Is being healthy about guzzling down 14 kale smoothies, going to 6am spin classes, and shopping at Whole Foods?
When my body became sick with Epstein-Barr virus (mono that doesn’t goes away,) I believed the pathway to health was threefold: gentle exercise in the forms of swimming, yoga, and strength training, a nutritional plan that included a whole array of supplements, and acupuncture.
Burgers and pizza became no gluten, no dairy, grass fed, pastured, and organic. I canceled my health insurance so I could begin to afford the $100 a week acupuncture treatments and the overpriced farmer’s market bills from all the produce I was juicing, and the hefty supplement protocol I was taking.
Meanwhile, I believed that within months I’d be healed because I was doing everything perfectly.
When, after a year of diligently caring for my health through proper diet and nutrition, my symptoms continued to worsen, I began to question what else I needed to do to heal my body.
I realized I’d been neglecting an integral part of my well-being: my emotional health. I also realized the immense amount of stress that my lack of emotional health was bringing to my life.
All those feelings: the guilt of not doing enough, the shame of past behavior, the fear of not being good enough. They were getting in the way of my healing.
Not to mention the hidden shame of my fragmented story – of growing up with an emotionally unavailable, alcoholic dad, of being a stripper at 15, of not finishing high school.
Healing my story was the path to healing my body.
Here are 5 steps you can begin to take to heal your story.
1. Write your story. If you don’t get an emotional charge the first time, write it again. Scrape it until you truly feel what you’re writing. It takes some excavating to uncover patterns, pain points, and where you need to grieve. Writing your story helps get you closer to understanding these so that you can figure out how to move forward. It wasn’t until I wrote my story and shared it with the world (not everyone has to be so bold) that I started to feel that I was beginning to heal my life.
2. Identify those sticky shame points. All those times you are down on yourself, or eat for a dopamine rush, and come back feeling guilty, ashamed, and sick. Or the things you didn’t really want to do, but you did anyway because you wanted to be seen, loved, or heard. Or the money stuff, where you’ve found yourself shopping too much, spending too much, having no idea how much you have, how much you owe, getting yourself down the rabbit hole of debt and feeling so ashamed that you remain stuck and unable to move forward.
I went off track as a teenager and it took until adulthood to regain my balance. I’m not perfect and have to be mindful not to fall prey to the overeat/drink/overdraft fees cycle, but releasing it by writing has helped my healing in a significant way.
3. Find a coach, a therapist, or a good friend. If you’re overwhelmed by all you’ve been through, sometimes it takes someone to truly hear you, see you, and make you feel less alone to move further along the path of healing.
4. Practice mindfulness. Busy, modern life doesn’t allow for us to stop, breathe, and feel our feelings (I hate to use that phrase, but it’s true). To block feelings, we eat too much, have more wine than we should, mindlessly shop on Amazon, have sex with people we don’t like, and constantly check our phones. Those emotions get stuck in the body. Sometimes it takes sitting with yourself, letting feelings surface, having a good cry and releasing it. When I did 30 days of meditation last month, I literally cried for half my sittings. The purging felt awesome.
5. Check your stress. When I acknowledged that the stress of work as a personal chef in hectic San Francisco was contributing to my illness, I knew it was time to change. Shifting into ‘stress’ mode can flair up my illness like nothing else. For me, it took creating an entirely new career that required working from home, moving to a calmer town with a slower pace of life, and consciously using mindfulness practice in situations like traffic to relieve the stress.
The kale smoothies, the organic food, the yoga. All of those pieces are important to heal the body. But if you find yourself not healing, try facing your life head on and see what happens. You may find yourself vibrant, lighter, and more connected to yourself than ever before.
Brigitte Theriault is a transformational coach. She works with people who’ve tried everything from fad diets to sex to escape and helps them jumpstart their lives by situating what’s holding them back from being free, happy, and healthy.