Meet my Good Friend, My Shadow

At the age of 17, I was diagnosed with Bi-polar two disorder, which is, as I understand it, the lesser of two evils on the bi-polar spectrum. Looking back, in hind-sight, I feel that I was promptly stuffed in a box and irresponsibly medicated. None of it helped me. There was no talk of how I could search within to find my own healing, it was just to grab from outside of myself to heal the inner wounds. To me, that doesn’t sound right.

Before taking those medications, I had used a handful of illicit drugs and alcohol to numb the pain I couldn’t put words to. I didn’t even know where the hell this pain came from. To put it simply, I suffered from what a lot of people suffer from- an inner bully who lived in my head constantly putting me down. I was never smart enough, pretty enough, good enough. Actual bullies and general mean people couldn’t say anything as mean to me that I didn’t already say to myself. They just validated those insecurities.  I think that’s pretty universal. The problem is, even if you can ignore the outside bullies in your life, it’s extremely difficult to shut the inner bully up.

Up until the middle or end of 2013, I would catch myself saying, “I have more bad days than good days.” I’m happy to say I no longer say that anymore. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did feel that way.

I would always wonder, who is to blame for all of this?

The answer is, who cares? What does blame have to do with it? Blame is just a toxic pattern that the ego creates to keep you stuck.  Placing blame just takes us away from any healing we can create for our own damn selves. For me, it was discovering yoga. From that practice, which really started as just exercise, I have guided myself into breathing, meditation, and even take hypnotherapy sessions. Yoga puts the responsibility of your own happiness squarely where it belongs; on you, on ourselves. We can’t control everything that has happened to us in our lives but we don’t have to be the victims of it either. I learned from this practice that I can control the quality of my thoughts through the quality of my breath and that spreads to every single aspect of my life. Such a gift, is it not? The best part? The peace comes from within, from your own self, your own authentic nature.

A few weeks ago I was at a yoga festival taking Rod Stryker’s class. He said, and I am grossly paraphrasing, that we’re all neurotic, but if you continue in the same toxic patterns of neurosis even after practicing yoga, then you need to change something about the practice, the yoga is not working. That really hit home. What a powerful reminder for me after 10 years of practice. As much as I’ve learned, clearly I still have so much more to learn. How amazing is that?


The first time I heard the word “neurosis” was when I was reading Carl Jung’s autobiography, “Memories, Dreams and Reflections”. I read about how he cured his own neurosis as a child though reading and a lot of mental focus. He had a sense of awareness about himself that was quite unique, especially for a child. One thing he has said really stuck out for me. He said, “I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life.”


Damn. How many times have I beat my head against a wall wondering what the fuck was wrong with me, why I couldn’t be happy, all the while constantly blaming others for my own unhappiness? How many times had I stuck myself in an abusive relationship and asked myself, what is wrong with me, while the abuser got a get-out-of-jail-free card? And really how many times have I been abusive and asked myself what was wrong with them and blamed them for my bullshit? How many times have I refused to risk failure on an endeavor that could have meant so much for my own personal growth out of fear?


This has always been my question: what is the purpose of my life? I think we all grapple with that. You go to school, go to college, you get a job and work, have a family and live happily ever after. Buy a house, buy a car, all that shit that’s supposed to make you a happy adult? I took that for granted. If that were true, and that’s all there is to life I have to ask myself, how can that be it?


The best therapist I had, before the hypnotherapist I have now, was named Stephan, a German man who looked like a younger Robin Williams, and I mean dead on, but with a German accent. I began seeing him when I lived in Germany. I was 23, married, and excruciatingly unhappy and feeling stuck in my life. After months of seeing him with not much of a shift in my moods, even after seeing a different specialist for various anti-depressants, I was offered the best advice I could have ever received at the time. He said, “You are miserable because of your situation. Your situation is not making you happy. You don’t need therapy and you certainly don’t need drugs: you need a divorce.”


Light bulb moment, wouldn’t you say? However it took a couple years for that to really sink in because I still clung to the idea that something was wrong with me. And my foolish pride wasn’t about to let me throw my marriage away and face my inner bully, and possibly my family, telling me, “I told you so. You’re so stupid.”


Obviously the marriage ended and I honestly think both my ex and I can say it needed to. For us, and for our daughter. We have both been able to grow in ways we wouldn’t have had we stuck it out together in misery. That relationship no longer served a purpose for anyone involved and pride aside, we did the bravest thing we could and ended it.


My friends, I am not writing this as if I am at the end of this journey, or as if I’m a perfect sage sent to school you on how to grow. I realize that I am not done learning, like, at all. Hopefully learning never stops. If it does, I would pronounce myself dead. Maybe not physically, but in my opinion spiritually, if I felt I had learned it all, I would be dead inside.

We are not concrete beings and we are not machines programmed one way or another.

Well, maybe that’s not exactly true. I think we all have certain ways we’re wired that are completely out of our control, but I’ll leave that up to neuro scientists to comment on since that’s out of my pay grade. What I do know from my own personal experiences is that we can change the spirit of our souls and the trajectory of our own spiritual paths. The power rests right in our own hands and hearts. Just quiet down, listen, pay attention.

Don’t think you’re spiritual? Let me tell you, I didn’t either but you are. We are. However you express it is up to you.

I didn’t really discover this until 2009 when I hit yet another a rock bottom point in my life. Isn’t it funny that from those darkest moments, those “rock bottoms”, we have the opportunity for the most growth?  We can find out what our deepest desires actually are, and act on them. I have gone through every single identity crisis, been the most ugly person and the most beautiful, and sometimes in the same day. I have had some of the darkest self-created pain and I have found my way to light only to be thrown back into the trenches of darkness again. I have been my biggest bully and my biggest fan, and I can tell you that in the face of uncertainty and utter failure, be your biggest fan because one thing I have learned is the dark doesn’t ever go away, that’s not the point, and honestly you wouldn’t really want it to. How boring would life be if everything always went our friggin’ way?

It is from the dark that we learn that we grow because without the bad we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good, clichéd as that is. Explore the shadow aspects of yourself, the good, the bad, the gold, the gritty and grimy. Get some space if you need to in order to see things clearly. It’s all there waiting to be found out, waiting to have the light shined on. Don’t judge it. Take what you love, learn how to leave what isn’t serving you but thank it for teaching you.  For me it was my children who forced me to grab the flashlight, shine it in those dark corners I wanted to deny and discover what I needed to learn about myself to be better able to guide them through life. (Hey, isn’t it funny who turns out to be the real teachers in life?)

This is where healing starts, where the journey starts and where the fun beings. Enjoy every single piece of life no matter how crappy it may seem to be because that crap may turn into gold. Life is meant to be enjoyed, is it not?


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