In a lot of ways, my whole life has felt like walking a “runway.”
Observed by crowds and cameras.
And one hell of a shit show backstage.
Whether it be stepping in front of an audience to sing, in front of a group of athletes to teach a movement session, or in front of aspiring coaches to lead a training, I’ve always excelled at what I do- even at the expense of my mental and physical health.
This is why “backstage” of both my wellness and music careers, I suffered extreme depression and anxiety for several years, with 2017 being one of the hardest of all.
Here is my story of literally stepping off the runway and onto the road of recovery.
Approximately one year ago, I stood face towards a corner of a public building having meltdown on the phone with a close friend, as I tried to figure out where I was going to live.
Only a few days earlier, a long term relationship that I had been fighting to make work for several months had finally gone up in flames and I had no where to call home.
In addition, that same week doctors discovered an unidentifiable mass in my pelvis which I later learned I’d need surgery to remove.
To top it all off, I was launching the “Performance Mindset Program” – the first online program of my new business “Fearce Academy” in just a few days.
Terrified. Heartbroken. Lost. Hopeless. Powerless… Understatements.
I might as well have been at the bottom of an ocean.
One wave at a time though, I figured out how to float back up to the surface.
A woman who I’ve always called “mom #2” here in Toronto, agreed to let me move back in with her for a few months until I was able to get my head above water and sort out my own place to live.
We cleared out her storage room, piled up my belongings against the walls and blew up the air mattress.
As grateful as I was to have somewhere familiar and safe I could post up for a while, the deep shame I felt about “moving back in with mom” at age 30 got the better of me…
“I feel like such a loser” I said to her in between sobs the night I moved in.
I’ll never forget what she said in response…
“Well maybe you are. But that’s ok… sometimes it takes a loser to make a winner.”
She wasn’t trying to soothe me; she was trying to make a warrior out of me.
Not long after, another current pushed me closer to the surface. I launched Day ONE of the “Performance Mindset Program.”
Scared shitless that I wasn’t going to be enough of the leader I imagined my clients expected of me due what I was facing behind the scenes, I remembered one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my coaching career:
BEING A LEADER DOES NOT EXEMPT YOU FROM THE CONFLICT YOU ARE HELPING OTHERS TO CONQUER.
Quite frankly, being a leader invokes more struggle into your life at times to ensure you’ve first swam the depths of the ocean before teaching others to follow.
So I decided to trust my struggle and brave my open heart.
If there was any ray of light for me in the deep blue where I was fighting for air, it was this.
I had spent the previous 7 months like a mad scientist, researching and carefully constructing each of the 5 modules for the course. My two main offices were: the office of the apartment my ex and I had together and the Mount Pleasant graveyard near our place. (*Fun fact: graveyards are incredibly clean and super quiet because pretty much the only people that hang out there are dead. My mind was always so clear and it was never out of place for me to burst out into tears while doing the deep emotional work needed to build the program.)
“Only dead people never get unwanted or inconvenienced by their feelings, never get broken hearts, never get stressed, never experience disappointment that comes with failure. Tough emotions IS living. Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” – Susan David, Psychologist
I wrote. I cried. I explored. I cried some more. I transformed.
A beautiful 5 module course was born.
When it came time to walk my first 4 clients (which was more than enough to handle at that time) through the process, I did so with flying colours despite how upside down I felt inside.
They were incredibly receptive, grateful and to this day I still hear from them about how my coaching changed their lives.
As much as they claim the Performance Mindset Program helped them, it equally helped me, reminding me that I’m truly my best self when I’m helping other people find their wings.
This sense of purpose was the only thing that helped me breathe again when I was at my lowest.
The piece of this story that left me treading water for months though, was when doctors discovered I had an unidentifiable mass attached to my uterus.
What scared me the most was that no one really understood what they were looking at. I had 4 ultra sounds, 1 MRI and 1 visit to emerg and every time I went in it was a different disturbing story.
The whole thing was one huge waiting game that tested my resilience to the max.
I was already in so much emotional pain from the loss of love, that all I wanted to do was crush a hardcore circuit session, climb the silks and fall through the air, or go for a good old fashioned run.
Due to the nerve pain in my lower back, there were days that I could barely stand up straight let alone get in a good sweat to uplift my spirits, so relying on physical exertion to escape my demons was not an option.
When you’re ‘in the deep’, it’s easy to feel like you’re doing “nothing.” Easy to believe that you’re not being productive enough, that you’re falling behind… being forgotten about.
Your unmanaged mind thinks the worst.
“What if I never get better? I’ll lose my job, my identity, I won’t be of use anymore.”
Frustration. Fear. Doubt. Shame. Depression… All scary sea monsters that gnaw away at your skin as you try to swim, with emotional pain and fear outweighing the physical debilitation by a tidal wave.
The only thing that kept me from drowning was knowing my Performance Mindset Program clients needed me to help them breathe.
I kept paddling and finally was able to float at the surface.
I used my own mindfulness tools from my Program to manage my thoughts.
I was already doing everything I could to take care of myself; the unknown and the waiting was out of my control. It was time to surrender.
I couldn’t “crush it” at the gym, so I humbled myself and stood amongst others who were “crushing it,” while I did my simple, seemingly easy mobility exercises specific to my injuries’ needs.
“Productivity” was redefines to doctors appointments, physio treatments and energy healing sessions.
Going for walks was now what it looked like to be the hero of my day.
In this space, I had nothing I could use to run from my vulnerabilities.
I was forced to learn to love myself more deeply in the presence of unworthiness, failure, loneliness, inadequacy and abandonment.
After 7 months of decreased quality of living, literally the day after I walked the runway for a fashion show, the surgeons removed what they were expecting to be one 5-7cm mass, which ended up being three 14-16cm (collectively) benign tumours twisted around my uterus, cutting off its circulation.
Now, I’d like to say that after the surgery I stayed on the road to recovery, but instead I jumped back on that runway as fast as I could.
Three weeks after my surgery, I was in a different country leading a training, back at the gym full speed, shooting a music video and speaking at 3 different schools all in the span of 2 weeks.
While I don’t regret it, I paid for it.
What should have taken me 5 weeks to get back to normal took me 4 months.
Today though, a year after this entire tsunami hit, I can say I’m living in my very own place (dubbed by one of my friends as the “Hygge Hut”) in the heart of downtown Toronto, thriving in both my wellness and music careers, expanding Fearce Academy with a new team, tumour-free and HAPPILY falling in love with my independent self more and more everyday.
The road to recovery is exactly that: a road.
It has twists, wrong turns, bumps and blocks…. but it is every bit a powerful part of your journey as the runways that make you feel like a rockstar.
Rehabbing your body back to health does not feel bad ass.
It feels unsexy, redundant and scary. However, the process itself of choosing to step off the runway, slow down and walk the road to recovery causes you to develop a whole other badass set of rockstar qualities: humility, courage, compassion, self love, resilience, inner strength and self-peace.
For these qualities I am a far more FEARCE coach, performer and leader than I could have ever been had I not gone from runway to recovery.
Your healing, changing and growing process doesn’t happen overnight. Whether mending broken bones, surviving a sickness, or recovering from emotional trauma, you need to allow yourself space to move through this process at whatever pace your brain and body are capable of.
Rushing healing is like trying to sprint under water. It doesn’t speed things up…it only exhausts and frustrates you.
Have the patience to swim with the current and the courage to love yourself wave after wave.