A lesson in living
Reprinted from "Eating Disorders" issue of Visions Journal, 2002, 1(16), pp. 17-18
I was a career woman, making a six-figure income by the time I was thirty years old. I had a professional degree. I traveled the world with the freedom to come and go at my leisure. Yet with everything I always thought I wanted, I was the loneliest, most unhappy soul. I sabotaged my personal life for fear that if anyone got close enough, they would discover my shame. The shame was that my life centered on a deep and out-of-control secret. My secret had my time and attention 24 hours a day.
I had voices inside my head that criticized my every move. Whether awake or asleep, whatever I was doing, all I could think about was whether I was doing it right. I was constantly trying to make people happy through meeting their expectations of who I was supposed to be. When I felt I let someone down I found a way to deal with my shame. I had struggled with anorexia and bulimia for over twenty years and this was my center of existence. My eating disorders gave me a way to take control of judging myself before anyone else could. My punishment or reward was whether I would binge, purge or not eat at all.
My recovery began when I started to meet those rare people who appeared truly happy. Those people who carried a glow about them. Whether they were wealthy, earning an average income or unemployed they were very thankful for just being. They lived in the moment. They enjoyed the simple things. They never engaged in meaningless chatter. For them, the glass, no matter what the circumstance, was always half-full.
It was these people who intrigued me and at the same time saddened me, because I thought what they had was only given to those worthy and good enough to have it. I began to know different when I gave myself the opportunity to meet and speak to one of these people. She would later become my personal guide to self-healing.
This angel took me through a three month process of learning to nurture and care for my self. She would help me understand that the hatred and anger I had for the world around me was a mirror reflection of my inability to accept myself. I had for so long been trying to please everyone around me that I lost touch with the person I wanted to be. She helped me understand that all the traumatic events and drama in my life were responses to my own deepest desire: to continually bring myself the loneliness and despair I thought I deserved.
My angel helped me to see my life as being a reflection of my thoughts, words and actions played out through the choices I made, and helped me to see that the person I had become had nothing to do with the person I could be. I would replace my need for judgment with acceptance, and change my role from victim to survivor. All it would take was for me to choose to make my life different.
It amazes me how western society has neglected to see unhealthy coping mechanisms, like eating disorders for the symbols they are: symbols which reflect spirits broken down over time through generational belief systems centered on illusions of: need, judgement and expectations. We are taught as young children to find security and love outside of ourselves, through living up to the expectations of our parents, teachers, religious leaders and the like. From childhood to adulthood we are reminded of when it is appropriate to laugh, cry, leave the table or tell a joke. As young children, we were taught what was deemed beautiful or ugly, what was deemed fat or thin, and what was appropriate and inappropriate behaviour; and the moment we did not live up to the expectations of others, we were introduced to judgement through reward (love) or punishment (love withheld).
My angel would introduce to me simple methods I could use to re-program myself back to a place of self-love, peace and self-worth, independent of any given situation. Within just a few weeks the drama of my life diminished and I was experiencing a world filled with nothing but goodness. I saw the world through a compassionate lens. I saw how much the world was yearning, and how much it required healing, love, acceptance, understanding and above all peace.
It has now been five years since I met this woman of wisdom, and every day continues to be a day of self-discovery and adventure; whatever the experience happens to be. I continue to grow and evolve with the knowledge that who I am is inspired through my ability to love, nurture and accept myself as I am. I have learned that experiences come in different forms; how I interpret the moment is an expression of how I feel about who I am at a given point in time. Moments are not to be judged: just experienced.
In my book, I wrote about my life journey and the recovery methods I was so graciously given, so that I could help others find alternatives for healing. I know how difficult and lonely life can appear; however, I can reassure you these feelings are illusions. There are no accidents in this world, only responses to your deepest desires of experience. Making the choice to want to change your life is the first step to healing. Once you have made the choice, listen carefully and bring yourself to the highest state of awareness; your response is on its way. Whether it is in the next song you hear, book you read, person you meet, story you read, they are all responses to your desire for healing.
About the author
Holly Whalen is the author of Silence The Judge, Release The Victim, an autobiography describing her recovery from her twenty-two year battle with eating disorders. Holly is a successful executive, and the founder of Clear Intentions Strategic Consulting Ltd, and of Inspirit Productions, a company dedicated to communicating well-being techniques to parents