Hello, it’s been a minute. I’d explain, but I think we are all aware of the proverbial wrench the events of 2020 have thrown into our lives, plans, and general sanity.
I share the following with immense gratitude for having a secure income and managing to avoid becoming ill during this pandemic. It does not escape me for a moment that I have been blessed to a degree which words cannot do justice. I will be forever thankful.
Now, with that being said, it’s been 6 months of uncertainty, turmoil, fear, and loneliness. It’s also been 6 months of reassessing what matters most, what deserves our energy, who we choose to let into our little worlds, and what we are here for.
I remember my first philosophy class in college. I loathed reading chapter after chapter about Descartes’ cartesian circle and Aristotle’s knowledge of immaterial being. I just didn’t get it. I could memorize and regurgitate the details for tests, but the concept of questioning what it all means escaped me at age 18. Life hadn’t brought me to my knees yet. Yes, I was dealing with an autoimmune disease and was well over a decade into my people pleasing, perfectionistic driven existence, but at this time nothing had forced me to pause and ask the big questions. I’m referring to the icky, uncomfortable, my teenage self would rather go partake in a disturbingly unsanitary ice luge at an equally unsanitary frat party than face type of questions.
What do I want to (let alone what am I called to) do with my life?
What do I believe in?
Is there some intangible energy/God/<insert term that resonates most> out there? If so, why do bad things happen and bad people exist?
What am I passionate about?
Who am I when no one is watching, applauding, or judging?
WHO AM I period?
Those are just a few, but you get the idea.
I’ve been on this healing journey for more than three years now, but I am constantly reminded that it is, in fact, a journey. It is not a years long path to some enlightened nirvana where I will suddenly know all of the answers to the above. I have read probably 100 books on the topics of self development, spiritual healing, intuitive eating, codependency, and theories on the origins of autoimmune disease. You name it, I’ve probably read it or listened to an expert speak about it. But the truth that’s been rumbling inside of me the past 6 months is that it’s not about how much info we digest, how many methods we try out, or what trendy guru’s beliefs we subscribe to. Sorry, it’s just not. There’s not a magic pill at a high price to make it all go away. The work that leads to sustainable change is much deeper, but it’s also much more simple than we might be led to believe.
It’s all too easy as a recovering perfectionist to apply our all or nothing mentalities to the field of wellness. Those suffering from what I have begun to call glitter & grime syndrome will throw time, money, energy, and effort towards anything that gives us hope that it can “fix” us. We live for gold stars, really any acknowledgement of our achievements to be honest. That’s how we seek attention, affection, and acceptance. So if you take a dive into the deep end of holistic healing, it’s not at all shocking that we often find ourselves with a maxed out credit card, dusty pile of books on our nightstand, and a growing feeling that we have taken 1 step forward 2 steps back (x10).
I’ve gained an incredible amount of knowledge and applied it to my phsycial treatment for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, therapeutic treatment for disordered eating, daily practices to let go of perfectionism, etc. BUT (and this is a big but), there is still SO much to learn, experience, fail at, thrive at, and share. I have barely scratched the surface, and as I make progress there is even more information, experiences, and knowledge accruing. This may sound daunting, but I’ve come to find that life is beautiful in it’s impossibility to be fully figured out. We are each on a unique path, learning unique lessons. However, the struggles we face have the power to connect us if we are bold enough to open up, to drop the mask, and to be vulnerable.
We are not alone in our struggles. We just have to dust off the mask of glitter and own the grime beneath to connect authentically with others.
Perfectionist me used to frantically tear through pages of a book or restart a podcast if I zoned out for 5 minutes because an adorable turtle caught my eye while I was on a walk. I was honestly pissed at myself for getting distracted by the beauty in nature because it “wasted time” that I could be absorbing everything I needed to know in order to fix myself. It’s comical to think about now, but that inner critic likes to make herself heard every now and then. I worked on replacing the “wow you suck” with something along the lines of “haha, that turtle is probably Donatello” and showing myself a little grace. Slowly but surely it’s becoming the default tone of my inner tape. If I can find the chink in my perfectionist, people pleasing, codepent armor, I have the utmost faith that anyone reading this can.
There are obviously forces outside of our control. We are living through unprecedented times. If we turn on the TV, there is enough negative fodder to keep our pessimistic, critical inner monologue well fed. But we have a choice. We get to decide what to focus on, who to engage with authentically, where to put our energy, and what to stand up for.
I’ve written about books, healing modalities, courses, and other tangible things that have helped me gain strength and begin to heal. However, the further on this journey I get the more I come back to the fact that often the most simplistic of steps are the most impactful. I know many out there are desperate for answers, especially when it comes to the physical. I have been there. I see you. Please, please, please before you spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on courses, coaches, supplements, alternative modalities, or even psychic readings… pause to consider that the smallest of changes can be the most sustainable and therefore most impactful over the long term. I have had breakthroughs in my own healing from acupuncture, chiropractic care, EMDR therapy, talk therapy, etc. I don’t regret exploring those methods. That being said, those were significant investments and early on in this journey I barely had the means to cover my student loans, rent, and have even the faintest hint of a social life.
