It hasn't been easy. It's been complicated. Painful. Tragic. Heartbreaking. Horrifying. In the same breath, my path has been beautiful. It has been enlightening. Authentic. Bold. Brave. Wondrous.
Just seven years ago, I was in a deep hole of depression, shame, and fear. I was married, had two beautiful daughters, a lovely home in Tahoe, friends, and cars. I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home when my girls were young, even though I was a part-time fitness instructor and a graduate from San Jose State University in Recreation and Leisure Studies. I was active and adventurous, climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, and skiing. To the outside world, I seemed to have it all.
I did not. In fact, I had very little because I didn't have myself.
I grew up in a loving yet complicated home. Being "perfect" was a Band-Aid for family turmoil that brewed under the surface. Perfectionism weaved its way into every aspect of my life as I grew into a woman. I never felt good enough to be loved or good enough for success. I never felt pretty enough, strong enough, skinny enough, brave enough. I drank self-deprecation for breakfast and ate shame for dinner… every day and for years. I hid behind perfectionism to escape the reality that I did not love myself. Caring for everyone in my life was how I measured my value. It was a vicious cycle that left me feeling absolutely unlovable because who can be awesome all of the time.
I made decisions about education and college based on the belief that I wasn't very smart, which meant that I did not deserve an education. Shame and perfectionism caused me to leave jobs that were perfect for me because I was too fearful of failing. I stayed in relationships that I shouldn't have because I wanted to "help" the other person, and I wanted to validate my worth by being "enough" for them. I was always afraid that friends would figure out that I was not perfect and that they would no longer want to have me in their life because of it.
I beat up my body. I dieted. I vomited. I over-exercised. I binged. I did everything I could to control my body. I thought that it was the one thing I could control. I hated my body. I wanted it to be different. Better. I wanted everything to be better. Feeling beautiful or confident was a luxury that I did not have.
I pushed away the feelings about my body the best way I could by diving into the fitness world, bike racing, teaching group fitness, studying recreation, and being a perfect wife and mom. I tried so hard to be the BEST and everything I did. Anytime I fell short of excellent, I felt like it confirmed the obvious. The obvious was that I was NOT awesome.
Perfectionism, low self-esteem, and self-image in a marriage feel like trying to walk on a tightrope in a hurricane. It doesn't provide the best conditions for success. The deep turmoil that I carried as a child followed me into my marriage. My pain bloomed as did his inability to understand my grief and shame. Band-Aid's do not fix gaping wounds caused by trying to hold onto unattainable perfection, and I was emotionally hemorrhaging. My marriage suffered and became another place where I proved that without my "good-girl, positive, beautiful" way of being, I had no value.
Depression engulfed me. Years of wanting to be validated and need to be loved for the messy, imperfect person that I was clawed at me from the inside. No amount of telling me that I was okay fixed it. The mirror reflected a distorted image, not the beautiful woman, friend, and mother that I was. Traditional therapy didn't help. Medication brought no relief. The more depressed I got, the worse the self-loathing. My compulsions consumed my days with either starvation, compulsive eating, over-exercise, or obsessions about cleanliness and order. My sleep patterns were a mess. I was either exhausted or wired. My body ached. My skin changed. My hair began to fall out.
My husband wanted me to get better. My kids were lost. My friends and family tried with every piece of themselves to fix and support me. Everyone was scared. I was terrified. I wanted it to be over. I wanted it to stop. I wanted to disappear. I almost did.
I crashed. I had been in and out of traditional therapy my entire adult life. But when I crashed, I found a non-traditional coaching option that targeted understanding my shame, grief, and perfectionism and how each of those things related to my self-concept. I examined it all. Resentment and rage. Compassion and understanding. Imperfection and fear. Gratitude and forgiveness. I had let perfectionism define me. Shame and guilt had directed traffic. I had never really placed myself at the top of the priority list because I genuinely believed that I didn't deserve it. Ever so slowly, I embraced every part of me, even the ugly and wounded parts, with equal amounts of love. I began the arduous task of learning to love myself at 39 years old.
My journey was too much for my husband to handle. I tried to be the perfect mother and wife for many years. When I could no longer maintain it, the marriage fell apart. We divorced. He tried. We both did. I circled the wagons around the important things, like my mental and physical health and my children. I was bare and naked and building a new existence in more ways than one. I committed to being real and authentic. I committed to LOVING my body, my heart, MYSELF entirely. I committed to feeling and being ordinary-extraordinary, meaning that being MY best did not have to include being THE BEST. I began to put myself first. I put myself back together.
As I grew and began taking my mental health and wellness into my own hands, everything changed. EVERYTHING! Depression no longer hung over me. I started sleeping. My heart opened up. My relationship with my children bloomed. I started saying no. I stopped worrying about what other people thought. I said what I thought and expressed my real feelings with love as the guiding light, not fear. I honored my time. I stepped into my smart. I re-certified as Fitness Trainer and dove into helping people be the best versions of themselves. I learned to nurture my body with food and not use the most essential human experience as a tool to beat myself up. I took a good look at exercise and fitness and committed to using both to feel good emotionally and physically, not as a weapon to shame and punish myself. I took time for myself. My sympathetic nervous system relaxed, and my body responded. Hope and possibilities opened up in ways I could not have ever imagined.
My path to now…it wasn't easy. It took work and patience and time. It took self-awareness and emotional grit. It took learning to be mindful. The process allowed me to use fitness, wellness, and nutrition as a tool to regain my power, both physically and mentally. I found a way of eating that supported my lifestyle and wellness. In that, my calling became helping people use fitness as a tool to begin feeling physically and emotionally healthy. While designing fitness programs and training clients was fun, I always found the most rewarding part of watching a client find their inner power. I loved seeing small shifts in physical behaviors translate to significant changes in other areas of their lives. I gravitated to clients that needed and wanted that as much as they wanted to lose weight or get more toned. The body follows the mind, and I saw it time and time again.
So my path brought me to Health and Wellness coaching with Health Coach Institute/Holistic MBA. It is magical to watch people shed guilt and shame in their wellness and their lives. Celebrating physical and emotional victories with other humans is something I will never take for granted.
Now, by no stretch of the imagination do I have it all figured out. Just because I am a fitness trainer and life and wellness coach doesn't mean I get it all right. I am NOT perfect. Isn't that glorious? Because if my experience, I can hold a vision for myself and others. My path leads me to be strong enough to walk with others as they venture down their own. I wouldn't trade a single moment to be here right now. If my story helps one person find their ordinary-extraordinary, then facing the vulnerability of sharing my story is worth it. If it gives me the ability to hold up a mirror reflecting the true beauty and strength of my clients and the people I love, then it was a journey worth taking.