The Breakdown That Changed My Life (Retreat Intro)
4 weeks ago I returned home from a trip that changed my life. It’s taken me a few weeks to gain the courage to share my experience but now I am more ready than ever and so excited to share the journey with you!
I documented my struggles and experience not to gain sympathy or attention but to open and create a platform for discussion. It is a way for me to connect with my readers on a much deeper level and to offer guidance through my experience when they themselves encounter struggles on their life’s journey. In no shape or form would I ever compare my hardships with someone else’s. Hopefully, this blog provides a space where others can express themselves freely in hopes they don’t feel alone.
Staring at the floor, head buried in my hands, I confessed to Marc
“I just don’t feel like…myself’
“You haven’t been ‘yourself’ in years”
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought Marc would casually ask why and I would complain to him that I felt like I was dragging my feet through mud and then we’d change the topic. A conversation that seemed to be all too familiar these days. But not this time. Shit just got very real.
I knew he was right and I think that’s what hurt the most. At first, I was defensive, questioning him on all the good times, great times we’ve had over the years. Why wasn’t he acknowledging those? But the truth was, between the odd silly moment and the gatherings with friends and family, I was a stress case. Almost never in the moment, my brain wracked constantly with thoughts such as; if I burned enough calories in my spin class this morning, what time I could have my first meal ensuring I had 16+ hours of fasting in between, what that first meal would be, what I should have for lunch and dinner, what workout I’ll do tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. God forbid I only participate in only one class today, I better hit the gym tonight and train with my client after that. Not to mention the added stress that comes with starting up your own business. Even though I took my own advice performing deep breathing ‘relaxation’ exercises each and every morning, it was overshadowed by the 23 hours and 50 minutes of my pineal gland running on all 5 cylinders.
You would think to experience Amenorrhea as a young ‘healthy’ women would have been a clear sign that my body was shouting out for help but the funny thing is, I thought my stress was totally under control. On paper, I was the perfect ‘student’. I exercised daily, ate well, had a loving relationship, great group of friends and a beautiful home. So when Marc told me I hadn’t been the same, goofy, relaxed, spur of the moment girl he had known and grown to love, I broke down.
This routine I had built was no longer serving me. How could I coach my clients to live a mindful, balanced life, implementing the appropriate amount of exercise, and loving themselves unconditionally when I couldn’t even do that myself. As independent and as strong as I had always prided myself to be, I knew it was time to drop the ego and seek assistance. Because I had the ‘perfect student’ act down, I knew seeking weekly or monthly counseling while still living in the city would be as useful as putting $1 into the shredder hoping it spits out a crisp $20. I knew I had to go all in if I really wanted to make a change. And deep down, a shift is what needed to happen to restructure the life and genuine, honest, and supportive, business I had always dreamed of. I needed to escape somewhere meals where taken care of so that ‘stress’ wasn’t an option. A place that didn’t have a gym but offered peaceful meditation and the practice of yoga. Somewhere I could express my concerns and connect and support people going through struggles of their own. I spent hours researching retreats that matched my criteria.
Many times I came close to booking one but stopped when I found out it had a gym on site or that dinner would be up to you walking in town and choosing a restaurant you liked. To the regular person, this would be ideal. A place to workout, freedom to choose what you want to eat. For me, this meant packing up my high-stress lifestyle and simply unpacking it in a different country. Finally, I found it. Shortly after I sent in my inquiry I received a call from the director of the retreat. It checked off all the boxes. It started in 4 days.
My first instinct was to book my usual appointments, nails, hair, eyelashes and get all dolled up looking my best but I again, I knew this was just another one of my classic moves in the routine that for so long hadn’t served me. So I did the exact opposite. I took out my extensions, cut my hair the shortest it’s ever been, and opened myself to a new level of vulnerability I had yet to experience.
With a polite smile and a tilt of the head, my Mom and Dad took the news. Their 28-year-old daughter was going all Eat, Pray, Love on them. After a few tears and the explanation of the health issues and challenges I had been dealing with and the effects they have had on my relationships, they were incredibly supportive. They expressed how proud they were that I had not only acknowledged my struggles and my challenges but had begun to embrace and take action on working towards strengthening them. Now, came the hardest part. Telling my sister.
My sister is my best friend. I tell her absolutely everything and I am grateful for our relationship every single day. But she is also my younger sister and because of that, I have always felt the need to be strong for her and to lead by example. The hardest part was not admitting this moment of perceived weakness but confessing it to someone who from a very young age has dealt with chronic migraines, night terrors and having lived on her own for years has adopted a very strong sense of independence which comes with its own struggles. My hurdles seemed incredibly petty compared to what she’s gone through. But I knew to be the best sister, friend, and person I could possibly be, I had to do this for myself. Her reaction was pretty much as expected.
On the outside, she saw my life as I wanted her to see it. Put together and struggle free. I laid it all out for her expressing that even though it may seem like people have their shit together, everyone has things they need to overcome. Big or small, it’s not for us to judge or compare our struggles with theirs. Only that person knows what course of action is right for them and what their journey looks like in facing it.
I told her that now was a better time than ever and it was important to me and my relationships to get a handle on this before it progressed. I apologized for going all 45-year-old divorcee on her and that I hope that she too will gift herself with an experience similar to this when she’s ready.
I don’t know if it was the fact that I was leaving so soon and my body was trying to squeeze out every drop of stress is could produce leading up to the departure day, but in the next 5 days, I averaged on 3 hours of sleep per night. My subconscious mind had become so strong that it would wake me up at 2 am with so many thoughts I was having to get up out of bed and find a notepad to write them all down. As nervous and anxious as I was to start this journey, it could not come soon enough.
Marc loaded my suitcase into the car, grabbed my hand, turned up the volume on his phone and played ‘Jet Plane’. For such an amazing, supportive, world’s best boyfriend, what a jerk hey? Just as the sappy, loved song said, he kissed me, smiled and waved me off.
Settling into my seat on the plane, I grabbed my laptop to write this first entry of my what was supposed to be a 2-week experience. As I opened my bag I stumbled upon a little note tucked into one of the compartments. it read:
‘Stress and anxiety is only an obstacle, it’s an illusion of the of our fears, it’s not real. It is our minds way of dealing with a future that is unknown. Well, guess what Chara, futures coming for ya. All the best moments in life are when shit goes a little bit sideways. When one door closes, you break a window with the fire extinguisher and climb to the roof for a better view.
We are not each other’s half but the same part. Your hurt is my hurt and your happiness is my happiness. It is only the beginning of all the good. Go get it guuurl. -Elsa’
Damn it Elsa. I must have read the letter 8 times over more tears streaming down my face each time. Wise beyond her years, she was right in every sense. Life is what we make of it. It is our choice. We can interpret the closed door as a loss and dead end, or accept it as a challenge and use it to our advantage. A situation in which so many amazing, beautiful things are bred.
So here I am, on the plane throwing it all up into the air nervous, excited, scared feeling all the emotions but mainly and most importantly loved and supported. Here we go off to beautiful Puerto Escondido, Mexico to begin the trip of a lifetime! Or maybe not… We’ll just have to wait and see.