Last weekend I received an overwhelming amount of “likes” on a post I published on Facebook, and it got me wondering, “Why did people like it so much? What was it about this particular post that people responded to so favorably?”.
I have a few theories in mind, and the main being, that it told a personal story and exposed some of my very own vulnerabilities. Looking back at previous blog posts, and Facebook statuses, I realized that whenever I posted something about overcoming a difficult time, a time when I struggled, or whenever I opened myself up to being “human” many people responded very positively.
In this particular post I described my own healing journey, and how it took me nearly 4 years to finally get to a point where I felt my body, my mind, and my soul was in a good place. Here is a screenshot of that post:
I felt so very loved from receiving such great feedback, and in a sense, posting it was very therapeutic and cathartic, and has helped validate the process for me. Seeing how well people responded, I felt compelled to tell people more. It was almost as if I ‘owed’ it everyone who liked the post to describe the whole story, so that people can get an even deeper understanding of just how much time and work goes into the healing process, whether that is mental, physical, emotional or spiritual.
We often take for granted just how much time and patience can go into healing the body, and as a “fitness professional”, I felt that sharing my story would give other people who are going through similar situations the strength, patience and inspiration to keep going, and to not get frustrated when things aren’t moving quick enough, something that I’ve experienced with nutrition clients lately.
I also felt that writing about the experience would further validate me (yep, I’m not too ashamed to admit that I still need validation) and even be a therapeutic exercise in my own personal growth and development. Plus, I felt that it would give you, my clients, potential clients, my friends, my family, a more intimate view of who I am, why I say the things I say, and why I’m so passionate about healing the body from the inside out.
To help tell the story, I’ve broken it up into 3 parts which I will write about in 3 separate blog posts:
Part 1 – Something Ain’t Right Here
Part 2 – My Sabbatical, My Spirituality, and My Sexuality
Part 3 – 2 Steps Forward and 1 Step Back
In this post, let’s start at the beginning…
Part 1 – Something Ain’t Right Here.
It was New Year’s Eve, 2007, and we were all hanging outside my Grandma’s house in the Philippines, sticky from the humidity and sweaty from the heat of the fireworks in the neighborhood. My family and my boyfriend at the time were taking our first real vacation together and we were just minutes away from ringing in 2008.
The street was cloudy and the air was thick with smoke from sparklers, roman candles, and all sorts of colorful and ear-piercing fireworks. The neighborhood was alive with barking dogs and kids playing in the street. It was an incredibly happy moment being with my family and back in my hometown, somewhere that I consider “home”.
As the seconds wound down, and people were counting outloud in the street, I felt a surge of excitement, and I could feel my heart beating fast. It was the ultimate vacation feeling when no other thought crossed your mind, no work, no bills, no nothing. It was pure bliss.
Soon after it turned midnight, and after we all hugged one another, my boyfriend turned to my family, gathered us all around, and proceeded to thank us for bringing him to the Philippines, and for including him in the family. I was somewhat shocked by the act as most of our relationship with my family had been very turbulent up until then. There was always tension between the 3 of us (me, my bf and my family) so seeing this display of affection was very touching.
Then, without even realizing what was happening, I was watching my boyfriend lower down on one knee, while the shiniest, blingy-est ring I’ve ever seen was being slipped onto my left ring finger. It was as if I was watching him from outside of my own body, watching him as I looked down.
“I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”
I couldn’t even mutter a word as the excitement, surprise, and pure chaos of the event paralyzed me and all I could do was sob into my hands as I frantically shook my head “yes”.
How he managed to sneak a ring on vacation without me knowing is still beyond me, but as we embraced, I couldn’t help but notice my father missing from the crowd, and a funny turning in my gut that something was just not right.
Back To Reality
After 2 weeks in shorts and sandals, the hard and sobering fact of reality called a Nor-easter welcomed us home with a cold smack in the face. And just as quickly as going from being a girlfriend to being an oh-my-god-I’m-in-engaged-my-life-is-over-fiance, so did the warm and fuzzy feeling of being on vacation.
It did not take long for the harsh and well-hidden truth of our relationship to surface up. It was as if getting engaged sped up our relationship’s inevitable demise. I should have seen how obvious it was that after 6 months of being engaged, we had still not set a date or had done ANY planning for our wedding whatsoever.
Between working as a fitness manager in a corporate gym for 60, 70, and even pushing 80 hours per week, and trying to futilely resuscitate a dying relationship, I began to experience the repercussions of stress. Before I knew it, my digestion had taken a serious blow and I was beginning to develop major GI issues. I was constipated for days, I developed numerous food intolerances, I was ALWAYS bloated, and I had the most foul and offensive gas ever. EVER. Everything I ate made me feel horrible.
It was gross. I felt gross. I felt like shit.
It even got to the point where I would have to excuse myself from training sessions to pass gas in the bathroom as the smell would penetrate the entire fitness floor. Perhaps TMI, but I want to really lay it out to you just how BAD it was.
On top of that, my skin was going bizerk. I developed horrible and painful cystic acne, not only on my face but on my back and chest as well. Throw in some insomnia, anxiety, and heart palpitations, and you have the recipe for a near nervous break down. I was a complete mess.
