More than 10 years ago, I recall lying in bed in the middle of the night wide eyed awake and in the middle of an anxiety attack. Had my husband not been sleeping beside me, I would have screamed in frustration. I was tempted to run into the walk-in closet and crawl under the clothes like a little child playing hide and seek in a clothing store. I wasn’t even sure what I was hiding from – I just knew that years of coping with life through self destructive behaviours was catching up with me and haunting me once my busy brain tried to settle down for the night. I couldn’t remember being happy or even what happy felt like; this despite a loving husband, sufficient income to meet our needs and many of our wants and 2 beautiful daughters filling our days with life.
I knew I was strong – I’d survived the loss of 2 children (one to death and the other to adoption); a mother’s worst nightmare. And I came from sturdy, adaptive stock – we didn’t have mental breakdowns in our family. Most of me thought the best way to move forward was to put my head down and push hard. But that wasn’t working very well; my sadness and anger and fear and anxiety were colouring the way I acted every day and I was isolated by my behaviour. I tried to fill my heart with things – a beautiful home, expensive vacations, extravagant entertaining, lavish gifts but that just got me into debt which only added to my pain.
The worst of this time manifested itself on the scale. Once healthy and athletic, I was now 221 lbs and worn out. I walked regularly but my knees creaked dangerously and I was popping anti-inflammatories like jelly beans. My stomach hurt constantly; I suffered from frequent headaches and caught every virus going around. I tried blaming outside factors – everything from lousy genes to lousy weather but eventually, at 4 am, I had to come to grips with reality. I was stuck in a very sad rut.
The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole. (unknown)
I’d tried getting myself unstuck before and would sometimes make enough progress to see over the lip of the hole before slipping right back into it. It was devastating to not be able to do this alone! I was so proud of my independence!
In 2003 my husband and I moved to Calgary where our giant sized house overlooked the mountains we both loved so much. That first summer, I tried to hike as much as I could but quickly realised that anything beyond a few hours was out of my reach. I became depressed and, once again, tried to climb out of my rut by myself. After yet another backslide, I’d had enough – I was finally ready to ask for help.
Through coaching, I began to uncover the ways I was constantly undermining and sabotaging myself and exposed those underlying beliefs and values to the light of day. I began to understand how years of hiding myself from the world lest the world discover my multiple inadequacies was part of the perfectionism that ran through me like sludge. My coach walked with me while I tried on new hats and took on new risks – all very scary but, with my coach’s support, very manageable. I began to incorporate new practices into my life ~ meditation, gratitude journalling, affirming others, yoga ~ and found a quiet mind emerge through the previous clatter of negative self talk.
I started to believe that I had much to offer the world and longed to make up for lost time. Before long, I was using the techniques of coaching in my work and with my friends – gaining strength and courage from those dealing with their own feelings of being stuck and being inspired as they, too, began to move forward.
Over time, I lost 85lbs. The once tired woman whose blood pressure threatened to blow a gasket whenever she exerted herself started running – first travelling 300 slow meters before being reduced to a walk. I continued to use the skills I’d learned from my coach to challenge my thinking and take action to move forward. Before long, I was running marathons and taking week long backpacking trips in the mountains.
Most significantly, I learned how to care for and honour myself; to wake up and feel entirely happy with my life and to face adversity head on by challenging my automatic thoughts and beliefs. For the first time, in many, many, many years, I was happy.
It’s been more than a decade since I began the journey of working with my coach and changing my life. And I wouldn’t change a minute of it.