I was born with severe learning disabilities. I was unable to walk, talk and much less comprehend the world around me. I struggled, suffered, strived and survived. I eventually learnt to move and communicate, but I had developed coping skills to survive this period of my life. Some coping skills were positive such as perseverance and resiliency, and some not so complimentary such as controlling the world around me and playing a victim when life got tough.
As a young girl, I also struggled with my weight, coming from a culture where everything revolved around food and food was used as a coping mechanism to avoid emotions. I wasn’t taught how to express my feelings, and at times, I wasn’t allowed to show them, so I shoved them down with a lot of food. This brought me a certain level of comfort, but as soon as that comfort dissipated guilt and shame rose, a different level of emotion would come to the surface, and I would eat to numb that. A cycle of suffering – feel, eat, starve, eat, diet, binge, feel, eat, suffer…
In the first 20 years of my life, I struggled and suffered from my dyslexia, apraxia, weight. I was socially distracted with friends and fitting in – yet never feeling comfortable and using various distractions to make me feel somewhat comfortable or just comfortably numb. For the first time in college, I felt a sense of self; I went there with no label of disability and started working out and eating balanced foods. There was a newness to this period of my life, and I started teaching aerobics, eventually became a personal trainer and currently teach yoga. I had a career for 20 years, teaching Autistic children to communicate and to survive and strive in their world.
This might seem inspiring but see it is just the story; the what, when, where and how of my life. But what I know is that I was still showing up in the world as the wounded healer, the victim, and the manipulator. I had no self-confidence or self-worth, let alone self-love. I was still searching for all the happiness outside of myself. Searching for what I thought was the right career, a home, a marriage, a family, a vacation, just another 10 pounds, a new diet, a new workout program, the new outfit or the shoes. I was struggling, suffering, yet striving to survive – well barley surviving, I was physically sick. I had been suppressing all my pain for too long, and I created disease in my body. I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue. I had no energy to parent, workout, even digesting food was causing havoc on my body.
I knew something was missing, that I was not going to struggle and suffer for the rest of my life and most of all, I was not going to pass my suffering down to my daughter…and that lead me inward to my healing. Most of my life, I struggled, and in that, I suffered. As I got older, my struggles changed and got so much harder. I knew in my soul that this couldn’t be it, there had to be more to life than this consistent suffering.
I began my journey within; my path lead me to study Buddhism, Yoga, Meditation and Reiki. It was no longer about my mind, which was labelled ‘disabled’ or ‘slow’, and it wasn’t about my body, which was called ‘fat’, ‘ugly’ and obese, it wasn’t about who I was told to be or what I should be. It was about sensations, thoughts and emotions – it is the study to recognize oneself without the external world telling me what I should be, what I should think and even what I should feel. It is a study that frees oneself from all the past pains, the little wounds and the suffering. I could feel, think, sense but I learnt I wasn’t just those and I didn’t always have to react or even respond to everything that arose in my mind or body – I had the power to choose how I will respond to life or let it be to let it go.
I am very grateful for this study, as it would be the most important skill I would learn for the next chapter that was about to happen in my life. Trauma. I will summarize because it was all within four years, and it was a consistent skew of events, but I tell my story in hopes that if there is a woman out there right now suffering in pain, she will read this and know there is hope. I left my career due to government changes and clinical decisions that morally, I couldn’t implement. My marriage failed; I left because of the struggles within the marriage. My family home fall apart, my stepson of 10 years moved back to Florida, and I moved into an apartment with my daughter. My parents pretty much avoided me and disliked me for quite a while. My dad unexpectedly got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, my husband’s depression grew deeper, my apartment was infested with cockroaches, I lost my new job, lost a close friend, my dad died 6 months after his diagnoses. I had moved back home with my mom with my daughter, and my husband committed suicide shortly after.
Now I am shaking my head at that list of events, knowing I am leaving out more events that don’t need to be shared…and I look at my entire life from having severe learning disabilities to being overweight to experiencing my whole belief system fall apart to my husband taking his life, my son and daughter father dying – so much pain or so much growth?? I see it as growth in the pain, I am grateful I had the experience of a young child to struggle, and suffer but to end up striving and survive – I had perseverance and resiliency. I knew what it was like to experience life from a role of a wound being, a victim, and a controller, and I knew that it wouldn’t serve my daughter or me.
Today I have moments of struggle, moments of suffering, but I am not just surviving – I am living. I can’t change the past, and so I make peace with the past. I accept my past, by forgiving myself and recognizing I only did what I knew at the time.
I can live in the present with self-reflection, self-acceptance, self-awareness and self-love to be at ease. In this ease, I make choices with calmness and clarity, which creates a future of abundance, love and happiness.
See I am not my past, I am not a body, I am not my thoughts, or a mom, a daughter, a sister, a widow, a friend or a Renee – I am all of it. Each experience that can give me a label has also been an opportunity for me to grow, expand and learn something about myself and something about all of us. We all have parts of our lives that make us suffer, that has brought pain to us and others, and we have parts of ourselves we hold onto because we think it is who we are.
If I kept thinking I was the fat, disabled girl who quit her job and failed at her marriage and with a husband who took his life, how could I have ever hold space for others with complete empathy and compassion?
You are not your past; let me help you find the lessons to grow into your power to live life with increased energy and vibrancy.
You are not your past, let me help you find the lessons so you can grow into your power to live life with increased energy and vibrancy.