IN THE BEGINNING
I grew up in Blauvelt, a small town about thirty miles north of New York City. I was born the youngest of five, with twelve years between myself and my closest sibling and twenty years between myself and my eldest sibling. At many times I felt like an only child, as my sisters and brother had moved out of the family home by the time I was six. In those days, it was not common for people to have babies in their forties, so for this reason, my parents were much older than the parents of my friends. I believe that in some ways, this lent itself to a difficulty in us relating to and understanding one another.
Throughout my childhood I can remember many moments of feeling alone and misunderstood. As an only child in the home, there ends up being a great deal of time spent self-entertaining. Even though I spent a lot of time with my parents, traveling, playing sports, and in daily life activities, I often wished for a sibling closer in age so that I would have someone to relate to. I was born a very sensitive and empathetic individual, which lent itself to my being a child that had trouble understanding the ways of the world. I often found myself crying about the unfairness and injustices that many people experienced. It seemed there was a certain belief system mainstream society prescribed to and I just couldn’t make sense of why. My parents didn’t know how to help me and struggled with being able to see life through my eyes. As a child, this left me feeling unsure of myself and confused about where I fit in the world.
The Growing Years
I guess you could say I felt a little bit like an alien in my home, struggling to find a way to feel confident about the person I was and my feelings about the world around me. As I look back now, I realize this is when I began to internalize a false and self-limiting belief, one that I carried with me for most of my life, that there must be something wrong with me. I began to find ways to escape my surroundings and withdraw in ways that allowed me to lose myself. I would read books constantly, drown out my room with music, and shut my door and dance for hours. Whether done consciously or not, I grew into a teenager having minimal contact with my parents, closed off about my fears, and making inaccurate assumptions about the world around me through my inexperienced adolescent eyes.
Unfortunately, there was a great deal of yelling in my home as well. My parents did not have the communication tools to get them through their struggles and so most times arguments ensued. I can remember spending many nights with my hands clenching my ears and covers over my head sobbing, wishing they would stop fighting. I was scared and didn’t have anyone with whom I could express my fears. I would bargain with God and bargain with my parents in an attempt to make them get along but as I realized I was powerless in changing their behavior, I further internalized my belief that there must be something wrong with me. I struggled with feelings of insignificance and lack of worth, crawling deeper inside myself and not sharing these feelings with anyone.
Throughout all of this, I remained very active in sports, at the top of my classes in school, and always the image of the “good daughter” who did everything right. I was praised often for my grades, athletic abilities, and my appearance. Early on, I made the connection that perfectionism was an effective way to get love and to be seen, another false and self-limiting belief that I carried into my adult life. I became highly adept at finding ways to please those around me, even though it was at the expense of myself and my true feelings.
Eventually, hiding my inner pain and fears while appearing perfect and happy caught up with me. As I grew closer to my teenage years, the chasm between what I felt in my heart and the reality of the world in which I lived became too much for me to bear. I felt myself becoming angry and intolerant of my parent’s belief system and rules. Frequent and loud arguments began to ensue between myself and my parents, my mom in particular. I withdrew even further into feeling misunderstood, insignificant, and unworthy.
Entering high school was difficult for me as my insecurities and self-limiting beliefs came to the surface and challenged me every step of the way. I continued to make good grades, play sports, and even made new friends, but the lack of confidence and isolation I felt on the inside continued to prevail. I eventually began to date someone who was no longer in high school and took classes at the community college. He drove, smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, and did drugs. I fell in love very quickly, finally feeling as though I was understood and a part of something that mattered. Slowly but surely, my life began to center around him. I started pulling away from my friends and quit almost all extracurricular activities. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was participating in an abusive relationship, becoming more and more isolated and completely dependent on this person for everything.
The physical abuse began approximately one year into the relationship. I will never forget the first time it happened. We were having a terrible argument and I remember him being angry in a way I had never experienced before. I was sobbing with sheer terror at the thought of losing him. Out of nowhere, he hit me across the face. My ear ringing, completely lost and in shock, I continued to cry and beg him to stop being so angry. He appeared to calm down and we began to talk. I felt relief as my nervous system began to relax and my terror began to subside. And then, he kicked me in the face. The only thing I can remember was him laughing. Laughing at what he had done, laughing at my pain. What should have made me angry, only made me more afraid of losing him and ashamed of myself. He eventually apologized and I caved in. One second I was being physically assaulted and the next we were having sex. The entire time the only thing I could think about was how grateful I was that he still loved me and did not leave. The next two years were filled with violence and humiliation that I kept hidden from every single person in my life.
Somehow, throughout all of this, I managed to hear a little voice inside that was struggling to guide me toward a greater good. I maintained high grades in spite of cutting classes, sneaking out of my home at night, drinking, and smoking pot. At the age of sixteen, I made the decision to see a therapist at a community center. I found a way to pay for it on a sliding scale, attending private and group sessions once or twice a week. I didn’t have the courage to share this with my parents and somehow thought they would not allow me to continue going, so I did it on my own. I eventually gathered enough courage to leave my hometown and go away to college. This provided me with the necessary distance I required to finally remove this abusive relationship from my life.
