TRUTH TELLER: Afshan
The day my son was born was the happiest day of my life. It also quickly became the most fearful and most difficult time of my life. On the one hand, I had this beautiful baby boy and felt so lucky… on the other hand, he was not well from the beginning and it became an emotionally challenging time.
My son vomited multiple times a day for the first year of his life. He also had low muscle tone, reflux, multiple food allergies and barely slept. Doctors told us that he had an immune system worse than an AIDS patient and we needed to be very careful to protect him from common illnesses that could threaten his survival. We were also seeing some early signs of Autism and sensory disorder. What was supposed to be the happiest time of my life became the most stressful and vulnerable time of my life.
To make matters worse, I felt very isolated. I was living in the U.S.A. at the time and did not have family close by and very few friends; however, my feelings of isolation were magnified by me not telling people how much I was suffering. I felt like I was a bad person for having these feelings, or that something was wrong with me. But the truth was that I was anxious and depressed and completely exhausted. There were many days that I felt like going to sleep and never waking up. What should have been the happiest time of my life became the darkest time of my life.
Why did I feel such strong emotions? Why did I have these feelings of wanting my life to end?Why couldn’t I be like other women out there who had children with special needs and were mother warriors and able to do it all? I always compared myself to others who seemed better than me and could seemingly do more. I felt so much shame for the painful thoughts and feelings I was having, so instead I bottled it up. I loved my child so much but found myself resenting him at times. How ungrateful was I? My inner critic voice was loud and ringing in my ears constantly. On top of everything, I felt guilty that somehow my child’s issues were my fault. Something must be wrong with me!
I looked around at all the moms I knew with healthy, “normal” kids and felt so sad and inadequate. I wanted to be like them, to have that healthy child. Why wasn’t I deserving of this? Why wasn’t I good enough to have that? The feelings of unworthiness and guilt sent me on a journey to heal my child. I did everything possible to “fix” him. I would not stop until he was healthy and “normal”. With my perfectionism in full gear, I drove myself to the point of exhaustion.
When my son was 18 months old I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that leaves you feeling exhausted all the time even with a lot of sleep. But I could never even admit that I had a health issue or use it as an excuse to take a break and ask for help. I felt I had to do it all to be good enough. I was able to manage and get by this way for months with the help of many vitamins that boosted me everyday to have the energy to take care of my son, even with the lack of sleep and rest that I needed.
Meanwhile, I kept up the façade that I was ok. I dressed well, looked “put together” and did not talk about my issues. I felt like as long as everything looked good from the outside that somehow I could pretend, even to myself, that everything was ok. I was in denial.
Hiding my emotions to the outside world created a lot of internal chronic stress. I wanted to escape the stress and emotions so I began to shop more, numb out on food and have a glass of wine every night to take the edge off. But the feelings did not go away…they just got stronger. Thoughts of not living came and went many times. My relationship with my husband got worse as he was stressed and worried about the addictive behaviours I was developing.
I finally decided to get some help, but more because I didn’t want to have these behaviours as they meant I was not perfect and able to keep it all together. What started off as therapy to help with the addictive tendencies, ended up being therapy to work through the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) state I was in after having a child with medical issues and special needs, and the long-time unresolved emotions from early childhood traumas and beliefs I had picked up about myself and life.
I learnt in therapy and through my own studies that when we don’t acknowledge or listen to our emotions, they show up in our bodies and our lives through cravings, compulsions, illness, and depression. I worked through a lot of the emotions I had buried since I was a child and also worked through my beliefs around having to be perfect, pleasing everyone, and not imposing my problems on others. One of the biggest realizations I had was that I was trying to fix my son and make him perfect when all he wanted was to be accepted for who he was… he wanted true unconditional love. But, how could I accept him when I could not even accept myself? My journey to healing my child had to start with healing myself… starting with accepting and loving myself first.
Today, my life is an ongoing journey of self-acceptance and self-love. I work at it everyday. I accept that it’s ok to not be ok sometimes. To be the best parent I can be, I need to role model what self-love and acceptance is. This is the greatest gift I can give to my child and so much better than showing him “perfection” and standards that are all society-made and self-limiting. Loving myself and feeling like I am enough is perfection enough for the both of us. When I love myself, I am so much more compassionate and loving to my son and the people around me.
I believe my son is my greatest gift. He was my awakening and got me on the path to my true self and to learning to love and accept everything that I am. I know now to pay attention to my emotions and acknowledge them as they are a message, not an enemy to run from and not a reason to be self-loathing and critical of myself. I also know that all emotions stem from a thought or belief, and changing my beliefs about myself and my life were key to embarking upon a new way of being that no longer involves that deep pain and shame.
My new way of thinking, believing and living is about feeling free to be who I am, love who I am and, accept who I am. I am on the path to living my best authentic life and my true purpose. And, since I believe in paying it forward, I am now a Whole Life Coach helping others to love and accept themselves and live their best life and best health. My ultimate goal is to help create peace in the world, one person at a time, starting with myself.
P.S. When embarking upon my awakening journey, I had some pretty amazing people and books help me through the difficult times and propel me into healing and personal growth. In Toronto those people are Carmen Littlejohn (therapist) and Jesse Hansen (therapist). Carmen and Jesse are a husband and wife team who are unlike any other therapists I have ever met. They have a deep understanding of trauma and addiction and use a multi-prong approach to healing the mind/body. As well, Dany Lyne is an energy healer who understands trauma deeply.
A few books that really helped me to deepen my understanding of myself, my emotions, and loving and accepting myself are: The Gifts of Imperfections by Brené Brown (and all of her books actually); In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and When The Body Says No by Dr. Gabor Maté taught me about the deeper trauma behind addictions and illness and how the body speaks when we are not aligned with our true self; Steering By Starlight by Martha Beck helped me to understand how to align to my true self and follow my purpose; and, Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself and You Are The Placebo by Dr. Joe Dispenza helped me to change my thoughts and beliefs to align with who I wanted to be and I also used the meditations from these books to help me change my patterns, connect to my greatest potential and love who I am.