I remember once while taking a shower, feeling as though my heart would bounce out of my chest like an Alien, I stopped to take my pulse. And at rest, was over 140 beats per minute. That’s like a jog for me.
I should also mention, that I even broke out in serious, full-body hives that caused me to miss 3 days of work. Clearly, my body was trying to tell me something.
I dealt with this for about 6 months, from January to July, and then finally broke down and realized I had to do something. At this point, I started working with a naturopathic doctor who prescribed a very strict diet that eliminated all of my food intolerances which at the time were: eggs, gluten, dairy and all sugar.
I did this for about 3 months which I had a lot of improvement physically, but there were still aspects of my life that needed to be changed, and most prominently, my relationship.
Shit Hits The Fan
Aside from the stress of my job and my health, I had the added stress of my relationship, which now that I look back, was the main source of all of my issues:
I didn’t want to go home, so I stayed later at work, which caused me stress, which caused more hardship on our relationship, which further pushed me away.
I didn’t want to be in the relationship which stifled my personal power and self-will which weakened my spirit and suppressed my true, authentic self.
I couldn’t face my own fears which caused me to question myself and doubt myself, which caused anxiety and insomnia.
And all of which fucked with my digestion.
I couldn’t speak what was on my mind, but my body was screaming for help.
As the months went on, the arguments became more frequent and more intense. Days that we argued started to out number day’s that we didn’t, purely by default because after we argued, we just would not want to talk to each other. Horrible and hurtful things were said, stuff was broken, holes in walls were punched, and many, many, many tears were shed.
Then shit hit the fan on a tumultuous trip to Baltimore in August 2008, more than 8 months after our engagement. At this point things had gone from bad, to worse, to hell. When I say shit hit the fan, I mean, shit hit the mutha’fuckin’ fan. Our fights, which we had always done in private, had now become public. Very public, like in front of an entire section at Camden Yard during an Orioles and Sox game.
I remember sitting there in the bleachers, frozen, not knowing what to say, barely breathing, and surrounded by our friends and complete strangers, as heavy tears streamed down my face. I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, but most importantly, I’d had enough.
I remember a soft but stern voice creep in through the back of my head say: “Sirena, if you don’t do something now, this is going to be your life for a very, very, long time.”
FUCK. THAT. I thought.
After getting back from our trip, we ended our relationship, having spent almost the entire year slowly ripping off a very painful band-aid. It was not an easy decision to make whatsoever as we’d been together for the majority of our adult lives at the time, almost 7 years as a couple. After about 14-hours of being stuck inside the house on a beautiful and clear summer day in August, we had officially called it quits.
Your Body Is Always Talking To You
Even though I did not have the strength or the courage to end the relationship any sooner, my body was speaking loud enough for me the entire time. I knew something was just not right, but for many reasons, mainly based out of fear, I chose to ignore that my body was telling me something was off.
I was afraid of leaving him, I was afraid of facing my own questions about myself (mostly my sexuality) and I was afraid of disappointing him and his family, which looking back, is a horrible, horrible reason to stay with someone.
Now as I reflect back on this period of my life, I can see how clearly my body was trying to speak to me.
It took me a few years to realize this, but, when we aren’t living authentically or in alignment with who we are as individuals, our body will let us know. We just have to pay attention.
Although I was finding some relief in the elimination style diet I was prescribed, it was still a band-aid to deeper seated issues that I had to address, and which I will talk about in Part 2 of this series. However, this was the start of my healing process and my journey into learning more about my body, and understanding how food, emotions, and spirituality play in the overall picture of our health.
It’s not always about exercising, or cardio, or weights.
It’s not always about nutrition or dieting.
It’s not always about losing weight.
Achieving true health encompasses everything about who you are as an individual, from the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. This is what I aim to achieve throughout this blog series.
It’s not always about what’s on the surface that matters.
In the next post, I will intimately describe how I began to face a lifelong struggle with my sexuality, my year of not working (which I dub my Sabbatical) and the start of my spiritual practice. All of which played a pivotal role in discovering who I am as an individual, and helped spark the process of living a healthier and more authentic life.
As I wrap up this first post, I want to thank you for reading, and thank you for allowing me the space to share my story with you. I hope that through this, you are able to find comfort and inspiration to continue on your own healing path.
Thanks a ton for sharing your story. I too have spent many years experiencing not so fun physical symptoms from my body as I sorted my relationships and resolved unacknowledged trauma on my healing journey. Your writing it just perfect as is your use of the word fuck. I use it quite a bit which is probably not that attractive out of the mouth of a 43 year old woman…….but honestly I don’t give a fuck! Thanks for being an amazing strong beautiful woman!
So honest and raw, I can relate on so many levels. Thank you for sharing.
Sirena, I am finally reading your beautiful blog here, and I love it…Love that you had the courage to write it and the skill to communicate your experience so beautifully. Really. It is truly amazing how our bodies speak to us, trying to communicate truths our conscious brains don’t want/aren’t ready to hear. I certainly experienced this myself when I made my own life changing decisions 10 years ago…Again, I echo what others have said…thank you for sharing…I think your words touch a chord with everyone who reads them and, again, you remind us all to pay attention and listen to what is going on within our own bodies!
