Heart on sleeve time… I started learning how to heal myself and find inner calm because I wanted to help people like my Mum. While I was growing up my Mum had a very low opinion of herself and was dealing with a lot of trauma and anxiety in an unhealthy and unhelpful way. In fact, she didn’t really deal with things at all. Some of the experiences were so hard for her to face that she couldn’t allow herself to feel all the pain and shame of what had happened to her since early childhood. This not being able to move beyond the trauma led to her keeping it as part of her identity, which led to her distrusting people generally, having serious post-natal depression with my older brother, and making self-destructive choices which inevitably affected those she loved. My Mum was an amazing Mum and had the best advice when I needed it, but she thought too little of herself to apply the positive wisdom to herself.
This was very hard for me to see as a sensitive child, and I often felt helpless and overwhelmed. I developed eating disorders and was very unbalanced emotionally. I was very close to my Mum and from when I was quite young she saw me as a best friend at times when she needed to talk about her difficult feelings or when she’d made a terrible choice and was dealing with the consequences. This meant I was also having to deal with the consequences of her actions, and feeling completely out of my depth despite taking on the role of carer/mother/fixer. When I was young I felt so much older than my years. The strange thing is that the more I have ‘grown up’ in the way I deal with the world, the younger I feel.
It was always really important to me to help other people. When I was a child friends my age sometimes called me ‘Mum’ because I spent so much time looking out for them. I always had lots of different groups of friends and wanted to be everything to all of them. My Mum used to say I trusted people too easily, but I would argue that she should trust people more because there is a whole world of lovely people out there. When you look at the world from a position of pain, hurt and mistrust, it looks very different from when you’re starting from a position of love, connection and empathy. My Mum was very generous and loving in many ways, and a lot of her views were in line with Buddhist thinking. But she was limited by her unresolved pain.
Even though I felt very unstable growing up and at a point wondered whether I was manic depressive, I had this nagging feeling that things could be better. As a reaction to the unhappiness I saw in my Mum, it felt rebellious to make a decision that I wanted to be happy. I started reading ‘self-help’ books in my late teens and opening my mind to possibilities. Then, in my early twenties, after a few years of trying other things (shiatsu, yoga, pilates), I was very fortunate to meet a Traditional Chinese Medicine, Zen healing, Buddhist teacher who was looking for students to pass on his wide knowledge of self healing. I started shedding layers of unhappiness (and weight) as soon as I started learning. I’ve been training with him for 20 years now, and teaching a wide variety of people who all have varying degrees of anxiety and other physical and emotional imbalances.
My Mum always thought I was weird for being so ‘unconventional’, but I was able to help her and other people so much more when I was helping myself first. She died two years ago, and although I’m heartbroken at this and the loss of 8 other family members in the years before she passed, everything I’ve learned has helped me to deal with this grief, as well as everything else life throws at me, healthily. I also have two sons with additional needs, and the fact that I am able to stay calm under the chaos and feel strong enough to handle whatever comes up is incredibly helpful!
The most important part of this self healing adventure is the realisation that I am the only one who can heal me, and you are the only one who can heal you, and that’s ok. We only heal when we are ready to do so. Life will always be hectic, there will always be pain and some of it will feel unbearable, but at the same time, you always have a choice to face life positively. Making little tweaks to your mindset and habits, as well as being more mindful are the magic formula to moving you past feeling stuck and unbalanced. Before this is possible though, you need to be ready to allow yourself to feel everything. Not all at once! But just a little bit, then when you’re ready, a little bit more, and keep healing. It’s a path, or ‘journey’, not a destination. If you don’t face your fears, pain, anxieties and any other difficult emotions, they take over our view of ourselves and the world. Let yourself feel. Let yourself heal. You only have this lifetime to be happy, and you’re the only one who can do that for yourself.
What layer can you shed first?