By Jennifer Pastiloff
I’m on the New Jersey Transit on my way to New York City to lead one of my Manifestation Yoga® workshops and my head is lolling back and forth so much, seemingly by its own will, that I’m afraid it might snap off and roll down the aisle if the train stops suddenly. I’ve just left Princeton where I led a workshop. Before that I was in Philadelphia and Massachusetts. I’m tired. My head is tired. It’s heavier than normal and my brain feels electric, as if there is a fire inside.
When I get this tired my mind slips into what is easy. Yesterday on the phone, my childhood friend said something to me about how when we are stressed we pleasure seek. Yes, I do tend to sip a little too much wine when stressed, but more than that, I seek to find fault. I become a fault seeker when I am stressed.
When I am tired or stressed, I revert back to old “easy” patterns. Patterns like “I’m so fat.” “I look gross.” I hate myself.” B.S. all of it. But I survived on those patterns, they are what sailed me through years of my life. When I am tired I revert. It’s the easier thing to do because really, who wants to “work” when they are bone tired and exhausted to the core? Not me.
But I must. I lead workshops around the world. I have thousands of readers on my site The Manifest-Station. All of these people are looking to me.
It’s not them I must do the work for (although I do feel some sense of responsibility to be the best version of myself I can be.) I must do the work for myself. For my own sanity and happiness. I cannot get by on air anymore.
When I am over tired and the voices from my past start to loom, I must simply take a break. Literally slow it down. Wallowing in my own suckery (my latest made up Jen-ism) is something I refuse to do anymore. (Did it all through my 20’s and it was awful.)
I close my eyes on the train and rest. When I open them I see a little girl wearing glitter boots and a princess tiara and I wonder if she has thought yet of the words, fat, ugly, gross.
I didn’t start my journey with anorexia until I was seventeen but I know that some girls get initiated into this belief system a lit earlier. I sent her a little imaginary fairy dust and wished only lovely words for her: magic, beautiful, capable.
How much we do to survive. The lengths we will go to make it through one more day without having our heads explode or roll down the aisle of a train.
I think a lot about what people do to survive in the world and how easy it is to judge them for it. I didn’t know how to deal with my grief over losing my father so young so starved my pain out. I hated myself because hating him wasn’t bringing him back into the world.
I recently found an old journal entry which made me stop breathing as I read it. Pages and pages of the same types of sentences. All filled with self-loathing.
Looking through the old journal I find myself at a set of train tracks, which if I choose to cross will take me to the dusty town I used to live in, filled with nights of pressing my ribs to make sure they still protruded and days of heavy eyelids from not sleeping. If I choose to cross the tracks I can go back to the barren land of self-abuse and hatred with it’s county jail filled with only one occupant: me.
If I choose to cross the tracks I will meet again with the devil and shake his hand firmly, look him square in the eye and say politely: F*ck Off.
So, here I go. I am at a set of tracks and I will cross them and go back to that dusty little town so I can take back what I left there. So I can grow and expand and share with anyone what is truly possible in terms of healing and discovery.
I am already dreading waking up tomorrow morning because I wake up so depressed. Tomorrow I will NOT wake up depressed. I refuse! I am in control of my life. Of my emotions. No more waking up depressed, no more binge eating. I am the only person in control of my life. No more feeling sorry for myself.
Tomorrow I will not feel guilty for all the food I ate tonight. I will MAYBE eat some fruit. I will not be sad. I will not obsess. I will get in shape and lose weight. I won’t night eat anymore. I am certainly in control. I am NOT fat.
Why do I hate myself so much? Why am I so self destructive? Why do I feel so down and unworthy? Why do I feel so ugly? Why do I obsess over food? Why do I have such a fucked up relationship with food?
Well… No More!
I am so bloated. I am not eating anything else today. All week I ate so much. Pasta, potato chips, Indian food. Raisins! My new diet starts today. My does my face look so fucking ugly?
I don’t want to be this way. I want to be normal.
From now on I can deal with hunger. I’ll eat my own hunger.
I share because I think it’s important to see me now, not as someone who is perfect (far from it) but rather as someone who chosen to be here fully. Someone who made it out alive to the other side.
That’s not to say the journey is always easy. Some days it’s hard. I forget to breathe or I have to avoid mirrors. But mostly, I am doing okay in the world. I have learned to feel what I need to feel instead of avoiding it or starving it to death. I try and teach or share what I have learned along the way as best as I can.
People have an illusion sometimes that when you “heal” things miraculously disappear for good. That’s not been true for me, or most people I know. It’s a process. A one foot in front of the other, one breath at a time, today I am going to love myself process.
So I am here on the train watching this little girl rest her head in her mother’s lap. She looks safe and content, so much so that I start to feel that way as well. I focus on my breathing (basically that I am remembering to breathe) and my head feels like it’s no longer about to decapitate.
I’m a big advocate of safety. I like to feel safe. I seek out situations and people that make me feel safe, to a fault.
It’s going to be okay. Everything is going to be alright. The words buried under my tongue like little hopefuls. They are always there, waiting in the wings. It’s going to be okay. Don’t worry in my mouth, fraying in the back of my throat, choking in my spit. It’s going to be alright buried in my gums.
So I say them to myself out loud there on The New Jersey Transit, Everything is going to be alright. It’s going to be okay. And I think the little girl in the princess tiara hears me because she lifts her head up from her mother’s lap and smiles at me.
Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer and international yoga retreat leader, Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of the popular The Manifest-Station blog. She’s been featured on Oprah.com, NY Magazine, Good Morning America, to name a few. She leads yoga/writing retreats and workshops around the world. All information at www.jenniferpastiloff.com. She tweets and instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Her Facebook tribe can be found at www.facebook.com/jenniferpastiloff.com.
Photos: Jen Pastiloff