Thank you so much for your feedback, it means a lot to me. Its amazing how much easier life is when we let go and just trust 🙂
I appreciate your honesty and I especially liked the emphasis about it not always being about weight loss or exercise and dieting. I know sometimes I get so caught up in that, that I forget to really look at myself on the inside and seeing what really matters in life. And I’m loving the Filipino heritage we share! 🙂
Thank you for your comment and feedback. Its something we all can get caught up with, and even I have to remind myself too.
Yeah Pinay! 🙂
I saw a post on my FB wall by Roman Fitness and thought “sounds interesting” so I just popped over for a read. I now have tears pouring down my face as I have been there, done that and understand the whole deal (so far have to read part 2 in a min). I was married, seriously depressed (even though at the time I didn’t realise it) and my health was slipping BADLY. I understand exactly what you have been through and the pain. I had to face my fears and end the marriage, I lost everything, my home, my family but gained everything at the same time. My health and my sanity. It was not until I had left that I realised I had depression. Now 3 years on I am happier and healthier than I have ever been in my life. Thanks to my wonderful new partner teaching me his training methods, spirituality and the art of relaxation. Off to read part 2 . . .see you there!
Thank you for sharing – doing so is therapeutic for everyone involved. I eagerly await the next installment …
Wow. Thank you so much for sharing. Another evidence that the human body is very, very smart. I’m really looking forward to hearing more about your journey.
Hi Kennet, thanks so much for your comment. The body is wicked smaht 😉
check out part 2 here http://www.sirenabernal.com/my-healing-journey-part-2-my-sabbatical-my-sexuality-and-my-spirituality/#comment-580640879
Thanks so much for sharing Sirena, your story totally spoke to me as I spent a number of years in less than healthy relationships and I remember the many physical symptoms that my body manifested while I was trying to “make things work”. Being happy is awesome and the journey that takes us there is awesome too in a lot of ways, I look forward to learning more about your journey 🙂
Tubes! Thanks chica, good to hear from a fellow instructor. I think as women we find ourselves far too often in situations where we put ourselves and our needs on the back burner.
Fuck that! 😉
Beautiful and touching beginning to your story… Called life! Many really important lessons that serve as excellent reminders to us all. I’m sure it was difficult to share but kudos to you for bing so open and honest.
Hi Amy – thank you, much appreciated. It was difficult in a sense, but also easy because I knew it would help others, and myself as well. Keep up the good work lady 🙂
Wow! Thank you for sharing yourself with us. You are such an inspiration. I look forward to reading more about your journey as I am certain it will help shed more light on mine. Continue to shine in the midst of darkness.
Thanks chica 🙂 Funny to hear that I am an inspiration, when I get my inspiration from other people.
Sirena, this was truly inspiring to read. Thank you for opening up and letting us see what an amazing woman you are. I can’t wait to learn more about your process to a better life. Thank you.
Hey girl, thanks so much for the feedback. Can’t wait to share the rest either, it gets juicier!!! 😉
Hey, I recently started writing a blog as well and I now know, how much writers appreciate feedback and I found your journey very moving; I haven’t found the courage to write about my life’s turning point yet, but someday, I will.
It’s not always about exercising, or cardio, or weights.
It’s not always about nutrition or dieting.
It’s not always about losing weight- Love this. Definitely sharing!!!
Hi Nisanth – thank you so much for your feedback, and I do really appreciate the comment. You’ll find the courage in time, if that is what your heart is speaking to you.
Thank you for your support!
Sirena, your truly beautiful inside and out and the words you have written have hit home so hard for me. I cant wait to reach the rest of your journey in hopes that it may help me to start out on mine. I cant wait to see you in boston and just talk to you and get your perspective on the things i’ve been dealing with. Your an inspiration to many but your mainly an inspiration to me. Thank you.
Thank you for reading, and thank you for leaving me your comment and support. I am so happy to hear that you connect with this in some way, and I look forward to seeing you when you get to Boston! Shoot me a FB message when you have your plans set up so that I can make sure to have time open.
You’re beautiful girl! 🙂
I am constantly amazed by how much I can connect with your experiences! Being internally focused is a hard thing for me and removing the importance of the superficial aspects of beauty which are promoted in society is a constant struggle. I have never had a positive self-image, always striving to “look” better. Thank you for reminding me to try to stay grounded and love who I am and the work that I have done, even when it isn’t easy. I look forward to hearing more.
Thank you so much for your comment and support. It can be difficult to NOT being focused on the superficial aspects of beauty seeing how much we are bombarded with it left and right. However, when you strip away everything on the outside what’s left is what you have inside, and that beauty lasts longer than any fad, or any trend.
Just keep doing what you’re doing, loving yourself, and being kind to yourself. I look forward to sharing the rest!
Sirena you are a writer!!! I love your honesty & frankness. Can’t wait for part 2!
Thank you so much for the comment and the support. It really means a lot to me. I look forward to sharing the rest of my journey with you.