In 2006, I found myself face-down in a puddle of my own tears. I'd been contimplating my death-- an option that seemed at the time like a viable solution to the merry-go-round of personal hell that I had created of my life. Without an ounce of pride left to stop me, I dialed the number of my best friend. "I can't live like this anymore! I can't keep living like this..." This was my response to her unsuspecting "hello." I sobbed for what seemed like forever into the phone... and then I called another friend... And then another. And they just listened. They loved me. They stayed on the phone. And when I got off, I wasn't crying anymore. And I knew I would stay in this world a little longer.
I'll back up a little. That dark night of the soul, if you will, was the rockbottom of my plummet into food addiction, or emotional eating, or what they are now calling B.E.D. (Binge Eating Disorder-- a term I hadn't heard at the time.) All I knew is that what had started as a desire to "eat better" at the age of 13, had spiraled into behavior around food that I couldn't stop. I was like an alcoholic who takes their first drink, or the crack addict who takes their first puff...there wasn't just gonna be one "serving." Oh no-- I would stop at nothing to get my fix.
Food was comfort. It was instantaeous relief from my uncomfortable feelings. It was my company in the darkest moments. It was my friend, confidant, ally. Food could make me forget my pain, numb my feelings, give me an excuse not to do...anything, help me procrastinate, sugar-coat my shame, and aid my denial habit. It was the perfect tool for personal torture as I alternately gorged and starved myself for 14 years. I was always excusing my behavior with the idea that I just needed to lose 10 pounds and that once I did, everything would be fine. It was the perfect excuse to deprive myself, and then when that didn't last, I would binge for as many days... always promising myself as I scraped the bottom of that "last" pint of ice cream, "I'll start again tomorrow."( I think I made that promise to myself over 2,000 times-- no exaggeration.)
So, how does the story end? Well, I'm still here, first of all. But not just here. I am in love with my life. And I am so grateful to those who helped me to stay here. No healing story happens over night. They happen one challenging step at a time... one day at a time, one hour at a time, one moment at a time, one decision at a time... and sometimes just one breath at a time... until before you know it... it begins to get easier. And that's how it was for me... I decided to make my healing my first priority-- I knew that nothing else mattered if I couldn't even find the will to live. I started seeing a therapist weekly. I started going to AA... and then Overeaters Anonymous. I started working the 12 Steps and journaling my Morning Pages. I started listening to myself. To those voices I had denied by shoving food at them for so long. I listened to my hurts, my pain, my sorrow, my anger... I put it all on the page, I shared it with my therapist and in the 12-step rooms. And slowly, over time, the smile I wore wasn't just a mask. It became real. The torture chamber wasn't quite as extreme. And then I added a life coach to the mix, my dear Nicole.
Nicole was an artist herself, like me, an acting coach, and the leader of an Artist Way group among other things. She came into my life through a mutual friend-- and I am forever grateful. With Nicole, something changed. I don't know if I was just finally really ready to change, or if it was the combination of her incredible patience and compassion-- probably both-- but, there is no better way to put it, Nicole loved me back to health. She looked at me and listened to me with eyes of such compassion-- compassion I had never had the strength or wisdom to give myself. She was so gentle with words-- so gracious and patient and wise and sweet. And through her eyes... I began to see myself as lovable. Beautiful even, and kind, good, forgivable, and the capable person I had lost somewhere along the journey.
When I spoke harshly about myself in our sessions, she was tender, "That's ok, we all do that." She ever-so-gently exposed me to how hard I was on myself, how negatively I spoke to myself, how quick to shame and guilt I had been. And I began to see that I had been nothing short of a tyrant to myself-- demanding, unforgiving, punishing, shaming, hurtful, and downright mean. My self-talk had become this way unconsiously and now I could hear it so loudly, it hurt to listen. Nicole helped me to see that what I was missing was self-love. There wasn't any there that I could find at that point. And this is where my real healing began.
Nicole had me write all of my feelings out in a journal everyday, she had me do loving things for myself from a list we'd made. She helped me forgive myself for over-eating, she helped me to learn to LOVE my body with the food I fed it and to stop starving myself. She helped me confront the pain I'd been masking. All of these gestures, or rituals, of self-love became my life-line: my journals, my books, the healthy foods in my fridge, the precious time I gave myself to heal. These were the life-rafts keeping me afloat... and they still are. But now, there are so many more.
Once you begin to incorporate the practice of Self-Love into your life... it's amazing what life brings to you. It's as if life supports you in this self-love practice-- and why wouldn't it?! It is LIFE, after all. And life wants to be LIVED.