*This story grew out of a prompt from a writing class with the wonderful Nicole Baute*
Mom loves to remind me about how I came into this world. A too-long labour and then out in a hurry, like I had somewhere to be already. Dad insists his thumbs, gripped through each contraction, have never been the same.
Then at 3, he dropped me on New Years Eve. Two black eyes and a fractured skull. He remembers me standing at the top of the stairs with my hands on my hips, scolding, “Daddy, you broke my head”!
I was the definition of a spirited child. In kindergarten, I hid coins in my socks and sneaked off school grounds at lunch to buy gum from the vending machine in the ice rink.
I can count the times I changed schools, but I need both hands and a foot. “You’re gifted,” they told me. But to me it meant I just didn’t fit anywhere.
Isolation for a 12 year old is watching invitations go out to everyone in the class but you. That’s when I first learned what it’s like to feel alone in a room full of people.
My little brother watched as I frantically scrubbed our mailbox before my parents got home. He was old enough to read by then. “BITCH,” the lipstick letters exclaimed. It took months for the red smudge to fully fade, or maybe years. It’s hard to trust a painful memory so long suppressed.
I learned that if you retreat far enough into the shadows, blend well enough into the background, you can lose yourself completely.
And once that you is lost, you might swallow your voice, along with all the things you want to say but can’t, or don’t know how. Like NO and STOP.
You might find yourself, like I did, in a relationship that had no space for things like growth and compassion. Where everything you are is for someone else. That has your body screaming at you “This isn’t right.” Chronic UTI’s were my body’s way of saying: “This is not what love is.”
There was a decent stretch of time, longer than I’d like to admit, where everything I was was defined by who gave me attention. My value was inextricably connected to whether I was attractive to others.
I knew a lot about trying to be enough for someone else, but I had no idea how to be enough for myself.
Controlling, driven, achieving, successful, pushing, rigid, reactive, angry, extreme. This is who I became, who I constructed to protect myself. I had no sense of who I was, so I needed to control everything to feel safe.
Eventually that showed up in my physical body, too. I tore my rotator cuff in a climbing fall and ended up with nerve damage in my shoulder. Long after it had structurally healed and everything looked “fine” to the doctors, it continued to cause me pain. The pain spread through my body, to my other shoulder, down my back, my hips. My nervous system was so reactive that any activity caused my whole body to tighten.
I was the literal embodiment of uptight.
My muscles shortened and pulled on my spine, causing it to curve. Depression and anxiety overtook me. Painkillers all day, sleeping pills every night.
One thing I knew for certain was that pain, every day, for three years.
I dropped out of school… and then later re-applied to the same program, which I now find hilarious. I really didn’t get the message at the time.
I ended a relationship that needed to be ended, but left me rock-bottom broken hearted. I like to call it the “Why can’t you just love me the way I need to be loved?!” relationship, you might know it.
And then there just wasn’t any other way but to set off on a journey to find myself again.
I started with long walks, journalling, Pema Chodron, and revisited singing, songwriting, and open mics at coffee shops.
I didn’t meet the man of my dreams. No, his dreaminess grew on me. I almost pushed him away with my independent woman ‘I don’t need anyone’ act, but he stuck around until I finally started to see what he saw in me.
On my bicycle, as I rode from Amsterdam to Istanbul, I learned about what I’m like when I’m tired, hungry, lost, wet, and have no idea where I’m sleeping that night. That was hard to witness gracefully.
Then Swamp Theatre, an experiential theatre troupe, came right when I needed it. This was deep therapy for the soul, a place to explore through movement and drama how we are oppressed and how we oppress ourselves and others.
But still I felt my body tightening even more, and I knew enough by now to listen up. So I left a job that I loved, but had me feeling like I was trapped in a rigid box.
I knew there was more for me out there. I had to believe there was more.
Then I did nothing (but meditate in silence for 10 days). I followed that up with a solo road trip through the Canadian Rockies. I thought, maybe I’ll find myself in the spaces between words, or on top of a mountain.
And finally, I found my way to a Rubenfeld Synergist who taught me about healing, about feeling feelings, and about a modality that I wanted to tell the whole world about.
6 months after I started working with her and uncovering the messages my body was trying to tell me all along, I was climbing again.
The chronic pain, “my pain”, was gone.
The control and anger and tightness unravelled. I started to peel back the layers, the blocks I had built up around myself, and I began to uncover the truth of who I really was, underneath it all.
That path back to myself was poorly lit, and ill-defined, with potholes and stinging nettles and scary creatures in the dark, waiting for me to veer off course. But I stayed on it, and I kept going, one foot in front of the other.
Because as much as there were times I wanted to disappear, I even more desperately wanted to be seen.
And I learned about what it means to show up as I am. To work on loving myself instead of changing myself. To work on allowing and surrender. On boundaries. On kindness. On softening. On finding and using my voice. On connecting deeply with myself and others. On feeling my feelings. On communicating my needs. On asking for help and support. On receiving that help and support. On tuning in to my intuition. This list goes on, but each and every one of these learnings, these gifts, came from first listening to my body and letting it guide me to the next lesson, the next layer to be peeled back.
My body knows the truth (and so does yours).
I am a living example of how much can shift when you listen to your body. I know deep down that this work is my calling and I am grateful every day that I get to help people like you experience the profound transformations and healing that I know are possible for all of us.
My vision for this world is one where we can find our true selves again. And my mission is to give you a space to show up as you are and be seen, and help you listen to the wisdom of your body so it can show you the way.
Want more details?
- I have a degree in Biochemistry (because I love science)
- I worked in a Nutrition Research lab (because more science!)
- I worked with autistic children, and almost pursued a career in Applied Behaviour Analysis (because science AND kids!)
- I became a Personal Trainer (because I figured everyone needs fitness)
- I became a Holistic Nutritionist (because I figured everyone needs healthy food)
- I became a Certified Somatic Synergist (because I KNOW everyone needs to learn how to listen to their body and feel their feelings)
- I became an Instructor at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Advanced Nutrition Research and Biochemistry (because I love food and nutrition and spreading my passion for never-ending learning and I’m fascinated by the intersection of nutrition and trauma-informed care for the treatment of chronic illness)
- I started training to become a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (because I was fascinated by this powerful approach to settling the nervous system and renegotiating trauma)