College provided me with the opportunity to become whomever I wanted to be. I made new friends and enjoyed the freedom that college life offered, yet I still doubted my worth and had a hard time truly feeling as though I belonged. I began college majoring in dance, though quickly gave up on that dream, switching course about half way through freshman year. It was about this time that I began dating my son’s father and suddenly found myself again, very much in love. He still resided in our hometown, so by the end of the year the decision was made, I would return home to attend school. Finding my own way was an ongoing uphill struggle, so I welcomed the security and certainty this new relationship provided. We stayed together for the next sixteen years.
Our relationship grew extremely close rather quickly. I believe that we called one another into our lives from a deep and burning need to heal our past pains and traumas. After five years of dating we were married and moved to California, leaving our families behind and ready to take on the world by ourselves. We were excited about the adventure and believed that our love would get us through anything that came our way. Although our relationship was rooted in a deep love for one another, it was a codependent love born from need, rather than from a space of empowerment. I continued to struggle internally with insecure feelings around my lack of worth and dislike for my true self.
We tried very hard to make our relationship work, finding ourselves in therapy, reading self-help books, and developing creative ways to keep our relationship alive. At times we were extremely happy, though we never could seem to keep that momentum going for long. It seemed that when we were good we were great, and when we were bad, we were toxic. My need for certainty and fear of being alone in the world again kept me hanging on for longer than was healthy for either one of us.
As we became respectively more and more independent of one another, we found ourselves growing apart. I grew very aware of my own feelings of anger and resentment as I began to finally get in touch with the self I had for so long ignored. I was now ready to try being the person I wanted to be, rather than the person others needed or expected me to be. We both began to pursue things independently from one another and discovered we had very different life goals and priorities. The time had come to move on from our relationship and set one another free.
The process of divorce is torturous and I am not sure there are words that exist to describe the pain and heartbreak involved. There were moments it seemed as though I could literally feel parts of myself dying and I had no idea how I was ever going to make it out alive. I would cry myself to sleep, cry when I woke up, and be startled awake from dreams that left me confused and afraid. The loss was so profound, it seemed to leave a gaping hole in my heart that would take years for me to fill.
Through all the tears and pain, I remained committed to becoming the absolute best possible version of myself, for me and most importantly, for my son. I meditated, went to therapy, did yoga, took gentle care of my mind and body, and learned to stand on my own two feet. Slowly but surely, I felt myself coming back to life and then over time, began to feel happy in a way I had never experienced happiness before. I was finally becoming the woman I was created to be by healing the wounds of my past and discovering my inner voice.
After many years of living in California, I decided to return to New York to be closer to family. I was excited to reconnect with everyone in my new state of being, and for my son to finally get to experience being a part of an extended family unit. Two weeks after my arrival my father became sick unexpectedly and then after a very strong fight, he passed away two months later. Absolutely nothing in my life prepared me for this moment. I was quite honestly devastated and paralyzed with grief; the guilt, anger, and sadness almost too much to bear. The days following found me laying in my bed, oscillating between sobbing, staring blankly at the ceiling, and sleeping. The chasm in my heart felt an ocean wide and I wasn’t sure how I was ever going to fill that space again. Other than being present for my son, nothing else mattered enough for me to even try.
After approximately two months of this, I managed to listen to a voice inside telling me that I needed to get up and move. If nothing else, I could head down to the gym and then go right back to sleep. I begrudgingly pulled myself out of bed, put on some workout clothes, and got myself out of my home and through the doors of the gym. I am pretty sure that process took a record breaking hour to accomplish. I managed to make myself move, doing some weights and some cardio. Exhausted, I trudged back up to my home and straight into my bed. It wasn’t much, but I had left my bed and done something for me, I fell asleep with a small sense of accomplishment in my heart.
Without even realizing it, something began to awaken inside of me. I would drop my son at school, go to the gym, and then get into bed day after day. What I didn’t notice though was that my workouts were getting longer, I was getting stronger, and I was actually looking forward to going every day. As I faced and overcame challenges in the gym, I gained the courage to face myself and begin to work on the grief I was feeling inside. A profound grief that was not only seeded in a profound loss for a father that I had loved so much, but also for past traumas in my life that I had yet to have the courage to face.
As I continued to journey down this road of healing, my long held passion for health and fitness grew. I began to realize that everything I had ever done in the past had in fact been preparing me for this exact moment. I felt a fire inside me ignite and suddenly I was on my way to the place my heart was directing me to go. Beginning with a childhood rooted in sports and dance, I found my way to yoga and received my certification to teach. I spent years practicing yoga, lifting weights, and dabbling in an interest in fitness. I decided to pursue a personal training certificate and became certified through NASM. With a Masters in Clinical Social Work and a Life Coaching Certification, it was now time to add another piece, a certification in Integrative Health Coaching. Bringing it all together has truly allowed me to create the life of my dreams!
I can honestly say that I have been where my clients are and quite honestly, I continue to be a work in progress. I know that every part of my story has been in service of helping me step in to living my life purpose. Having lived through and overcome these painful experiences, I have been given a unique gift that allows me to assist others in overcoming their obstacles. There is so much I have learned and continue to learn and so much for me to share with others. Nothing makes me happier than being of service to those around me and watching them transform and create the life they desire.