“THERE IS NO GREATER BATTLE IN LIFE THAN THE BATTLE BETWEEN THE PARTS OF YOU THAT WANT TO BE HEALED, AND THE PARTS OF YOU THAT ARE COMFORTABLE AND CONTENT REMAINING BROKEN.”
— IYANLA VANZANT
 
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Back In The Day: Oh, the drama!

When I was 17 years old, I was advised by my mom's psychiatrist to move as far away from my family as I could. He knew about my mom’s condition and our circumstances at home, and he felt that me being around her was neither healthy nor safe.

I’m pretty sure his advice saved my life.

I grew up a child of abuse, both physical and psychological. My mother, who was once the foundation of our family, fell into alcoholism, which escalated into a series of mental illnesses. At the age of 11, I was living everyday in fear of her erratic, psychotic behavior. I dreaded going home after school because I never knew what kind of chaos or dissolution I'd be walking into. By the time I reached high school, the cops had been to our house enough times for us to be on a first name basis. I spent nights sleeping in my car to avoid arguing with my family, and weekends were passed visiting hospitals and halfway houses. I lacked a lot of basic skills that usually came with domestic structure and boundaries, and as a result I often felt ashamed, helpless and alone.

By the time I reached high school, the cops had been to our house enough times for us to be on a first name basis. 

Taking the doctor’s advice, I moved from my hometown of Los Angeles to attend college on the east coast. I took full advantage of my freedom and formed a family with fellow deviants and anarchists who were more reckless than I was.  I threw house parties the size of burning man, explored an assortment of substances (FDA-approved and otherwise), worked every odd job under the sun (including a short stint at a porn store), and had long, philosophical conversations with shamans in the park. I was having the time of my life, but I was totally out of my mind. I lived with reckless abandon, and inevitably my PTSD caught up with me. I developed a slew of self destructive tendencies, which threw me into debilitating bouts of paranoia, depression and anxiety. I was overweight, self-loathing, and 100% completely lost. In other words, I had become my mother.

The Transition: “What had happened was…”

In a series of 3 months, my boyfriend at the time cheated on me with a close friend of mine; my apartment became infested with bed bugs; and I was attacked by a robber when I walked in on him burglarizing my apartment. 

Finally, one brutal winter, life gave me a much needed kick in the ass. In a series of three months, my boyfriend at the time cheated on me with a close friend of mine; my apartment became infested with bed bugs (which is even more horrific than it sounds); and I was attacked by a robber when I walked in on him burglarizing my apartment. On top of that, physically, I was a mess. By this point, I had told myself I was "healthy" because I shopped at over-priced health food stores and put in long hours at the gym. Yet I had chronic stomach discomfort that my doctors couldn’t diagnose, chronic inflammation that caused ongoing back, knee and shoulder pain, unexplainable skin rashes, shortness of breath, and no matter how much I slept, I was always, always tired.

All of these things forced me to ask myself WTF I was doing with my life and acknowledge that my actions and behaviors were out of alignment with my values and who I wanted to be.  

The irony of it all is that I had been studying holistic health since the age of 14, when I accompanied my mother at a holistic rehab in one of her many attempts to get sober. I began meditating at the age of 18 after I won a scholarship from the David Lynch Foundation for Transcendental Meditation. And because of my mother’s mental illnesses, I had been learning about mental health all my life. I was well versed in the ideology of holistic heath, but up until that point I was always half-assing it. So I made the decision to go all in, and when I decide to do something, I commit all the way.

I directed all the intensity I used to put into partying and dating hot dudes, into learning about the art of personal development and how to effect change in a realistic, sustainable way. 

 
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In every spare moment I worked to learn about transformation via diet, exercise, meditation, traditional Chinese medicine, energy work, herbalism, psychological, philosophical and spiritual study. I learned to control my mind, ignore it, be in the present moment, generate love and hope in the darkest of times, overcome depression, anxiety and in some moments, transcend my own consciousness. I learned how to give my body what it needed, fell in love with functional fitness, and healed my chronic physical ailments naturally, without the use of chemicals or medications. I got in touch with my intuition, owned my sense of purpose, and I trained my brain, like a muscle, to take small, then even bigger risks into the unknown to transform my life.

Instead of rolling my eyes at the idea of self love, I came to know it as my greatest tool for success. I discovered self discipline without self condemnation. Today, I no longer act out of fear, but out of curiosity, love and gratitude. And it is with great humility that I can say to you that I am proud of the person I have become.

What I Learned: My Chosen Path

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Through working on myself and working with others, I have learned the following:

  • You can transform your brain. You can transform your habits. You can transform the way you live your life. Period. 

  • When all is said and done, you’ll realize that everything you've ever wanted to be, you already are at your core. You cannot create what is not already there. Rather, you uncover the gifts that are already deep within you, and you polish that shit till' it shines. 

  • If you, like me, come from a place of privilege (you have a roof over your head, a guaranteed next meal, and are of sound body and mind) you are the only thing standing in the way your success.

  • Self care and self love are everything. If you don’t take care of yourself, you compromise your ability to take care of the things you care about most, including the people and passions you love most.

  • Life without purpose feels like a struggle. Life with purpose (paired with know-how!) feels like a gift

  • You will fail to succeed in your health journey if you don’t invest in the other important aspects of your life (i.e. your relationships, your career, your creativity etc). These things are intrinsically connected, whether you like it or not. Being in balance is what creates optimal health, which is what "holistic health" is all about. 

  • Your whole life is a series of challenges that are here to help you grow. Issues that go unaddressed have an annoying way of coming back and kicking you in the ass down the line. But taking on these challenges (rather than hiding from them) is what will help you un-tap your potential and get closer to self realization. 

I see now that all of life's experiences have been teaching me how to self-heal, master my mind, let go, be courageous, love myself and enjoy life.  I truly believe that we are all capable of these things, and because of this, I have a deep desire to be with and help others in their journey.

My hope is that with my help, people can be who they most want to be, with more joy and intrigue, and less suffering. 

And the story continues...

Not long ago, I declined a job offer to make more money than I ever thought possible for myself in the best city in the world (NYC,  holla at me!) to move back in with my parents on the small island of Taiwan. So why on earth did I decide to move in with my parents as a full grown adult?

Because I was finally ready. I was ready to take everything I’d learned so far and confront the pain and heartache that I had left unaddressed for so long.

At the age of 65, after a lifetime of alcohol and drug abuse, my mother is now obese, bedridden and suffers from long-term brain damage.  Some days, our home is filled with laughter and wonder. Other days are really, really hard. But today, I am no longer afraid of things that are “hard.” I can sit in the pain without betraying my intentions and values. I have learned how to find beauty and love within the struggle.

I don’t take this life for granted. I see my mother now, shut off from the outside world, and I feel so goddamn lucky that she gave me the life that she couldn’t have for herself. I am a thriving, joyful, able-bodied person, and I get to live everyday on this big, magical planet doing what I love most. It is a gift that I get to help others on their path to living fuller, healthier, more meaningful lives for themselves.

I don’t take this life for granted. I see my mother now, shut off from the outside world, and I feel so goddamn lucky that she gave me the life that she couldn’t have for herself.