I will always share what has worked in my case, what has not, and where I’ve chosen to invest both my time and money. That being said, there are things you can do today with little to no money that can help you begin to heal if seeking “alternative” (don’t even get me started on the use of that word to explain anything that goes against the grain but has thousands of years of evidence to support its use… that’s for another day) approaches is outside of your current financial scope.
After much contemplation, these three steps have caused the biggest shifts in my life and kept me on the path to healing.
1. Find your why.
I can never lose hope that what I share finds someone who needs to hear it and who begins to find their own healing path because of it. I believe once we face our own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual issues that we evolve into happier, healthier, more authentic, and more giving individuals who go out and make the changes we want to see happen in this world. This is my why. This is what made me log in to my blog site for the first time in 6 months despite feelings of shame and regret for letting it collect dust while I asked myself those big questions during quarantine. This is what pushed me to click publish on a post about my years of bulimia when all I wanted to do was write in a journal that I’d later burn so no one would discover my shameful secret. This is what got me past my anxiety before getting small needles placed all over my body to see if it actually did have an impact on my autoimmune symptoms. This is what grounds me when I feel the urge to spend on something that holds little meaning for me or feel myself drifting towards a binge to repress an emotion I am not keen on feeling. This brings me back to my true self. Find your why. Repeat it. Embrace it. Make it your mission. Go back to it when you’re feeling lost or sense self sabotaging coping mechanisms creep in.
My why far outweighs my fear. If your why does not, you may not have discovered your true why just yet. Give it time. Mine took years to fully grasp after I tried making it what I thought sounded best or what would obtain the most figurative gold stars from my parents and peers.
2. When you feel helpless, help someone.
After years of occasionally donating money then falling back into my own routine of happy hours, murder mystery binges, and general avoidance of issues that might disrupt my self created bubble of “pleasantness”. I started to feel disconnected. I felt like my life lacked purpose. I decided to get involved in a real way, far past re-posting a PSA on my Instagram story or adding $20 to a kickstarter campaign that I never followed up on. Getting up close and personal with causes I felt compelled to act on was a much needed slap across the face with how much gratitude I truly have for my life. Despite the poor financial choices I made for most of my adult life, despite being divorced at 30, despite spending 16 years in the toxic cycle of bulimia, despite being told I may never have children or live a normal life because of chronic illness, despite subjecting myself to years of emotional abuse at the hands of narcissists because their attention made me feel validated… I was so fortunate in SO many ways. I had a roof over my head. I have two living parents who, despite our many differences, would be on the first plane to see me if I really needed them. I have an education that has afforded me many opportunities. I have friends who know the real me and made me feel safe to begin to let my walls down. I have gratitude for all of these things and it drives me to help others. This isn’t shared to dampen the right to feel your feelings and own your trauma (whether it’s with a big or little T). We all have battle scars. Our experiences make us human and equip us with wisdom to help others who are fighting their own wars. We all have to work through what keeps us stuck, but we all have at least one thing that we can be grateful for. Know that there’s someone (well many someones) out there who only dream of that thing. Know your time, your expertise, your passion, and your heart can do incredible things for others and help you to grow an immense amount of happiness and purpose in the process.
3. Take a few things off your plate.
Mantras may work for some people, but to be honest they made my cynical subconscious laugh. When you don’t believe in or trust yourself, saying “You are an amazing person” in the mirror is an exercise in futility. I tried so many methods to build upon my self worth until I realized the only times I made strides was when I could rely on myself to do the smallest of things.
This was not a quick shift. As an expert in setting goals then sabotaging them at the first opportunity lest I expose myself to real failure, let me say that I understand completely the hesitancy to trust oneself. It took many trials and errors before I learned to prioritize my goals instead of taking on 10 new ones at once then wondering why I managed to half-a$s (if at all a$s) 3 of them and let the others waste away. Overachieving is the death of reaching our goals and often results in prioritizing the externally focused ones first. Then we wonder why the next gold star one our list leaves us feeling unfulfilled and seeking out yet another goal to soothe that disappointment.
Pick 1-3 goals that matter to you when no one is watching, looking, or double tapping on your Instagram feed. Determine small, I mean itty bitty teensy weensy, steps to take to help you reach these goals over weeks to months to years depending on their magnitude. Stick to those tiny steps. Learn to trust that you will continue to do so. If you do, you will feel a shift within you. Your critical inner voice will lose its grip over you because you will be making progress instead of validating its exaggerated insults.
I started smiling when I made my bed in the morning morning without feeling like it was a big chore or putting away my clothes when I dried them rather than letting them sit on that same bed for days until it got uncomfortable to squeeze myself next to them before passing out.
These three steps may seem obvious, but they certainly didn’t occur to me for most of my adult life. If they did, they resulted in an eye roll and were subsequently ignored while I pursued my next “accomplishment” in an effort to feel good about myself.
Feeling purposeful, reducing my endless to do list, and taking time to focus on causes that truly spoke to me affected not only my mental and emotional state but also my chronic illness symptoms.
I hope this helps for those feeling stuck and succumbing to the existential questions time in isolation ultimately causes.
All my love,