming. I am a small business owner and I am in the process of writing this program so I can share it with many others. And I am very involved in my church. Life still gets overwhelming, but today I know how to recognize when I am stressed and I know what to do to re-balance myself before it turns into a chronic anxiety or depression.
My hope in telling you my story is to help you to uncover yours. My guess is that you can relate to some of the feelings I felt and the experiences I went through. To continue reading more about my journey with self-renewal, check out my book, “RENEWED: A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach to Self-Renewal”. If you would like to learn more about how I can help you to find peace and balance in your life, please visit my website at www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net. To join a RENEWED group or attend an upcoming 5 Week Transformational Workshop, please check out the Events at Mind, Body, Spirit Counseling.