I’ve continued to be on this journey to find peace with food and body issues as they are associated with things that have happened to me in my past. My relationship with my dad is the underlying and ultimate trigger to many of the food and body issues I have identified and am working on. To make a very long story short, I’ve found that in an effort to control many of the things that I felt were out of control in my life – my dad dying, my relationship with him and all that will now be unlived with him; the expectations that I’ve put on myself and how inauthentic those expectations and trajectories started to feel…to control all those things, I turned to controlling, obsessive and unhealthy habits surrounding food, my weight, figure and body composition. I feel like just now, after 6 months of really… very… *hard work* on my emotional recovery, I’m starting to see the light at the other end of the recovery tunnel: there’s still a long road ahead of me; in fact, I don’t think it ever ends, but at least I’m coming out of the tunnel.
Another thing I’ve been working on this year, in relationship to all of this, is taking better care of myself: showing myself compassion and ahimsa (non-violence). I was noticing that I kept getting reoccurring and chronic type injuries with my training and workouts, especially since about January when I turned 30. I have a history of being a clutz, so I’ve had my share of sprained ankles and such. But these injuries this year were different. They were bodily aggravations and inflammations: tendonitis in my shoulder, elbow and arm; tendonitis in both feet; hamstring sprains, hip flexor “sprains”, another shoulder injury. Every time one would feel better, another one would spring up. And they would take FOREVER to heal.
At first I thought these injuries were just from over training and some of them were. But not all of them.
As I went through this process of food and body discovery and how it all has related to and my relationship with my dad, I realized that I had forgiven him for everything and for every hurt he had caused, or I had felt he caused me a long time ago. But still felt this aching sadness, grief and guilt surrounding the relationship. It was like I was grieving for him and my loss of him all over again. Could this sadness and grief be manifesting itself in my physical body?
Back story: my dad and I fought ferociously when I was in high school and he and my mom also fought often (sometimes I’m surprised they never got divorced). I remember going months, maybe almost a year at a time without making eye contact with dad, just because I felt like he was just a jerk and he’d ticked me off so badly. Finally, when I got to my early 20’s, it seemed like our relationship turned for the better and it seemed like our fighting past was behind us. I was becoming more emotionally intelligent and I was able to relate and communicate with him better. We were forming a really great father-daughter relationship and I really started to enjoy spending time with my dad. I was excited to get to know him on a new level. Then he got sick. And all that relationship growth that was supposed to happen, that most people get to have with their parents when they get older…mine came to a screeching halt. To make matter worse, dad didn’t want to talk about being sick when he was still with us. He ignored it but I knew he was angry about it. I knew he knew he was going to die and he was mad. But true to his ways, he didn’t talk about his feelings. I approached him on one occasion to try to talk to him about him being sick, but he burst into tears (probably only the 2nd or 3rd time I’d ever seen him cry) and told me didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
I was drowning in fear, anger and sadness about him that I couldn’t talk about to anyone. I had no one to talk to about something that was clear as day and dark as death; and it was death. Dad was going to die. I finally had a moment to express to him how much I loved him about a month later. It was at my brother’s wedding and I was awkwardly ignoring him again – just like I used to do in high school. I was angry that he wouldn’t talk to me, so my solution was to give him a taste of his own medicine and ignore him.
But I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t continue this facade. I was hurting and I didn’t want to play this game and I want to tell him…something! Anything other than pretending nothing was happening. So several hours later at the wedding, as the dancing and socializing was commencing I had a realization: if I didn’t say something to him now, I probably would never have the opportunity to do so. I broke into tears, rushed over to him, wrapped my arms around him in front of the whole crowd of people (all of whom knew he was sick) and cried, “Dad, I love you. I am so sorry and I love you so much.” “I love you too Missy!”, he sobbed back (Missy was his nickname for me since I was a baby). And then he asked me to dance. The last father-daughter dance I’d ever have with him.
It was that moment at my brother’s wedding, when I embraced him and told him I loved him, that my hostile and bitter past with him melted. Gone. I had forgiven him for everything and he had forgiven me for everything. He stopped his cancer treatments right after my brother’s wedding and he hung on through Christmas, just in time to watch his grandchild open Christmas presents for the last time. And then he died. He passed away peacefully at home on February 1st, with me and mom by his side, holding his hands.
Back to the front story: What does this have to do with injuries, you ask? The epiphany that I came to this summer, in this discovery process surrounding food and body and discovering it was all interconnected to my relationship with my dad, was that I felt sadness, grief and guilt surrounding the relationship that I was never going to be able to have with my dad. I felt guilty for not having the foresight when I was younger, for not being more mature and emotionally competent then, so that I could have that started experiencing that unlived relationship with him sooner. Even though I was doing the best that I was capable of when I was younger; and so was he – we were doing the best that we knew how to do, to communicate and relate to each other…I had not forgiven myself for acting like a spoiled, bitchy, teenage asshole, and I felt guilty for that. I felt guilty for acting my age and doing everything that was expected of me and for not knowing better, even though I wasn’t supposed to know better. And I was grieving with utter sadness and emotional distress that I would never have the opportunity to get to know my dad better and that he would never have the opportunity to get to know me better. Furthermore, I was afraid that my dad never knew how much I loved him. This was my epiphany.
So what to do next? I had to forgive myself. I had to forgive myself for not knowing any better and for doing the best that I knew how to do at the time. Well how the hell do you do that? Way easier said than done. So here’s what I did: at each opportunity of my most quiet and meditative moments (usually during physical activity); and especially in moments of peace and happiness (at the beginning or end of said physical activity), I would repeat a version of the Hoʻoponopono prayer and blessing:
I’m sorry, Dad.
Please forgive me, Dad.
Please release me, Dad.
Thank you, Dad.
I love you, Dad.
I repeated this over and over until I either cried (sobbed) or felt a touch of peace – like dad was hearing me and telling me that he was hearing me. And then I said it again to myself:
I’m sorry, Andrea.
Please forgive me, Andrea.
Please release me, Andrea.
Thank you, Andrea.
I love you, Andrea.
And I would repeat that over and over again until I cried and then felt peace. There were many yoga classes I went to, where I would sit in child’s pose or in savasana; or times during a walk, run or CrossFit metcon that had just left me ruined, that I would have to stop, breathe and weep, as I repeated this to myself.
And soon I began to feel peace. And forgiveness. And then, my injuries went away.